Located some 2,500 miles from its namesake state, Mississippi Records (Portland, OR) manages to exist in an old-world cloud that floats around at 78 RPMs. Although they eschew modern conveniences like credit card machines and even cash registers, their taste and curatorial sense is very modern. Not only can you find albums by contemporary artists in the shop but just turn around and there are bins over flowing with rare folk, blues, rock, punk and all the rest. Don’t forget to check out their own releases on the Mississippi Records label, too. So saddle on up for this week’s Record Store of the Week: Mississippi Records!
Tell us some stuff about Mississippi Records.
We’re a small store in Portland that sells records, tapes, books & used stereo gear. We’ve been around for almost 8 years & haven’t evolved much in that time – no cash register or computer or credit card machine or answering machine or any advance business tools like that. Just inventory, a notebook & a calculator. We did recently get a cat.
Seems like the store’s / label’s motto is “Always…Love Over Gold” which is adorned above your doorway. Can you talk a bit about this…would you call it a philosophy?
Yeah – it’s a philosophy. I put that above the door to haunt whoever is working & whoever is shopping to making decisions based on more pressing things than finance – like asthetics & the golden rule & all that kind of thing.
And speaking of the Mississippi Records label, can you give us a brief history of it?
The first four releases (ed. – for a discography, check this link) had little to do with what came after – they were all friends projects or me & fellow label runer Alex Yusimov’s personal music projects (His being a pop LP under the name Duck Duck Grey Duck & mine being the Illegal Guardians cassette – my punk band with a 10 year old lead singer. Only 30 copies of that were made) After those two releases an audio zine about Police brutality in Portland & a memorial record for a much loved member of our community followed.
A year or so later me & my old friend Warren Hill decided to start putting together reissues of stuff we liked in very small pressings. Another old friend of mine Alex Yusimov got in on it & started adding more punk oriented records to the catalogue. We were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time as not alot of labels were doing LP reissues of the type of things we were into back then even though the demand was there.
Thanks to timing & our practice of keeping everything relatively cheap we managed to sell alot of records fast which gave us the freedom to crank out alot of product. We’ve released only what is inspiring to us with little regard to whether it is salable or not. Somehow we’ve managed to keep selling this weird stuff. I am thankfull for that everyday. We’ve released 78 records & are just getting started.
What kind of folks frequent your store, and what sort of records do they typically buy?
We get all kinds & they buy all kinds. We have every type of music except modern electric dance stuff & modern corporate shlock (But we do have some pre 1990′s corporate shlock despite my problems with it).
What is your favorite Light in the Attic release and why?
Special mentions got to go to the reissue of the first Karen Dalton It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best (LITA 045) LP which made alot of my customers very happy (by making them sad) & the Wheedles Groove Seattle’s Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75 (LITA 009) compilation because I’m a sucker for good work on documenting music scenes that haven’t been properly recognized.
OK, now for a ridiculous question. In mortal combat between Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie McTell, who would emerge as the victor?
I believe those two gentlemen would never resort to mortal combat but would rather work out there differences conversationally. They were both very eduacated men with calm angelic demeanors despite what you might read into their personalities based on the large amount of murder ballads & lines about beating women in their song repetoires.
Musically, I think Jefferson is the more strikingly original & revolutionary guitarist (His music freaks me out a little) & McTell is the more technically impressive. I’ll go with Jefferson even though I listen to McTell alot more. What the hell kind of question is this? (ed. – exactly…)
What is the coolest/most prized record has come into your store that you never thought you’d ever see?
I once bought a copy of Buffalo Springfield’s second record that my sister had scrawled her name all over 27 years ago. I remembered her doing it. The guy who brought it in bought it in New York which means it travelled from LA to New York to Portland to find me 27 years later. That tripped me out.
What’s the funniest/weirdest/strangest encounter you’ve had with a customer in the store?
One time a lady came in & asked if we had any Gogie Grant LPs (Gogi was a middle of the road 1950s pop singer who had a hit called the Wayward Wind). I pulled out one & showed it to here & she said, “You know, I’m Gogie Grant” I held up the record next to her & she did indeed look like an older version of the face smiling at me from the cover. We small talked a bit about her career back in the day & she left.
About 6 months later an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT older lady came to the store & asked if we had any Gogie Grant records. I pulled out the same record & showed it too her & she said, “You know, I’m Gogie Grant.” Before I could ask her anything about the previous clamer of that name or the fact that she looked nothing like the women on the cover of the LP she corrected herself – ‘Well, I was the original Gogi Grant. I had a huge hit with my first single, The Wayward Wind on Columbia Records. Right after that I was captured by the Turks & put in a prison. An African tribe broke me out & rode me to freedom atop a glowing albino elephant. I stayed amongst the tribe as their Queen for many years but soon grew homesick. When I came back to the states I was mortified to find that Columbia Records had hired a proxy to capitalize on my hit song. They had some other lady…the lady on the cover of this LP….recording & touring under my name. It was tragic.”
Whatever the real story may be, I thought it was amazing that the two Gogi Grants would both happen to stumble into the same record store to tell their tales so close in time to eachother. I have since looked at many photos of Gogi Grant & have found a few early press photos that more closely resemble the African princess version of Gogi than the one on the LP.
What do you love most about working at a cool independent record shop?
It gives me a good reason to put on a suit & tie everyday.
4007 North Mississippi Avenue
Portland, OR 97227