Ray Young never thought about creating a calendar of his album covers, something he read about in last Sunday’s edition of The Record.
Frankly, he couldn’t possibly narrow his choice to 12.
That’s because the 82-year-old Lodi resident has about 10,000 albums on his property, both in his home and his workshop, which includes what he likes to call his “listening room.”
The collection may be bigger. At one time he said he had about 150,000, purchased at estate sales or given to him by people wanting to get rid of their record collections, but the current stash is in the 10,000 range.
Over time he sold or gave away many of the albums he collected, but when Salty’s Record Attic in Modesto closed a couple years ago, Young, who owns Western Alinement Service at Aurora and Lindsey streets, bought the 80,000-record inventory.
Much of that, too, has been sold or given away, but Young’s collection is a sight to behold.
Shelves and stacks of albums abound. One stack in the house was topped by one by Tammy Wynette and just under it, one of Barbara Streisand.
Young, who has been married to his wife, Margaret, for 55 years, starts his tour in the house on his beautiful, tree-dotted acre-and-a-half property that backs up to a grape vineyard.
“This is supposed to be a music room, but my wife has a TV in here,” he points out.
She was gone at the time, it should be noted, and the TV was turned to auto racing. Automobiles also are prized by Young, who started working at the shop that specializes in suspensions and brakes of cars and heavy trucks as a teenager and bought it from its founder, Bob Kingston, in 1966.
“I’ve had 80 cars and trucks over my lifetime,” said Young, who now drives a white Mercury.
The TV notwithstanding, the music room includes a reel-to-reel tape deck, turntable and a jukebox filled with country and blues records and stacks and shelves of records and compact discs.
“Magnetic tape lasts 100 years,” Young said. “I wear out CDs in my car.”
He’s made lots of tape recordings, including a copy of a bootleg tape of an Elvis Presley concert in Madison Square Garden.
“That’s illegal, so if you listen to it, you hear him singing and it stops because someone came around to check if it was being recorded. Then it starts again,” Young laughs.
His recordings are on the up-and-up, born of a life-long love for music.
His dad, who worked for Standard Oil in Michigan and then moved his family to Stockton when Ray was 10 or 11, liked classical music. Ray still enjoys Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Chopin once in a while.
Born in 1936, Ray Young grew up enjoying radio programs, and he has record albums of some of those classics, including “Fibber McGee and Molly,” “Inner Sanctum” and “The Shadow.”
The first record he remembers owning was Kitty Kallen’s “How Important Can It Be?” and “Little Things Mean a Lot.”
“I lived with my brother-in-law and sister,” Young said. “I was working in the shop and making some money and rented (a room) from them. I bought a turntable and I played that record all the time. My sister said, ‘Don’t you have something else?’ I said, ‘I like it.’ She said, ‘I know you like it.’”
She just wanted to hear something else. Now, she could.
Out in the workshop he built, with its “listening room,” are shelves and shelves of albums, two more jukeboxes, some of his 10 turntables, another reel-to-reel tape deck and a player piano. It’s his pride and joy. Albums come and go, but it stays. Made, he said, in 1915, it has real ivory keys and operates by a foot pump. He has a stack of music scrolls for it.
He listens to a variety of his music.
“It depends on the mood I’m in,” said Young, a delightful, kindly guide to this treasure trove. “I like country and western, the older stuff. Sometimes I like classical. I like old rock: Bill Haley and Fats Domino.”
As Young thumbs through one of the many shelves of albums, he finds the radio shows, comedy albums by Jack Benny and Red Skelton, speeches by Winston Churchill, a recording of Carmen Dragon and the Stockton Chorale, directed by Dr. Art Holton Jr. and a recording by Modesto’s Downey High School music program. There are a couple of Bing Crosby records, too.
Those reminded him of a friend who was a record dealer and wanted a copy of Crosby’s “Sonny Boy,” which Young said is hard to come by, for a client.
“He asked me if I had a copy and I said I had about 10 of them,” Young said. “He asked if he could buy one and I told him no. He got this real frown on his face and asked why not. I told him I wouldn’t sell him one but I’d give him one.”
He’s generous with his albums. He’s sold some but he makes gifts of them, too.
Young loves to share what he has.
In his workshop is a wonderful model train track he’s built with papier-mache mountains, trees and village pieces. He turns the trains on and they emit steam and sound like real trains chugging to life.
“Kids come out here and their eyes get so big,” he said.
He doesn’t get to show off his trains very much anymore, but he clearly delights in running them.
Young is a man who has worked hard from the time he was a kid. His dad died when Young was 15 and he helped support the family. He served in the army, spent a year as a California Highway Patrolman, then bought the business.
He and Margaret raised two daughters and have four granddaughters.
Now, while Margaret still goes into the shop, Ray Young is content to work at his home, enjoy his music and trains and share them when he can.
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.