Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, September 16, 2013

Digging for Soul Records in Philadelphia

Philly is one of those cities, like New York, Detroit, Memphis and New Orleans that had a thriving Soul scene in the 60s. Some great Soul tracks came out on homegrown record labels like Arctic, Gamble and Philly Groove. They were all responsible in forging what is now known as the "Philly Sound". Hell, the city even inspired dances like the Philly Dog, the Philly Barracuda and the Philly Jerk!

Philly native, Jerry Ragovoy was an influential record producer, songwriter and arranger. He was best-known for writing Time Is On My Side made popular by the Rolling Stones. He was a power house when it came to the East Coast Soul scene of the 60s, working with artists like Howard Tate, Garnett Mimms and Erma Franklin.

To me, his best song is one of my all-time favorite dance floor scorchers, the underrated Ain't That Terrible performed by Roy Edmond. I NEVER get tired of spinning that one!

So my hopes were high when I planned on doing some serious record diggin' in the City of Brotherly Love. I did a quick search on the Internet to see if there were record shops that were worth visiting on our way there.

About an hour West of Philadelphia is The Record Connection in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. On their website, they mention having over 60 000 45s for sale. I had to go see for myself.

I'm sure glad I did because that was the spot where I found the most records during the whole trip. I can vouch for the place. It does have an impressive amount of records.

If you're looking for some rare grooves, always check the display case.

I probably needed more then an hour to go through the 2$ to 4$ section.

Nonetheless, I'm happy with the handful of rarities I left with. Take this little up-tempo number for example. It was recorded in Reading, Pennsylvania, just a 30 minute drive from the record shop.

The city of Philadelphia has a fair amount of record shops but it wasn't the gold mine I was expecting. My personal favorite has to be Molly's Books & Records. For one, it's in the middle of the 9th Street Italian Market and that's a destination in itself. The owners are very nice, welcoming and will make your record hunting a pleasant experience. Joe is one of us. He's a collector too!

The find of the trip was made in this small and unassuming place. I got an ultra clean copy of I Don't Want to Lose You by The Charades for a decent price.

If all that record diggin' gets you hungry, then you're not to far from the birthplace of the Philly Cheesesteak. And with a name like Pat's King of Steaks, really, how can you go wrong? It's like that place was made for me!

In a 5 mile radius you can find all the following record shops. Unless you're into 80s Punk or alternative/indie stuff, you might want to skip these places. I didn't even drop a dime in any of them.

Beautiful World Syndicate would probably be the last name I would pick for a record shop but who am I to judge? Name of the shop aside, the place has slim pickings. Unless you want to hear some blaring hardcore punk and meet the half-awake, aloof young kid with an attitude who opened the shop 30 minutes late, you might want to skip this one.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Repo Records, on South Street, needs to repo a better selection because I didn't manage to find a single 45 there. Maybe they should spend more time looking after their inventory instead of drinking beer on the job. (Yes they were!)

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you can find gems in these places. Not this time!
Fancy some obscure 80s punk? A Jam album is missing from your collection? You might want to try Long In the Tooth.

A short drive away from the downtown core are two shops, not too far from each other, that are worth checking out. First is the Milkcrate Cafe. This place has the best of both worlds, tasty food and a good selection of records.

Hard to resist a joint that serves an Ike & Tina Tuna sandwich

45 record boxes are a great place to store your sugar
It's the ideal spot to bring the girlfriend. She can grab a book with a hot cup of joe while you go browsing for some wax in the basement. I didn't leave with much but it was certainly the type of place where I would like to hang out.

Last stop is the Philadelphia Record Exchange. If you're looking for your classic 60s Soul hits on 45 at rock bottom prices, then do not pass Go, do not collect 200 and head directly to the Exchange. I left with some James Brown, The Capitols and few others for next to nothing.

Itching for some Sweet Soul music? I suggest you have a listen at the latest Parka Avenue Podcast on Mixcloud. You'll  find some of my Philly finds and a selection of what I dug up during the summer.


  1. I'm just getting into the 'Philly sound' and I really enjoy it. It's a great feeling when you are introduced to a new musical genre and a whole new world opens up in front of you! And I've just had my old turntable fixed! Bonus!

  2. Great article, but you assume that the "girlfriend" does not like wax.... I would be right there down stairs hunting for gems alongside!

    1. Your absolutely right! I should NOT assume. Maybe I should have wrote "my" girlfriend. Thanks for putting me back in my place. ;)