My Mother’s Kick-Ass Rock N’ Roll Collection, a Story About Family Legacies

When you lose a parent who lived alone for forty years, sometimes a discovery provides an opportunity to move past the grieving stage.

The organized collection of 1950’s singles.

It’s a challenge to write about a loved one who passes away, especially when it is your mother who could have lived twenty or thirty years beyond her death.

Cleaning out the contents of her home was harder, believe it or not.

There is no word in the English language that can define this kind of experience, given the magnitude of emotions, reflections, disappointments and surprises. It took six months.

One particular collection I inherited from my mother is worth touching on, given the volume of items and how it enabled me to connect one generation to the next. It also reflects how the era we live in, and the technology available to us, provide the means to transcend the emotional loss of a loved one… and the result is pure joy.

The discovered collection represents hundred of original singles, or 45’s, from the 1950’s.

I am speaking about 7-inch vinyl discs, hundreds of them, that represent the music of my mother’s generation.

As I went room to room and closet to closet, I was overwhelmed by what my mother had accumulated during her lifetime. In a three-bedroom, 1 and ½ bath home in Ho-Ho-Kus New Jersey, I inherited thousands of things: clothes, jewelry (cosmetic), tools, artwork, furniture, cooking and dining materials.

But on the basement floor, tucked away in a dry corner, were eight boxes of records – all of which were 45-speed 7-inch singles. Separated by slots and organized with index sheets, this method of enjoying music was one of the only ways to do so in the 1950’s outside of the radio or larger turntables that played vintage music (at 78 rotations per minute no less!). My mother’s collection encapsulated the 50’s, and prior to the estate sale to clean out the house, I removed them to ensure they were not sold.

How could I let my mother’s music pass into the hands of some schmuck swinging by from Secaucus to check out a deceased person’s estate?

I nestled these records, along with a thousand other items I couldn’t let go, into every available corner of my attic. This, in turn, drove my wife crazy but God bless her – she’s got a heart of gold.

Fast forward a year later and I’m putting the final touches on a basement man cave, complete with a surround-sound stereo system. Fortunately, the charity and goodwill of my in-laws came into play. They were ready to discard two fantastic speakers from the 80s: solid and well-constructed Paradigm speakers that weigh 20 pounds apiece. I oriented the entire sound system around them and then I came to learn they also possessed a 1980’s JVC turntable that had not been used in two decades. Eureka, I thought! Now I could play my mother’s 45’s.

It required a turntable pre-amp to work with the modern-day amplifier, but 54 weeks after selling my mother’s home, I finally put the needle to my mother’s 1950’s collection of rock n’ roll records. These were the same ones she listened to during her youth. One record was from 1958; she was 14 or 15 at the time. Here I was, in my brand-new man cave, dialing into the songs that inspired her when she was a teenager.

And yet, we never had the chance to talk about it. We never had the chance to listen to it together, nor did I have the chance to ask her what memories it stirred for her. This experience chips away at one’s soul and hits unseen nerves, but my wife and son were there listening to the music with me. We even danced to a few tunes. The process blends together emotions of melancholy, guilt but also joy. How can one sigh with remorse when you’re dancing with your five-year-old, who’s feet are standing on the top of your own?

After playing a few dozen tunes, which revealed some classic treasures (and a number that were far from it), it begged the question – how can I digitize the songs so they are easier to listen to?

This led to two more purchases – wiring that would enable me to record the music itself from vinyl to digital. After a few tries, I synced up the input devices to record the music into GarageBand. The result was a disappointment. Record scratches and the quality of the recording itself was sub-par.

The genius of the era we live in today relates to the technology available to us, and the limitless resources we have to educate ourselves. GarageBand can be fickle, but after watching a dozen tutorial videos on YouTube, I was able to improve the recording process. You can check it out for yourself further below in this article.

Within a year from now, and by committing to the task at hand, I can transfer the best music from my mother’s generation, several hundred songs, into digital tracks. I can also transfer this music to any mobile device or upload it to the cloud to listen to it whenever I chose. I can launch a channel on YouTube, which may incur some copyright infractions but it’s worth the gamble.

I can establish a collection of music so that my grandkids, a hundred years after my mother started connecting 45’s, can dial into the same music she listened to anywhere they are in the world with cloud-based technology… and enjoy it at any time.

When you’re a father and have the means to establish a legacy for your kids, no matter what form it may come in, embrace it. When you work to provide a better family experience for your children and have the means to connect one generation to the next, even if they have passed away, it represents an opportunity.

That’s worth your time and energy because that was the case for the loved one you lost.

ORIGINAL & RAW Recording: Rebel Rouser

Compare to the audio below, outside the intro, the sounds from 50’s vinyl singles can be enhanced.

ENHANCED Recording

The enhanced version.

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