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Shellac Memories
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The Floyd that figures most prominently in my musical memories isn't Pink, and the most memorable Collins isn't Phil.

Fifty years ago, one of the 78s I used to play on the hand cracked Victrola that my grandparents still kept in their living room, was The Ballad of Floyd Collins.

At the time I didn't give much thought to the reality behind the lugubrious ditty. Years later I learned that Floyd had been a legendary spelunker -- discoverer of Crystal Cave -- who'd been trapped underground while exploring. The doomed rescue effort lasted 18 days and captured the country's interest thanks to radio which was a fairly new medium back in 1925.

The subsequent ballad turned out to be an early radio hit, so it wasn't surprising to find an old shellac disk which had survived, except I'd never thought of my grandparents as the sort of people who rushed out to buy the latest chart topper.

The faint hiss and crackle the steel needle scraped out of the depleted grooves sounded like an ancient radio transmission. For me, it was like listening to an audio time machine. I wasn't much bothered by poor Floyd's demise. The passing years had transmuted his tragedy into history.

Besides, a song about a man who died in a cave was more to my liking than the sappy, Ray Coniff stuff my parents listened to.

Strange to think that my memory of listening to the song is as distant as Floyd's misfortune was back when I sat in front of the old Victrola.

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