Volume 15: John Carraro, Merchant of Grooves
June, 1995
It's Just A White Bar

        As We Proceed into the second year of this "World Of Beats" column, a lot of ground has been covered. Most def, I've had the pleasure of interviewing master beat collectors and superstar producers. We've covered subjects such as rock records and soundtracks.There have been a couple of beat missions reported, as well as a lot of other info to keep all you beataholics drunk from the real Funk. And there's much more in store for the months to come, so keep checkin' for us!

        Anyway, as I was saying, we've talked to collectors and producers in past columns, so it's only roght that we also let the record dealers represent - you know, the guys who get blamed for jacking prices up so high that you have to take out a bank loan just to be able to purchase the fliest records. Most people don't realize that the dealers sometime have to put in tremendous amounts of work to find these rare pieces of vinyl! - it's easy to lose sight of that when you're paying a hundred dollars for a six second drumbeat, no matter haw fat it may be.

        Enter John Carraro, record supplier to the stars. Well know for his corner spot at The Roosevelt Soul And Disco record show . John could be called one of the unsung heroes of Hip Hop. Using record finding skills that took many years to hone and develop, he's hooked some of the industry's top producers with mad shit, providing them with the essential musical ingredients for many of Rap's biggest hits. Nearly impossible-to-find records, I'm talking about some joints that almost nobody's ever heard of before!

        As with most record dealers, John has a long background in music. "I grew up in musical family. My father plays upright acoustic bass. He started collecting records as a hobby when he was around 14 years old, and he used to go to a shop up in Harlem called The Blue Note which was real famous record shop back in the day. He started to get into selling records about 20 years ago. It began with just trading records at first, then it started to evolve into a business."

        Frome there John follow his father's lead and got into music himself. "I played drums from 15 to 20 years," he told me."I was in and out of punk bands, but I gave it up because I wasn't into having to have an image to go along with being in a band."

        Disillusioned with it all, John wasn't playing music or selling records until about 10 years ago. "At the time, I was selling mostly Rock and a lot of Blues, mostly mainstream stuff.I used to bring about 2,000 singles to the Roosevelt show. Then, maybe about three years ago, I noticed everybody had these portable phonographs.So I'm checking everybody out, and they're talking about breakbeats, asking:'Is there a break on it?' I could kind of catch them looking for that wide band on the wax (for those that don't know, that's the part on the record where the music usually drops out of a song and sometimes there's a drum solo - s.m.). So I knew everything was up.

        "Nobody was really coming up and telling me because I had monster stuff that I didn't even know about! The first one to really hip me to what was going on was T-Ray (producer of tracks for House of Pain and others), and I guess he did it because he knew I had a lot of records. The first time he came over my house, I brought him out to my garage, and he was buying Boogaloo Joe Jones and everything - Prestige,Bluenote,the whole nine yards. This was my father's stack, and he was selling them to him for three or four bucks a piece."

        From a career of selling the same old Elvis Presley and Beatles records to the same old collectors, John jumped head first into the beat business. "I saw it as an opportunity to specialize in a genre because I was getting tired of trying to find just any old records to sell. So that became my goal, and I started to spent a lot of time listening to a lot of records. Fortunately, being in New York with the Roosevelt and other shows, there's enough people that the word got out pretty quick.And that's when the battle of the wallets started. Instead of a single being $3 or $5, they were $10 to $12 or $20.I try to keep my prices to a conservative New York scale."

        Ah, yes....the prices or "over-prices," as some record buyer may refer to them.In defending the costs of his hard-to-find vinyl, John definitely makes some points. "I hate this idea that people have that record dealers are exploiting the musician or the poor kid that's trying to make it. I'm providing a service. If I'm out hunting for something that I think a certain artist might like, I'll pick it up. I try to get to know their styles. And I'm taking chance putting out money on speculation that they'll like the record.It doesn't always work to my advantage. You just try to judge it and hope to come out on top. Guys and not letting it just be about the money.

        "I might have a hundred dollar on an album," John explained, "but if you buy three or four pieces, and I know you, you don't have to worry about that. People who know me realize they're gonna get a break.But records aren't growing on trees anymore, either. The garage sale days when we were finding everything for 50 cents, are over.I just paid a hundred dollars know how much time goes into getting these records. It's not always a guranteed thing. You gotta take your chaces, and a lot of guys don't want to go into that territory. They want a sure sale."

        When I saw John at the Roosevelt last October, he entertained me with a vast array of beats pulled from his crates, one after another. Interviewing him was just as much fun as he played records for me and also told some interesting stories. Check it out:

JOHN: One reason I stopped bringing 45's to the show is that I was getting ripped off left and right.Guys were switching sleeves on me. It really make for an uncomfortable day because you have to look over your shoulder all day long. I could name some people who I know have stolen from me, and it would just blow you away.
SOULMAN: No, no...actually, it wouldn't!

J: And I'm not into the whole keeping a beat a secret thing because number one, it goes against what I wanna do.I wanna sell beats, and some guys get a little pissed off if I sell more than one copy of a record. I mean, what am I supposed to do with the other five? Throw'em away? How big can your balls be? You didn't write the music! Come on! How could you even say, 'Don't tell anybody about the record'when 10 years ago, it was in every Sam Goody across the nation? It's rediculous! Keeping things low key is one thing. I can understand if you're in the middle of a project, and it's gotta be top secret.But the whole beat thing, it's like, how many beats do you want? There's more image to it than substance.

S: What are the most valuable records you've deal?
J: There's been a couple things I've sold for $300. Honky Tonk Popcorn by Bill Doggett always sells. Hal Singer always sells.Sho Is Funky Down Here by James Brown, and, for some reason, Roy Ayers, the first three on Polydor that weren't re-released on CD. The Coffy soundtrack always sells well.

S: Tell me one of your more famous beat stories.
J: Well, the whole thing with P.O.Z. (advanced beat men will know what record I'm reffering to - everybody else will have to do that homework! - s.m.) was also T-Ray and me. The first copy I found in a flea market for 50 cents. I had my phonograph with me, and I was listening to it, and I heard that beat and said, "Hmm! This sound like something that people can use."So I brought it to the Roosevelt and had it in the bins for $30. T-Ray found it and wasn't sure what it was. So he brought it over to me and put it on the turntable. When that beat played, the whole room turned around! That was the only copy in existence that I knew about for a while until I found 10 sealed copies. So I just busted them out at the Roosevelt. I had this big audience, and I was like, "One hundred dollars, take 'em if you want 'em." There's really no set value on a used record.Like my father, he wouldn't give you two cents for the P.O.Z., but he'd spent 500 for a certain Donald Byrd or Lee Morgan.

Special thanks to Jacqui Carraro, John's lovely wife
("She's my right arm; without her, none of this would be possible," John says.)

This Month's Beats To Catch:
1."I'm Going To Love You" - Funk, Inc.
2."Down Home Girl" - The Coasters
3."I'm Ready" - Humble Pie
4."Public Animal #9" - Alice Cooper
5."The Memory" - Roy Ayers
6."Another Country" - Damon Fuzz
7."Misdemeanor" - Ahmad Jamal
8."Freedom Death Dance" - Eugene McDaniels
9."After The Race" - Mandrill
10."Mean Old World" - Jerry LaCroix

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