Doctor of optometry’s pastime as ‘spin doctor’ leads to massive record collection

June 18, 2013

Philip Schwartz, OD, estimates his collection of vinyl records from the 1950s through the 1970s totals well over 100,000 pieces.

An enthusiastic collector of recorded music, Dr. Philip Schwartz has most of the records that entered the Billboard charts between 1950 and 1975.

Philip J. Schwartz, OD, could talk for hours about his music collection and related adventures. Take the time he entered a dimly lit warehouse in West Palm Beach, FL, carrying several thousand dollars in his pocket, to meet some guys who could have easily co-starred in The Sopranos. Or when he helps retired performing artists find copies of their old hits. Not to mention his nearly 30 years as a professional DJ for radio stations throughout the northeastern United States.

Dr. Schwartz, who practices in Lancaster County, PA, collects recorded music. As far back as he can remember, he has been collecting records-doo-wop, rock ‘n roll, and rockabilly-mostly 78s, 45s, and LPs of black vocal groups from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Dr. Schwartz doesn’t know exactly how many records he owns, but guesstimates the total as well over 100,000. His collection has never been appraised because he has no intention of selling them. Although Dr. Schwartz can barely sing or play a note, his game plan is to listen, enjoy, and share his music.

“I collect any artist who was popular and many who were not,” Dr. Schwartz said, adding that most of his collection is vinyl records. “I have most of the records that entered the Billboard charts between 1950 and 1975.”

Hooked on music

Dr. Schwartz admitted his passion for music was inspired by an unlikely source-his family’s Swedish housekeeper and nanny. As a toddler, he stayed at her home when his parents travelled. Although she didn’t speak fluent English, she constantly listened to music by American artists.

“She had records all over the house,” Dr. Schwartz recalled. “I spent my day on the floor with a record player. Over time, I became educated on the different labels and different artists.”

One thing led to another, and by the time he started kindergarten, he already owned quite a few records. Now, his collection ranks among the largest in the world.

Although collecting music may have been Dr. Schwartz’ first love, he never wanted more than a part-time commitment. While growing up, he was exposed to the field of optometry by his father, who was an optometrist, and his mother, a registered nurse. “I grew up around the equipment and was exposed to the profession from an early age,” he said, adding that as a child, he set his sights on becoming an optometrist.

Quest for golden oldies

Still, he could never think of abandoning music, so he found an effective compromise. During his spare time from 1968 until 1994, he worked as a professional DJ at several radio stations. Most of his DJ career was spent playing top 40 tunes on WSBA radio in York, PA.

Since then, Dr. Schwartz has continued to grow his collection by purchasing record libraries from various radio stations, jukebox distributors, and private collections around the country.

Not every lead panned out, Dr. Schwartz added. He recalled one operator claiming to own 100,000 records in good condition. However, Dr. Schwartz and a friend discovered less than half that number, and those they saw were dirty and water damaged.

Meanwhile, he cofounded Keystone Record Collectors in 1979, which supports 300 paid members and hosts monthly Pennsylvania Music Expos that attract more than 1,000 people. Likewise, he launched a record label in 1995 called X-BAT, the name of his high school fraternal organization. The label releases mostly oldies, he said, adding that it has also recorded music performed by local musicians.

“I buy either the master tapes or license the right to use music from the owner, if we can find the owner,” he said, explaining that he has helped artists, such as Jimmy Clanton (“Venus in Blue Jeans”), Lee Andrews and The Hearts (“Long Lonely Nights”), and Roy Tyson (“Oh What A Night For Love”) find their old material. “It’s much harder to find large quantities of records now than 25 years ago. Most of the old stores, jukebox distributors, and radio stations are gone. The records have either been thrown away or sold.”

Back at his office, only one item offers a clue about Dr. Schwartz’ double life. Hanging on the wall in an exam room is Foreigner’s “Double Vision” poster signed by the band’s lead singer, Lou Gramm, and guitarist-songwriter, Mick Jones. For now, Dr. Schwartz said he prefers to keep his medical and musical careers separate.

In the future, Dr. Schwartz hopes to house his collection under one roof, now stored in his house and in climate-controlled storage units. He plans to build some type of studio that will provide a listening room for friends and other collectors.

Until then, he’ll continue hunting for and buying old records while humming some of his favorite lyrics: “Doo wop shoo bop a doo wop . . .”ODT

 

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