Spinning the tunes

This record player from the late 1960s allowed teens to take their tunes to go.

Vinyl records are experiencing a surprising resurgence in popularity in the 21st century.

Considered an obsolete technology for some 30 years, audiophiles are returning to LP (long play) vinyl records because they consider their sound to be warmer and richer than digital versions.

More than 10 million vinyl recordings were sold in the United States last year, but these sales don’t come close to meeting the numbers of 50 years ago, when vinyl was supreme.

Most homes of the 1960s had a record player, either a large console cabinet or a smaller portable player. Some young people, however, wanted to take their music with them when they were away from home with friends.

Like most American teenagers, they needed to express some independence, to listen to the music of their choice without parental oversight. Manufacturers saw a demand for a mobile device and began to offer battery-operated record players for sale.

The player shown here is a small, lightweight Solid State Panasonic SB-330 that dates to about 1968.

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Its plastic case measures 11 by 12 inches, including a molded carrying handle.

It ran on six C batteries and could play 33 1/3 and 45 rpm (revolutions per minute) vinyl records. In the late 1960s, some of the most iconic music of the era were likely played on this record player: songs like the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” or Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.”

While this machine required manually placing a single vinyl record on the turntable, other models were designed to stack several records on a spindle, dropping a new record when the previous one finished playing.

This record player enabled its young owner and friends to listen to the latest hits wherever they went — to the beach, the park or the back yard. The sound quality of this machine, with its small built-in speaker, would likely not satisfy today’s audiophile.

This battery-powered portable record player was donated to the historical society by Corinne Martell in 1990. It can be seen, along with other artifacts from the 1960s, in the historical society’s online database.

To experience more 1960s music, consider attending the La Crosse County Historical Society annual mid-winter fundraising gala, “Remember When,” on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Court Above Main. Those attending are encouraged to wear 1960s attire. This year’s fundraiser will feature live music of the era by Dr. Rock/Rick Pervisky, dinner, and live and silent auctions. For information and to purchase tickets, call 608-782-1890 or visit the society’s website, www.lchshistory.org.

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