It can be the slightest thing. A kid has an experience, seemingly insignificant at the time, and it turns out to be the spark that ignites a lifelong passion.
Take Shelley Dornan, whose parents on Easter, 1964, gave their 8-year-old son a record album by a British band they had watched together a few weeks earlier on the Ed Sullivan Show.
You never know.
That was 57 years and more than 3,500 albums ago.
Though he’s slowed down in recent years, Dornan, 65, continues to add to a collection of LPs that began with that 1964 release, “Meet the Beatles.”
The seed planted on that Easter morning lay dormant until Dornan was in high school. A neighborhood friend, Stephen Ferguson, introduced him to the idea of record collecting.
As it happens, it was the late 60s and early 70s a time widely considered the golden age of rock music.
Dornan began collecting in earnest. This would last until the 90s when record companies slowed their production of LPs.
Then, seven or eight years ago, he resumed his quest.
“If I like an artist, I get all of his records,” Dornan said. “I have most everything I want from the 60s and 70s.”
He has all of the Beatles; all the studio albums and 11 boxed sets of Dylan; all 50 or so of Neil Young’s albums; same with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa.
Friday morning we are sitting in Dornan’s house on a hill overlooking Ridge Road. The structure, built in 1919 and modeled after a hunting lodge, was the home of his grandfather, Er M. Shelley, the famed trainer of bird dogs, author and African guide.
Dornan is not alone in eschewing the technically perfect CD in favor of an analog system with its occasional pops and hisses and the almost imperceptible sound of a needle scratching sound from vinyl grooves.
“In 2021, for the first time since the 1980s vinyl outsold CDs,” Dornan said.
He estimates he has 2,500 CDs in his collection, which, he says, have little value among collectors.
“It sounds better,” Dornan said of LPs. “The sound is warmer. There is just a presence with it you can’t get with other formats.
“You have to have decent equipment to hear the difference.”
Dornan has the equipment: a top-of-the-line Yamaha AV receiver, Parasound power amp, a German-made Clearaudio turntable and 11 speakers including five French-made Focals.
To make his point, Dornan takes an LP from one of several rows of albums on his living room floor Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.”
Suddenly we’re surrounded by sound. You can hear the pops and scratches — damage from a rainstorm — and then about halfway into the nine-minutes long “So What,” the pops and scratches fall away and the jazz classic sounds as fresh and pure as it did when it was recorded on that April day in 1959.
“To be a listener of vinyl, you have to make a commitment,” Dornan said. “It’s more tactile; you’re more engaged. Personally, I think it sounds better.”
Dornan bought many of his LPs from Elysian Fields, which had stores in Columbus and Starkville and Xanadu in Starkville where he says he spent all of his food money while attending Mississippi State University. He also frequented Caldwell’s Record Rack in the downtown furniture store and The Fraction, a record store on Main Street run by a long-haired Roger Short.
“I can trace where I was and what was going on in my life based on record albums,” he said.
Nowadays he shops on-line, Amazon for current releases; eBay and Discogs, an online source for collectors, for older LPs.
Another selling point of the larger LPs over digital formats is cover art, which, during the halcyon years of the 60s and 70s, was often as distinctive as the music.
“Heck, I buy records because I like the cover,” he said, citing David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” as an example.
Dornan reaches for another album, Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” and puts on “War on War.” This disc is in pristine condition.
As he begins to tell me the backstory of its making, music fills the room.
Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the publisher of The Dispatch.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.