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Music collector publishes buyers' guides

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Tucked away in a corner of Port Townsend is yet another individual with an amazing past and an astounding amount of specific knowledge about an arts-related field - and a collection of vinyl that would make many music lovers drool.

Jerry Osborne of Osborne Enterprises/Jellyroll Productions publishes record collectors' price guides, and has a vast collection of baseball cards, music and music-related memorabilia. Among those items is a photo album stuffed with pictures of himself standing alongside a veritable who's who of music legends, from the Beatles to Johnny Cash to Elvis Presley.

Osborne was a disc jockey in Phoenix in the early 1970s and organized a number of bus tours to see big acts perform in Las Vegas; that's how he came to be hobnobbing with the stars.

Presley, who Osborne described as "about as generous a person that ever lived," once gave Osborne a gold necklace emblazoned with the letters "TCB," for "taking care of business."

In 1973, Osborne said, "Elvis rewarded my loyalty and my contribution, as it is, to his massively incredible career.... In August 1973, he put [the necklace] over my head and he said, 'This makes it official."'

MEET 'MR. MUSIC'

Osborne is officially a music expert, with a knowledge as thorough as his collection. He publishes annual music-buying guides, thick reference books that help collectors determine how much a given item is worth. He also writes a weekly syndicated column titled "Mr. Music," available online at jerryosborne.com.

"I have no musical talent whatsoever," Osborne said - he plays the record player and the radio.

In the mid-1950s, as rock 'n' roll was taking off, Osborne was being raised by his grandmother in Torrance, California, in the Los Angeles area.

Starting when he was about 9 or 10 years old, he said, "I was buying [records], but I didn't take care of them with a collector's mentality."

He is quick to differentiate between "accumulating" and "collecting" music.

"In 1960 is when I really became a collector," he said. He noticed that next to the records regularly priced at $1 were some out-of-print ones with price tags of $8 and higher.

"A lightbulb went off," he said. He realized that if he'd kept some of the records he had preciously purchased in pristine condition, he could be selling them for high prices. Now, his collection includes "somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 records," dating back to the 1930s. "If you remember it, I probably have it."

Days after graduating from high school, Osborne began working for Northrop, an aircraft manufacturer in Los Angeles, wielding "a rivet gun on an assembly line. I knew I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life," he said.

With an eye to learning what he could about broadcasting, he soon enrolled at the Grantham School of Electronics, earning his first-class radio-telephone license and immediately landing a job with a radio station in Indio, California.

"That began 14 consecutive years" of working in radio, he said, which brought him to Phoenix, which brought him in contact with the superstars and their agents, with whom he arranged bus trips for folks from Phoenix to see shows in Vegas.

BECOMING A WRITER

He then decided to start writing about music, in the form of guides about collectibles.

"I started selling my own collection in order to finance my household as I was sitting there in front of the typewriter."

The first publisher he went to with his idea took him on: the Phoenix-based O'Sullivan Woodside & Co.

"I was the first person in the world to do this," he said.

The first book, on "the pop and rock field," came out in June 1976; the second focused on country and western music. Since then, he has published more than 200 books.

Osborne moved to Port Townsend in the 1980s, seeking to escape the Phoenix heat. While in Seattle for an Elvis collectibles convention in 1986, he stayed with a friend in Gig Harbor, who took him for a drive to the Olympic Peninsula.

"This I remember like it was earlier today," he said, describing how, as they drove into Port Townsend, "before we even came down the Sims hill, I said, 'Stop at the first real estate office; I want to get some brochures.'"

If you have an audiophile in your life - one of those people who, at a garage sale, goes first to the box of old records - consider giving them one of Jerry Osborne's price guides. See jerryosborne.com.

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