“I don’t really have a reason to make that drive unless the Twins go to the World Series,” he says from his 24-year-old record store, Ear Candy Music, in Missoula, Mont.
It will be at least another year until the Minnesota Twins make the playoffs, but Fleming found a good reason to visit the Red River Valley. He’s packing up about 1,000 albums to sell at the Fargo Record Fair on Saturday, Oct. 23.
He’s one of 30 vendors setting up tables inside Fargo Brewing Co. to sell vinyl records, CDs and other music merchandise at the annual event. He’s traveling the farthest, though other vendors will be driving in from Minneapolis, Bemidji, Sioux Falls and other regional towns.
The show brings record collectors and sellers together to fill out collections in all genres of music.
Among the albums Fleming is selling: titles by blues artists Jesse Fuller and Brownie McGhee, a Bob Dylan bootleg, a rare DJ Shadow disc and something for the metalheads.
John Fleming (left) entertains Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith in Fleming's Missoula, Mont., record store, Ear Candy Music. Photo courtesy of John Fleming / Special to The Forum
“I gotta bring some metal,” he says, listing off acts like Blood Tsunami, High Reeper, Terrorizer and Gorefest.
It’s not just the hard-to-find stoner rock that sells. Hard rock and heavy metal from the 1980s and ’90s is hot now. At the 2019 Record Fair, a vendor told me he’s always asked for a copy of the 1988 self-titled debut of L.A. Guns, which can start selling around $50.
”That’s huge. It’s big. I think it always will be,” says another vendor, Jeff Smith. “There are people willing to give their paycheck away for that stuff.”
Headbanging isn’t necessarily for the Bemidji, Minn., man, who will be setting up with a mix of classic punk and old-school country. He says outlaw country like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings always moves, but almost any iconic performer, like Hank Williams, Buck Owens and especially Dolly Parton, will sell. Kenny Rogers doesn’t budge, but if it’s an album with Dolly Parton, it will move. The key is to find records that are still in good shape.
“It’s hard to find old country that’s not all beat to heck,” he says.
He started buying jazz records with his dad in the 1960s and then discovered The Beatles and The Beach Boys — and he's been collecting ever since. He sold about half of his collection in 2019, and with an eye on retiring in 18 months, he’s looking to unload more.
He’s prepared to part with a copy of John Prine’s 2005 album “Fair & Square” because he knows there’s a good market for it now.
“As much as I love this, I can let it go for that money,” he says.
Knowing what people want to buy is the key. He’s constantly surprised people gobble up Air Supply.
“It’s amazing. People want it and they ask for it,” he says.
Dean Sime goes through items he will be selling at the Fargo Record Fair this Saturday, Oct. 23. David Samson / The Forum
“A couple of years ago, I had people asking for Kate Bush. There’s always something I didn’t bring that someone asks for,” says Dean Sime,” Fargo Record Fair's organizer. “Talking Heads have gotten surprisingly big again.”
Fleming says what’s hot can change from market to market. The first time he set up at the Fargo Record Fair, he was stunned when someone asked him for some Moody Blues.
“You gotta be kidding me. I used to put that in the dollar bin. I couldn’t give that away in Missoula,” he says. “It’s just so strange to me. It depends on where you live.”
Timing is everything, as what was relegated to a discount section a few years ago now can make a pretty penny. Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Rumours” is so ubiquitous that he once shoved copies in that same dollar bin, but now gets up to $25. Cheap Trick is also big again, and classic rock in general always sells.
While the vendors are hoping to sell their stock, they’ll also be looking to pad their collections.
Sime is looking to fill out his Billy Bragg catalog, but also keeps his eye out for Jonathan Richman’s trailblazing first band.
“I always dream of finding a Modern Lovers, but that’s a $200 record that you’re not going to find,” he says.
The best thing Fleming saw at a record show was a copy of the 1972 eponymous debut by Memphis rock band Big Star, which now starts listing around $350.
“I didn’t have the money for that,” he says.
Sime was also on the search for the disc in the 1990s when he found it at a record show for a fraction of the price.
“I just about jumped out of my skin. I was just giddy,” he says.
Knowing that what he wants for himself will be harder to find, Fleming is on the lookout for old heavy metal.
“Any '80s hair metal stuff. I’d love to find a collection of 50 titles to buy,” he says.
On his drive from Missoula, he plans to leave some business cards in bars along the way, saying that on his trip back, he’ll stop and see if anyone wants to bring out some albums to sell.
He knows he could buy titles online, but what’s the fun in that?
“I like to find things in the wild,” he says.
What: Fargo Record Fair
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23
Where: Fargo Brewing Co., 610 N. University Drive
Info: Admission is $5 cash for this all-ages event; https://www.facebook.com/FargoRecordFair