By Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
World-famous crate digger DJ Muro, a.k.a King of Diggin’, once said, “When I finally went to Jerry’s Records, after years of anticipation, I got a bit emotional. There were literally endless piles of records. I stayed there from open to closing.” For a man who has several apartments in Tokyo to maintain his record collection, the statement captures two features about Pittsburgh’s premier music destination: (1) It has a titanic inventory, and (2) even among serious vinyl collectors, a trip to this shop is a pilgrimage on its own.
Jerry Weber, the bearded, sage-like figure, and namesake of Jerry's wields music chops dating back to the shop’s inception 35 years ago. He kicked off the now legendary Mecca when a friend offered him a second-floor space on top of a bar for $75-per-month. After three decades in the business, the store currently offers a million records, with an additional millie stored in the warehouse. Close to 700,000 7-inches, and 1.3 million pressed albums—organized in alphabetical, and genre-based order—are offered for three to five dollars each. No scratched records are sold, unless they’re rare, and new crates are brought in on a daily basis. Thanks to its heavy numbers, the diversity of music ranges from Zanzibar folk to classic American rock. No CDs, or tapes are offered; the store simply buys, eats, and shits vinyl. The commander of this armada recently discussed his passion for his trade by answering our Wax Nostalgic 7 Question survey.
What's the first record you ever bought?
Jerry Weber: People always ask that. Somebody probably gave it to me. I didn’t have money to buy records when I was a kid. I didn’t even have a record player. I had to walk and borrow my aunt’s, one of those suitcase jobs from the 50s. I bought little records, some 78s, but I probably didn’t buy any records until I was in high school, and I can’t remember what’s the first one I bought. More than likely it was some rhythm and blues stuff. That’s a big part of our record thing here in Pittsburgh. Don’t forget I’m 63 years old. I go way past the Beatles and all that. In fact, when the Beatles came over, I switched off regular radio, and went strictly to soul music because I didn’t like the Beatles.
What's your favorite record of all time?
Jerry Weber: I got about thousands of those. I collect everything, but not so much rock. I realized if I took home all the good rock records, I might never stay in business. I used to take home just soul, jazz, folk, and popular singles. Most of my stuff is vocals; I don’t have too much instrumental music. But I have vocals from every type of vocal singer you ever heard of.
What's the most valuable/expensive record you own?
Jerry Weber: Well, I have a lot of records that are worth four, five hundred dollars. Most of them are old blues records or old soul records. I don’t have like a gold, Holy Grail record. I don’t really care what they're worth. When I die, my son will keep the records. It’ll be up to him if he wants to keep it going.
If you didn't own a record shop, what would you do?
Jerry Weber: I was a mailman for 15 years, and for ten of them years I was also operating the shop. And I was running out of steam, so I had to make a choice. I quit the post office in 1985. Everybody said I was an idiot because it was a good, steady job even back then. But I quit and went to records, and I’m still here. Once you work for yourself, you never, ever, ever want to work for anybody ever again. I don’t care what the job is; you just get really used to doing what you want to do, and not giving a shit what everybody else thinks.
Have you ever played a certain record and gotten laid?
Jerry Weber: By playing records? All my life. [Laughs.] Let me tell you something, there was a survey, and they found out more babies were conceived to Johnny Mathis records than any other music out there. I remember Johnny Mathis, well, people would put them on when they were going to bed, wanted to make babies, and that’s what they did. I’m sure other ones were the Beatles and stuff, but Johnny Mathis was the king of conception. [Laughs.] You can use that line if you want.
Why should people buy records?
Jerry Weber: Don’t forget, records aren’t for everybody. And music isn’t for everybody. I always tell people, “I hear music.” It affects my whole mind, and body. If you’re really hearing it, you get goose pimples and stuff. And if you’re young, and you’re trying to build a music collection, why would you want to pay 10 to 15 dollars for CDs, or any other type of music, when there are millions of classic stuff out there that you can pick up for 50 cents or a dollar at a flea market, or three dollars at my store or other stores. Also, records have a different sound than CDs. Sometimes, when there’s a bunch of young people here, on purpose I keep around five or 10 original Beatles and Stones in my plate pile. When I put them on, someone always comes up to me and asks, “How come my CD doesn’t sound like that?” And I tell them, “This is how they wanted it to sound before some goddamn engineer put his hand on it, and made it ‘better.’” So I do that just to get people interested. There’s people who want cars, who want apartments, and who buy houses. They like to own stuff. It’s the same for records.
Vinyl will never die because...
Jerry Weber: It will never die because a lot of major artists, Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, their contracts make them put out so many in vinyl. You know vinyl nowadays are about 15 to 25 dollars each. I wouldn’t even go near them. People come to Jerry’s Records; they’re not going to pay that much for vinyl.
2136 Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA