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Collector's vinyl rooted in Canadiana

Enormous trove of country records extols Canuck talent

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Harry Dyck, a collector of early country and bluegrass vinyl records, in the basement of his home in Carman.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Harry Dyck, a collector of early country and bluegrass vinyl records, in the basement of his home in Carman. Photo Store

CARMAN -- One of the largest collectors of early country music and bluegrass records makes no apologies for his collection's Canadian bias.

"I'm a little bit like Stompin' Tom (Connors)," said Harry Dyck, who has traded in vintage vinyl records for four decades. "If you can't put Canada first, I'll go someplace else. This idea that you have to make it someplace else before you're appreciated here just baffles me."

That explains albums such as Can't Go Back to Winnipeg by Scotty Stevenson and the Canadian Night Hawks; Pigs Are Beautiful by Saskatchewan artist Russ Gurr; and recording artists such as Orval Prophet, the Canadian Ploughboy, and Stompin' Tom. Dyck has 28 albums and one box set by Stompin' Tom, most of them on the original Boot Records label.

He also collects early aboriginal recordings by performers like Winston Wuttunee and Princess Pale Moon (Rita Ann Sentz, three-quarters Cherokee).

'We had nothing but country music at home. You'd have a dance every Saturday night' -- country music collector Harry Dyck

You can find Dyck and his albums most Saturdays behind a table at Thirsty's Flea Market on Ellice Avenue and Erin Street.

Dyck, 59, doesn't have the biggest collection of early country music -- that distinction goes to a Winnipegger who prefers to remain anonymous -- but his is probably second. His wife prefers it that way; otherwise there would be no room in the house. Dyck constantly trades stock to keep his collection at about 3,000 to 4,000.

His most coveted 45-rpm record is titled I Really Don't Want to Know (1954) by Randy Hughes. Hughes was Patsy Cline's manager and the pilot of the ill-fated plane that carried her to her death 50 years ago. "How many lips have kissed you... I really don't want to know," go the lyrics. Dyck found it in a thrift store.

Sticking with that theme, he has records by the Jordanaires, an early backup band to Elvis and Cline. In fact, the Jordanaires backed up Cline the night before she died. He also has albums by Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, the two performers who died in the crash with Cline.

His favourite female bluegrass vocalist is Wilma Lee, and he played tracks from her album The Big Wheel that includes Teardrops Falling in the Snow and Philadelphia Lawyer.

"This is what country music is all about. You can understand every word, no one's hollerin' and screamin', and the instruments don't overrun the singing," said Dyck.

Dyck came by his taste for country music honestly -- he grew up in Eriksdale in Manitoba's Interlake. "We had nothing but country music at home. You'd have a dance every Saturday night."

The first time he hit the big city, Winnipeg, was in 1966, on a five-day excursion courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press for carriers who signed up the most new subscriptions. He went to the Lyceum Theatre and watched Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold at least five times.

An advantage to being one of the biggest collectors of early country and bluegrass in Manitoba is there's little competition. Others search for early rock 'n' roll and pop music. "(Record collectors) are like one big happy family. They bring me their country stuff because they don't want it. I luck out that way," he said.

He searches for the more obscure recordings. He's got Jimmy Driftwood playing Old Joe Clark on a jaw harp that's the size of an archer's bow. He's got records by Hal Lone Pine, Lenny Breau's stepdad. He's a fan of actress Mary Kay Place's country records, including the song Vitamin L (The L Stands for Love). He's got early bluegrassers Jim and Jesse (McReynolds), We Like Trains. He has an album from 1971 of Keith Whitley, who drank himself to death, playing with Ricky Skaggs.

He has Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, who died in 1933 before he was 40. There's Lulu Bell and Scotty (Wiseman) from the 1930s. Lulu Bell, whose real name was Myrtle Cooper, was known as "the gum-chewing mountain gal." Other collectibles include a Sun Records 45 rpm of Jerry Lee Lewis doing Cold, Cold Heart, and Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line, also on Sun.

His local artists range from Andy Dejarlis to Stew Clayton, a.k.a. Yodelin' Stu from Manitou. His more modern material includes the likes of John Hartford and John Prine.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 A8

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