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The dusty record store that spins gold

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Charlie Joe & Marie (Sun-Times photos by Brian Jackson)


Charlie Joe Henderson believes that everything will have value someday.
That's not a bad way to look at life.

And this is why the 71-year-old Chicago entrepreneur hasn't culled the inventory at Out of the Past Records, 4407-09 W. Madison St. in the rough n' tumble West Garfield Park/Austin neighborhood. The Kurtis Blow LP? It is certain to be back in vogue.

Out of the Past has nearly 1 million pieces of LPs, '45s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and VHS tapes. Charlie Joe hasn't even tossed hundreds of pieces of vinyl that were damaged in a recent basement flood. Wait. There's more:
Whitney Houston commemorative posters. Overalls. Tee-shirts. Costume jewelry.

Please enjoy this brilliant "Out of the Past" short film made by Chicago Sun-Times videographer Jon Sall.
And be on the lookout for Shadow the cross-eyed cat, the store's mascot.

The Out of the Past building is about the size of a city block.
It has a bigger heart......


....In the 1920s the far west side building was occupied by Chicago Motor Exchange, a new car dealership that brokered in independent smaller manufacturers. That's when the West Garfield Park turf had greater value than it does now. Charlie Joe believes that those days will come around again.
Someday.
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Charlie Joe doesn't collect records for himself.
His wife Marie is in charge of research and pricing.
The only record Charlie Joe talks about is the Winstons hit "Color Him Father."

The summer of '69 soul smash from the Washington, D.C. group launched Charlie Joe into the record business. He had been dabbling in music, chicken bone jewelry and photography in a storefront studio at 8 South Pulaski and Madison on the West Side of Chicago. "We went to Barney's One Stop (record distributor) on Roosevelt Road and bought 60 copies of 'Color Him Father',' Charlie Joe said. "We sold out in one day."
Why did that song resonate with his customers?
"In that area, there was no father at home," Charlie Joe replied. "Mother brought this other man home and he acted as father."

Charlie Joe has now become the father of West Garfield Park.
He has one silent hobby.
"I like to collect pictures of historical black people," he said during a recent walk through his sonic empire.
Like bright candles on a big cake, images of George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey and others illuminate the store. I bought a black and white sketch of Mahalia Jackson for $4. Other color portraits of African American icons such as are part of a commemorative U.S. postage stamp series.
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I have visited Out of the Past seven or eight times over the last 10 years.
Bob Mishlove is the only other white person I have seen at the record store in all my visits. The Evanston resident taught the Henderson's grandchildren Ambria and Montrel art at ACT Charter School (in the former St. Mel's High School) just a few blocks from Out of the Past.
"They are a lot like their grandparents," said Mishlove, 65, whose parents were from the west side of Chicago. "Curious and intelligent. The Hendersons are historians of black musical culture in Chicago and that spreads out to the rest of the country and the world. (The store has a popular Out of the Past website.) You also learn about the cultural history of the black community. They are historians of the neighborhood. Their memories go back to the early 1960s.
"And those are important memories."

In a separate conversation Charlie Joe said, "When I put all this up I hoped school kids who were doing a paper on a black historical figure could come in and look at the picture. And over here is what I've done."
He walked over to a thick notebook. Charlie Joe opened the book. Specks of dust flew into the air. The book contained comprehensive biographies of each icon.

Charlie Joe attached a number to the biography which corresponded to the image on the walls of Out of the Past.
"I set all that up," he said. "Some kids use all this, but nowhere near as many as I hoped. Two or three years ago a school from the suburbs brought a mini bus of kids in and they researched those pictures."

The black and white sketches were obtained from storage locker auction. The drawings are signed by "R. Davis." "I have the originals and I make copies," Charlie Joe said. "I have about 30 originals. Ida B. Wells. Rosa Parks. I don't know who R. Davis is. I wish I could get in contact with him." Even if you're not knee deep into music, you should make an effort to know Charlie Joe and Marie.
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It is a valuable experience.

Check out the entire Out of the Past story in the Feb. 26, 2012 Chicago Sun-Times Show section.

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on February 23, 2012 4:39 PM.

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