Interview with Doug Gaddy of Absolute Vinyl Records & Stereo

With the Vinyl Cleaning workshop on the horizon, we figured this would be the best opportunity to get to know the man behind one of the greatest records and stereo shops in town, Doug Gaddy!

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1. Where are you from and how did you end up in Boulder, CO?

Annie, my wife, spent every summer of her youth on the Front Range, from diapered baby to thumb-riding University of Kansas undergrad. I’d never been west of the Mississippi till she and I got together years later, but once she got me out here in the mid-90s, I kinda liked it.  So, after almost 20 years of sweating in Washington, DC, we move jobs and 10,000+ LPs out here.
2. How did you first decide to open a record store?  What was your previous experience?
In what might be called Boulder’s retail music heyday, there were about 16 record stores in town.  That would be in the mid-80s. (The population was probably about 20% smaller by the way.)  By 2008, when I mistook insanity for a good idea and opened Absolute, the
AbsoluteVinyl-138record store in Boulder was verging on extinction.  Only two remained.  I leapt in and we’ve been growing every year since.
As for my previous experience, I’ll reference that record-store film that makes me crazy– Hi-Fidelity.  I’m neither Cusack’s smarmy character nor Jack Black’s loony mess.  I’m the other guy, the one whose name no one remembers.  But I got the Big Star, Can, Modern Lovers and Coltrane records while everyone else was bashing on about Minor Threat, etc. (Hint: my definition of dancing doesn’t include being kicked with a steel-toed boot.)  Plus, my girlfriends liked my contrarian streak and what at the time seemed like odd tastes.
3. What are your personal top 5 favorite records?
Nothing personal, but I hate these sort of questions!  Ugh.  I will never end up on a desert island, but if I were to, I’d have bigger issues than wishing I could have had a sixth pick.  Also, after around 45 years of listening to music and hearing many classic recordings literally hundreds of times, silence or the Meadowlarks in my back yard are sometimes my preferred jam.
But because I am an accommodating fellow, here’s some jazz favorites off the top of my head– in no order of preference or superiority– essentials that remain relevant and very listenable.
Weather Report, Live in Tokyo, 1972.  Out on a limb, I declare: best version of this ever-changing, ever-evolving band.  So crisp and original even today.
Archie Shepp, Mama Too Tight, 1966.   DG’s extreme capsule review: freedom, funk, bathos, romance and New Orleans in under 38 minutes.
Charles Mingus, Mingus at Antibes, 1960.   A perfect band, playing brilliant compositions live.  Lots of room for complete expression and amazing interplay. Also, a way for me to acknowledge Eric Dolphy, one of the singular talents in jazz.
Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, The 1927-28 Recordings.  The song West End Blues, composed by Joe “King” Oliver, Armstrong’s first employer, is three minutes of perfection, and alone sets standards for many aspects of jazz to come.
Anything by Miles Davis.  Just notice your mood and he will provide.
4. I know that you used to play bass with a band.  Do you still play music?
I peaked in 1977.  No one came around when I played.  Really. Then I hit a hard wall, trying to figure out jazz on my own.  I went to grad school, became seriously interested in writing and history and laid down my bass.  But I am young yet, so who knows.  Life after Absolute.
5. Explain to a 16 year old Spotify user why vinyl records are worth exploring.
I’d rather explain the virtues of serving soup with a sling shot.  The internet puts every period and aspect of every region on earth at your fingers. And that’s a lot of AbsoluteVinyl-112music. I am learning from 16 year olds about sounds I had never heard before.

However, if someone around the age of, say, 21 or under comes into Absolute Vinyl, I assume they have been touched by someone or something that shook them awake to the beauty of records.  There’s an aesthetic appreciation that’s pretty anachronistic in our day that’s dazzled them somehow. Whether it’s because of the “warmth” of vinyl or the desire for a “slow-music experience,” I feel my real job is to steer them towards the best sound they can afford.  KNOW THIS: good-sounding stereo equipment that will function for years and clean, good-sounding records are available at reasonable prices.  Beware buyers.  There are boogie men hawking the inferior out there. They rob your dollars and wound your soul.  Hunting for and exploring records should be fun.  It is at AV.

6. Besides digging for records, how do you use the internet to discover new music?
I ask a 16 year old.
7. What’s the rarest, most expensive record you have ever sold?
Lots of boring stories in that cupboard.  What’s more fun is who I have sold to. I used to sell at the WFMU Record Fairs in Manhattan.  Those were pretty amazing.  It’s NYC.  You gotta be cool.
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I sold some Hendrix records to Holly Hunter in about 1994.  She said, “Why thank you” in her beautiful Georgia accent.  I sold a bunch of really rare pre-World War 2 78 rpm records of obscure Italian tenor opera singers to Francis Ford Coppola.  He did not say thank you.  Tom Verlaine was incredibly gracious, had really bad teeth, but a soulful smile, and was curious about odd string instruments from anywhere in the world.  I remember Matt Dillon and Willem Defoe.  Thurston Moore seemed to have every Sun Ra record, autographed and at least 3 copies of each, for sale at very uptown prices. Amazing. On and on.
Jello Biafra has loved Absolute for the past four years.  He arrived last Christmas eve at 5:30, just as we were closing.  He didn’t leave till 8:45.  My patient wife stated: “I don’t care if he’s a punk rock icon and First Amendment hero.  Kick him out and come home!”
8. Do you have a large record collection at home?
Define large.  I judge it historically sufficient for my taste and curiosity.
9. Whiskey, Tequila, or Beer?
That depends.  Who’s buyin?

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