“A thoughtful, entertaining history of obsessed music collectors and their quest for rare early 78 rpm records” (Los Angeles Times), Do Not Sell at Any Price is a fascinating, complex story of preservation, loss, obsession, and art.
Before MP3s, CDs, and cassette tapes, even before LPs or 45s, the world listened to music on fragile, 10-inch shellac discs that spun at 78 revolutions per minute. While vinyl has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, rare and noteworthy 78rpm records are exponentially harder to come by. The most sought-after sides now command tens of thousands of dollars, when they’re found at all.
Do Not Sell at Any Price is the untold story of a fixated coterie of record collectors working to ensure those songs aren’t lost forever. Music critic and author Amanda Petrusich considers the particular world of the 78—from its heyday to its near extinction—and examines how a cabal of competitive, quirky individuals have been frantically lining their shelves with some of the rarest records in the world. Besides the mania of collecting, Petrusich also explores the history of the lost backwoods blues artists from the 1920s and 30s whose work has barely survived and introduces the oddball fraternity of men—including Joe Bussard, Chris King, John Tefteller, and others—who are helping to save and digitize the blues, country, jazz, and gospel records that ultimately gave seed to the rock, pop, and hip-hop we hear today.
From Thomas Edison to Jack White, Do Not Sell at Any Price is an untold, intriguing story of the evolution of the recording formats that have changed the ways we listen to (and create) music. “Whether you’re already a 78 aficionado, a casual record collector, a crate-digger, or just someone…who enjoys listening to music, you’re going to love this book” (Slate).
About the Author
Amanda Petrusich is the author of It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music and Pink Moon, an installment in Continuum/Bloomsbury’s acclaimed 33 1/3 series. Her writing has appeared in TheNew Yorker, TheNew York Times, TheNew York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Pitchfork, Spin, and The Oxford American, where she is a contributing editor. In 2016, she was named one of the 100 most influential people in Brooklyn culture by Brooklyn Magazine. She holds an M.F.A. from Columbia University, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Humanities and the MacDowell Colony. An assistant professor in the writing program at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, she teaches advanced courses on criticism and musical subcultures. She lives in Brooklyn.
“One of the best things I've read about that inexplicably, but endlessly, fascinating group of people, the so-called Serious Collectors of 78s. Petrusich burrows into not just their personalities but the hunger that unites and drives their obsessions. She writes elegantly, and makes you think, and most important,manages to hang onto her skepticism in the midst of her own collecting quest.” — John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of "Pulphead"
“This is an adventure story: Amanda in the Land of MagicalShellac. Petrusich, a warm and witty writer and longtime music journalist,encounters the eccentric, soulful characters who've devoted their lives thearcane practice of hunting old records, shares stories of great lost musicians,and ponders the philosophical issues that make collecting more than just afancy version of hoarding. Readers will be delighted to become her confidanteson this life-changing journey.” — Ann Powers, author of "Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America"
"I don't know hillbilly from Blind Willie, but I loved Amanda Petrusich's archaeology of an almost-lost world of American music. Do Not Sell at Any Price is like a well-loved 78: it pops, it crackles, it seduces utterly." — Ken Jennings, author of "Maphead"
“This is American history as the tale of an American obsession—the record collectors, be they scholars, scroungers, hoarders, or heroes. In this brilliant book, Petrusich hits the road with these junk-shop blues Ahabs around the country—she makes you feel the frenzy of the chase, on a crazed, loving quest to rescue lost music from oblivion.” — Rob Sheffield, author of "Love Is a Mix Tape" and "Turn Around Bright Eyes"
"Amanda Petrusich’s fascinating and insightful journey into the arcane netherworld of 78 records and its bring-‘em-back-alive collectors brims with the joy and passion of discovery, along with a heartfelt affection for those who keep alight the flame of our musical heritage." — Lenny Kaye, guitarist, "Nuggets" anthologist, author "You Call It Madness"
“Petrusich enters the dusty realms of 78 rpm record junkies, and like Rolling Stones chronicler Stanley Booth, catches her subjects' disease. But she's mostly interested in the emotional heart of things, and the old music's strange power. An entertaining road tale and moving self-interrogation that dives deep for answers, sometimes literally.” — Will Hermes, author of "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire"
“Do Not Sell at Any Price tracks generations of obsessive collectors who dedicated their lives to the holy grail of blues and country music—78rpm records. Inspired by collectors like R. Crumb and Harry Smith, Amanda Petrusich wants each record ‘to keep playing forever, from somewhere deep inside my skull.’ Her book is essential reading for all who love American music.” — William Ferris, author of "Blues from the Delta" and "The Storied South"
"An engaging and deeply personal journey, for both the writer and her subjects, and an adroit disquisition on the nature of this distinctly American form of insatiable lust." — Kirkus Reviews
“[A] thoughtful, entertaining history of obsessed music collectors and their quest for rare early 78 rpm records…Fascinating.” — Los Angeles Times
“Ms. Petrusich goes on a pilgrimage to see and hear firsthand the legendary holdings of the top collectors…[she] brings a discerning eye to her profiles.” — Wall Street Journal
“[Petrusich] weaves her interviews with personalobservations and just the right amount of dry humor to make us feel as if we’relooking (and listening) over her shoulder as she travels up and down the EastCoast…a propulsive read." — Denver Post
“Do Not Sell enticingly chronicles [Petrusich’s] immersion in a subset of record collectors…Her compelling, finely drawn portraits such as James McKune and Harry Smith amount to a rich study.” — Entertainment Weekly
“Captivating…Whether you’re already a 78 aficionado, a casual record collector, a crate-digger, or just someone like me who enjoys listening to music, you’re going to love this book…Elegant and witty.” — Slate
"Do Not Sell at Any Price is full of little epiphanies ... [Petrusich's] persistence pays off in the form of stories and observations that humanize the collectors and their pursuit ... [Petrusich] effectively uses the prism of her personal experience to analyze the aesthetics of collecting, consuming and enjoying music." — New York Times
"A profound rumination on the idea of recording, asking what it means to capture sound, to be moved by it, and ultimately, to obsess over it. With “Do Not Sell at Any Price,” we have an astounding new writer not of musical criticism but of longform narrative prose. When Petrusich writes about music, she is akin Keats writing about a Greek vase: She is telling us what it means to be human beings adrift in time." — Baltimore City Paper
"In this entertaining book about the finite universe of oddballs who scrounge frantically to collect the shellac fossils the rest of us consider worthless, you get all the joy of discovery without having to grub through boxes at garage sales.... Petrusich proves an engaging, frequently funny tour guide." — The Boston Globe
"Full of strange, even beautiful, tales of obsession....Even someone who knows little or nothing about 78s will find Petrusich's book an incredibly enjoyable read." — Fine Books Magazine
"A wise, entertaining study of 78 rpm collectors.... Petrusich writes beautifully." — The Wire Magazine
"Exquisitely crafted...an offbeat experiment in embedded journalism." — Chicago Tribune
“Petrusich wisely and insightfully goes beyond just documenting these collectors’ peculiarities, as she also traces the history of early American recordings and their legacy in contemporary music. Perhaps most powerfully, the book serves as a treatise on the act of collecting itself, probing the psychological, social, and cultural implications arising from these pursuits of passion.” — Los Angeles Review of Books