UPDATE: Smith’s obsession continues

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

Betty Durham, a Picayune resident, contacted David Fred Smith after reading the story about his obsession with collecting old records and offered to show him her old records, which she mostly purchased during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Durham has no children and no relatives to whom she can leave the records, so she called Smith, asked him to come by and then gave her collection to him. Smith said he told Durham that some of the records might be valuable and that in no way did he encourage the gift.

“It was totally voluntary on her part,” said Smith.

Durham said she chose to give the records to Smith, “because from reading the story about him, I felt he would appreciate the records, clean them properly and take care of them, and hopefully play them for someone else to enjoy. He does some personal appearances, I understand,” said Durham. “That way, they’ll be used.”

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An elderly man also called the Item, after the story appeared, and said he had four trunks filled with old records, and was looking for a museum to which he wants to donate them before he dies.

Betty is married to Richard Durham. They are preparing to celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary. She’s 88 and her husband is 87. She worked for Boeing for 25 years and Richard for 16. They began working for the company in Wichita, Kan., building bombers, and then were transferred to work at Michoud.

Betty Durham had a number of old records in album formats.

Back in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, a person could purchase a set of records in what was actually an album. For instance, one album would have four records in it, or eight songs.

When the record companies marketed 33 rpm’s with multiple songs on one record, they marketed them in single covers, which they continued to call albums. “It is amazing how many of these old records are still around,” says Smith. “That’s how the record and music industry began. That was the first technological break-through, the vinyl record, a way of producing and selling the public a musical product on a vinyl disc. Now it’s all digital and the old records are passé’ for most, but they are coming back. And collectors like me have caused the value of the old records to increase.”

Durham also owned some albums based on the sound tracks in popular movies of the time.

Durham has a record player that she bought in 1945. It is a Montclair and has dual, detachable speakers and is in mint condition. “All it needs is a needle,” says Durham. The record player has settings for 16, 33, 45 and 78 rpm records. Richard Durham picked up the cord and showed it, saying, “It’s all electric.” Some of the records in the Durham collection included a duo by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and songs by Dinah Shore, Peggy Lee, Kay Kaiser, Mary Martin, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, The Sons of the Pioneers (Tumble Weed and Cool Water), Arthur Godfrey, Von Monroe, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby with Lionel Hampton, the Mills Brothers, Little Jimmy Dickens, Freddie Martin and His Orchestra, Kay Star, Phil Harris, Frank Sinatra and Tom Netherton. It’s a who’s who of the recording industry from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

“You have to understand that people who loved music bought these discs and listened to them over and over. It was the first technology that allowed you to purchase a song, take it home and play it in the comfort of your residence. Some of the records still have the price tag on them. Some went for 45 cents. Others for a dollar. That was, however, a lot of money back in the 1940s,” said Smith.

Smith has been collecting old records for 35 years and has more than 3,000.