Some pay big bucks for midcentury consoles, but Howard Stern Show? executive producer Gary Dell’Abate never let go of his.
Growing up, this cabinet was the focal point of our living room. My Mom would put ten records on and go about her day, so music was just always coming out of that thing. Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits, Jerry Vale’s Greatest Hits, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday. My father would buy those big band compilations they sold on TV that came 20 records to a box. I would sit with my dad, and he would play me Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall from 1936 and talk about how “Sing, Sing, Sing,” was written by Louis Prima. Then we’d play a Louis Prima record. And as a kid I read John Hammond’s biography, and it all started to make sense.
As we got older, my older brother took out the crappy turntable that it came with and upgraded it, with probably like a Technics or something like that. I have a vivid memory of my brother playing a Frank Zappa album, and my mother was like, “What is this? What is this coming out of the thing that brings me joy? What are you doing?”
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It became where I listened to all my music. I would take a couch pillow and sit on the floor, and open up a piece of vinyl, unwrap it, put it in, and just sit there and listen to it and look at the album notes. I remember listening to Born to Run that way, David Bowie’s Greatest Hits, Wings over America. And I remember thinking it was awesome.
Eventually I moved out of the house, and the cabinet went to Florida with my mom. Around 2007, she moved to a nursing home in Connecticut. I wanted to put it in my mom’s room, because I thought it would remind her of home and it would be nice for her to have. Then about a year ago she moved and didn’t have room for it, so I took it. A buddy of mine refurbished it for me, which was such an awesome surprise.
By now, I probably have about 2,000 records. My wife tried really hard for many years to get me to throw them out, and I just would not let go of them, because I always thought I would listen to them again. Sentimentally they had huge value to me.
To me, the reason there’s a bit of a comeback with vinyl lately is people appreciate that it’s tactile: touching a record and holding it is different than just pushing a button on a computer. I like to get a record, I like to open the wrapper. I like the feeling of that. At the same time, I’m not one of those people who says you can only listen to vinyl; I’m not saying that this is better than a digital file.
The key to me is that it’s fun and there’s definitely a family history. My record player is a destination. You’re engaged — if I go up to the attic and put on a piece of vinyl, I have to stay up there and pay attention to it. Whereas I put Sonos on in my house and it goes through all the speakers and I can do a million other things. When I listen to a record, it’s a commitment.
— As told to Lang Whitaker
A version of this story originally appeared in the April 16 issue of Billboard.