Every once in a while, I happen upon something at the store that consumes me. At the beginning of this year, I came across a copy of Jerry Garcia's "classic" 1972 album Garcia while processing a record collection. Inside the cover I found some tri-folded pieces of old fax paper that contained a letter from a raver chick to her friend. It was a Found (URL) goldmine. You can read the contents of the letter here. To that point, working at a record store and processing collections was only a cool job in theory. It has always been exciting to stumble over a rare and valuable record, or even a title I've never seen in person before. Finding treasures that people have hidden inside album sleeves are like receiving kisses from God. One of my co-workers one unearthed a multiple-page typed letter from a graduate student to a professor about people on campus who worked for the government and were trying to control his mind. My boss has found everything from hundreds of dollars in cash to cocaine while checking the condition of records he purchased from customers. This past week I was processing a new vinyl collection my store had acquired, and I came across a record I definitely had never seen before. It was something completely unique, with absolutely no history to it whatsoever. This shit can't be researched on Google. I think it's one-of-a-kind.
The record is housed in a plain white sleeve with a small label glued to the front. It reads: "ZIA CUSTOM RECORD PRODUCTIONS present A PSYCHIATRIST'S ADVICE to the WORRIED and DEPRESSED by W. PARK RICHARDSON, M.D.. W. Park Richardson, M.D., Psychiatrist and Neurologist, is a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, The New York City and New York County Medical Societies, and the Military Surgeons Association. Dr. Richardson was graduated from Stanford University and the Stanford University Medical School. In addition to his experience in private practice as a psychiatrist and neurologist, his background includes post graduate and resident work at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, the Vanderbilt Clinic of New York City, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Hospital. During World War II, Dr. Richardson served in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army as a Psychiatrist, and during this period he inaugurated and conducted mental hygiene clinics and rehabilitation programs."
This, of course, told me nothing about the album. So, I looked inside and pulled out the orange vinyl LP to read the labels. Side A contains roughly 21 minutes of dialog, and side B is blank. The label on Side B reads: "It is the policy of Zia Custom Recorded Productions to make available to those interested people, certain outstanding contributions from the recognized professional world. In this recorded work, "A Psychiatrist's Advice to the Worried and Depressed," Zia presents the work of W. Park Richardson, M.D. Dr. Richardson is a well known practicing psychiatrist whose years of experience reflects itself in a wholesome and refreshing manner. In no way is this material or its presentation intended to replace or suggest deviation from the normal channels of therapy, but this contained advice, directed to you the listener, may benefit you in many ways."
So...no more information given on the record labels. I was convinced I would have to listen to it to get an idea of what the disc contained. Still, I wanted to know more about the production and release of the album. I searched Google for references to the doctor and Zia. All I came up with was a link to someone's private art collection with a portrait of Richardson which dates from 1920. Surely the recording wasn't that old.
I tried to put the record back in its sleeve, and noticed i could not fit it properly. That's when I realized I should have looked for an insert. Buried in the sleeve, tucked up against the spine of the cover, was a piece of paper. I unfolded it and beheld its glory. Jackpot.
The letter is addressed to a Seymour Heller of Hollywood, California. It is dated July 11th, 1955. So the record must be at least 50 years old, if not older. The letter reads: "Dear Seymour: A pleasure to see you again, reference the Sahara-Las Vegas. As per my promise, I'm enclosing with my compliments of course, our recorded production "A Psychiatrist's Advice to the Worried and Depressed" by W. Park Richardson, M.D. Several years ago, following Crystalette and several other ventures, I found myself on the unwell list, and it was during this period that I conceived the idea of producing an authentic recorded production of this type so that such material could be made available for interested persons. It has been an extreme pleasure since releasing this record to report that it has been a great aid to many persons and that the demand for it has more than fulfilled my original estimate. These past years I have noted with more than a passing interest, your continued success, and in the same token I can appreciate the hard work and demands that are necessary. Include my personal congratulations along with many others for this continued success. Best Regards, Paul Scheibner, San Diego, CA."
Okay, so the record was produced by a guy named Paul Scheibner who was once involved in a venture called Crystalette (perhaps Crystallete records, which put out dozens of records between 1949 and 1963). It was given as a gift to a successful person named Seymour Heller. Heller has his own Wikipedia page, which made researching him very easy. Born in 1914, dead in 2001, he was an American talent agent an artist's manager whose most famous client was Liberace, whom he signed in 1950 and represented until his death in 1987. In 1954, he and two other agents began what was to be the first national personal management company in America. This must be the "continued success" of which Scheibner speaks in the letter. A pretty famous guy in the worlds of Los Angeles and talent agencies. This, of course, makes the record a really cool artifact, both of its unusual subject matter, and the included letter. I don't think I have any use for it in my personal collection, so I priced the record and figure someone will buy it for its kitsch value. Of course, I had to document its existence for an instance such as this, where I can awe somebody with a neat little story. Hell, if you want the record (includes the letter, of course), find my contact information (it's not hard) and I'll let you know if it is still in stock.
For now, enjoy the contents of the vinyl. I'll be back in two weeks to write about something entirely different.