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Huge trove of 78 rpm records donated to Syracuse U

July 5, 2008, 3:55 AM EST

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- A vast collection of 78 rpm records  valued at $1 
million, weighing 50 tons and representing more than a half-century of 
American music history  is being donated to Syracuse University by the 
estate of a prominent New York City record shop owner. 

The more than 200,000 records represented the entire inventory of "Records 
Revisited," a landmark Manhattan store owned by Morton Savada, who died in 
February from lung cancer at age 85. 

Savada's collection included recordings from 1895 to the 1950s, with big 
band, jazz, country, blues, gospel, polka, folk, Broadway, Hawaiian and 
Latin among the genres. It also contains spoken-word, comedy and broadcast 
recordings, and "V-disks," which were distributed as entertainment to the 
U.S. military during World War II. 

"It's a treasure trove of that era," said Joe Lauro, founder of Historic 
Film Archive, whose holdings include over 40,000 musical performance clips 
and holds exclusive rights to such famous shows as "The Ed Sullivan Show" 
and Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. 

"In terms of individual records at high prices ... there's not a lot of 
that in there. The value is that it's the largest massing of recordings 
from one particular era," said Lauro, who was befriended by Savada as a 
teenager and visited his store often during their 35-year long friendship. 

Even though they don't yet know what gems await them in Savada's 
collection, university officials were ecstatic about the donation, which 
boosts the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive's collection of 78 rpm 
records to about 400,000  second in the United States only to the Library 
of Congress collection. His family also donated Savada's collection of 
catalogs, discographies and other materials. 

Sound recordings are a rich resource for researchers, faculty and students 
in a variety of disciplines  musicology, history, filmmaking, journalism 
and political science  said University Librarian and Dean of Libraries 
Suzanne Thorin. 

Besides documenting the musical styles and performance practices of the 
day, these sound recordings provide a glimpse into social, political and 
cultural history, she said. 

"The Savada collection is truly an archival wonder," said Theo Cateforis, 
assistant professor in Syracuse's Department of Fine Arts, who also makes 
extensive use of sound recordings in teaching. 

"For students whose relationship with music and technology rarely extends 
beyond the confines of the iPod, it is always eye-opening to see and hear 
the original 78s that were the mainstay of the recording industry for many 
decades," he said. 

Savada did not attend Syracuse, but wanted to donate his collection to a 
major institution that would maintain it and make the recordings available 
for research and teaching, said his son, Elias Savada, who runs a film 
research company based in Bethesda, Md. 

Morton Savada was familiar with Syracuse's audio laboratory and archive 
from meetings of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, said 
Savada, whose daughter graduated from Syracuse in 2005. 

With its collection of more than 340,000 items, Belfer is the fourth 
largest sound archive in the country and includes formats from the earliest 
experimental recordings on tinfoil to modern digital media. Its collection 
of 22,000 cylinder records is the largest held by any private institution 
in North America, and one of the largest in the world. 

The Savada collection has been packed into about 1,300 boxes and will be 
taken to Syracuse next week on six 20-foot-long Federal Express trucks, 
Elias Savada said. The collection is estimated to weigh about 50 tons in 
total, he said. 

The records are thicker and heavier than the later standard 33 1/3 rpm 
albums, which were in vogue before they were supplanted by cassette tapes 
and then compact discs. The 10-inch, 78 rpm albums have one song to a side, 
and weigh about a half pound each. 

Morton Savada took over his father's shirt business, Savada Bros., in the 
1950s and ran it until opening the record store in 1977. He began 
collecting 78 rpms as a teen in the 1930s. 

Savada's favorite music was big band, especially Benny Goodman and Jimmy 
Dorsey, Elias Savada said. 

Although he couldn't read sheet music, Morton Savada could play songs by 
ear on the piano, he said. 

Morton Savada would often bring collectors together at his shop, where the 
narrow aisles were flanked floor to ceiling with shelving holding his 
records. 

Records Revisited was the last store exclusively selling 78 rpm recordings 
and was a frequent haunt for those in the film and music industries, 
including actor/directors Woody Allen and Matt Dillon. Savada often lent 
his 78s to movie and music producers rather than selling them, and never 
sold the last copy of a recording because he regarded his collection as an 
archive, not an inventory. 

"He was more interested in making you a $5 copy on tape than selling you a 
record. He considered himself a keeper of history more than a collector," 
Lauro said. 

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