Evan Chern admits he i thinking about “what to do with all those records.” With well over 50,000 in his Yesterday and Today Record store, he is Miami’s oldest and largest dealer in 12-inch LPs, technologically replaced by compact discs in the late 1980s.
“Now, a lot of CDs have become collectibles, too,” added Chern, standing behind a stack of LP albums towering more than six feet tall besides his desk, an entryway that hides overflowing bins of records of every musical taste from Punk Rock to Rachmaninoff.
Miami-Dade’s Latin population has its own corps of collectors “who look for Tito Puente, Cuba’s King of Rhythm; Benny More, or any of the old Fania label artists,” said Chern whose personal fondness is for the junk and garage bands of the 1960s and ’70s.
Housed on the second floor of a twostory commercial building at 9274 SW 40 St., Yesterday and Today has become the kind of Miami landmark for “vinyl junkies,” much like bowlers regard the friendly alleys of neighbor Bird Bowl.
I’m also becoming a kind of pictorial historian of famous musicians, having taken pictures whenever some of the best artists appear in town,” said Chern, standing next to a framed color photo of Frank Zappa snapped during a Miami concert.
Assisted by fellow-record hound Bob Rubin, Chern began managing the store originally opened by music promoter Rich Ulloa in 1981, then later became its proprietor during a succession of moves along Bird Road.
Today, old vinyl LPs seems to attract a steadily growing market, even as CDs become passé to generations who downloading music from computers.
“Of course, the music is the main thing,” Chern said. “However, many collectors still want the original record, rather than a reissued disc, even though some first pressings may command astronomical prices.”
Pulling out a Beatles “Butcher Cover” reissued on Capitol’s EMI label, Chern notes the original issue (pulled from outlets the day it appeared because of the distasteful cover photo) now “go for as high as $25,000.”
Uncovering rare LPs and trading stories with record buffs who paw through his stacks for a vintage artist early works is part of what fascinates Chern, including what are known as the “Holy Grails.”
The soundtrack of Broadway stage production of The Caine Mutiny was instantly recalled when novelist Herman Wouk found the album cover had no credit line of his name. However, about a dozen copies were believed sold in downtown New York City, making the nameless Wouk LP the rarest of the rare. Even “pirated” (fake) editions are known to sell for several hundred dollars.
Both rarity and condition bring prices in the $1,000 to $2,000 range for Blue Note and Prestige 1950 issues of jazz figures like tenorman Hank Crawford or the better known John Coltrane whose reissue album Chern thinks he’ll keep rather than sell.
“There are some original Jefferson Airplane records I’d like to find,” he admits, if he was on the other side of the counter.
The veteran record dealer, however, is most pleased when helping “a youngster whose parents just gave him their turntable or even an old 78 record player, and wants to find some music to play on it.”
Recalling how Ray on TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond purchased Debra a first edition of “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a surprise holiday gift, Chern pulled up a mint copy of a two-LP set of Peter, Paul & Mary In Concert.
“Wouldn’t that make a unique gift for a loving hubby to give his wife?”
Now approaching his 60th birthday, Chern admits he occasionally puzzles what he’ll do with his stock already overflowing both the store and a garage at his Redland home: “Might just have to find a warehouse,” he grins.
Yesterday and Today Records is open Tuesday-Thursday, noon-7 p.m.; Friday, noon-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday, 12-4:30 p.m.; closed Monday. For information, call 305-554-1020 or visit www.intagerecords.com