The Professor Dean Adkins by Laura Kennedy
“To me there is something almost magical about finding a ‘gem’.” ~ Dean Adkins
Networking among the community of the Southern Gospel industry is incredible to watch. God is continually calling men and women to further the kingdom of Heaven by spreading the good news of the gospel, through the harmonic blend of voice. While individual artists move along different areas of their ministries and join, re-join, or re-form groups, there is a consistently visible thread amongst them all. It is called “heritage”. And as those changes occur, there is a man who knows the who, what, when,
where and how to almost all of them. His name is Dean Adkins and we have lovingly dubbed him…The Professor.
Dean’s love of Southern Gospel music is visible. There is hardly, if ever, an event or gathering that he misses and uses all those resources to do something very unique and special all unto its own.
A true academic professor by trade, now retired from Marshall University, it is why I am honored to call him my friend.
You see, Dean has a passion to share what he loves. If you want to know who first recorded a song …Dean knows. Or who and where, ‘that guy’ came from. Again, Dean knows.
Memories, experiences, funny stories about and from the artists; he knows
so many of them and a lot of the time, it’s first hand.
I learned a very long time ago that if I was ever gonna quote anything about our music history, I’d better get it right…‘cause, he knows!
A gracious man, Dean Adkins
has taken his love of Southern Gospel music and over many years, has built a collection of vinyl records that now numbers in the thousands. Everything from original group members, tenure, compilations, to family members, Dean Adkins is a walking virtuoso of
our genre. Pull up a chair and listen in as he shares it with us…
Q. First of all Dean, I’d like to hear you describe your Southern Gospel music
A. I have several different kinds of items in my collection. I have somewhere between 5-6,000 LPs. The groups that I prefer, sort of my A team or varsity, are in my family room.
There are about 1,700 I keep on a shelf that I found at IKEA that is perfect for LPs. That includes my favorite groups; Statesmen, Blackwood Brothers, Oak Ridge Quartet/Boys, Cathedrals, Speers, etc. Practically all are male quartets, which are my favorites. The remainders of my LPs are downstairs in a room with more of my other collections and
memorabilia. One wall has a shelf with LPs. These are good groups but just not my preference…includes Hoppers, Goodmans, Gaither Trio as well as a lot of lesser known and regional/local groups. On another wall are duplicates – I use these for trading or I sometimes sell a few on eBay or to other collectors. Also in that room I have 45s, 78s, 8-track tapes and VHS videos. I have a shelf of songbooks and sheet music. There is a shelf
of cassettes as well. I have a shelf with all the issues of the Singing News and also other gospel publications (Good News, Voice, and Christian Voice).
Q. And how do you keep track of and categorize such a vast collection?
A. My primary love is LPs and I keep a database of them which includes; artist, album title, label; number, and group members (if known). There is something special about an LP. The vinyl has a warmth when played that is missing on a tape, CD or MP3. I also
love the covers – the information on the back liner and the pictures on the front, including the fashions that range from classy to gaudy!
Q. Share how it started… and why it started as well. Did you plan on it growing to this
magnitude when you began?
A. When I was a boy, I would listen to records that my Dad had – Statesmen,
Harmoneers, Blackwood Brothers (mostly 78s). When I started going to concerts, these were sponsored by the Gospel Harmony Boys, I would buy albums of the groups that I liked. I mostly bought the bargains – “3 for $5” – since I didn’t have a lot of money. I never intended to be a “collector”; I just bought records for their enjoyment. I also subscribed to the Singing News and I would order records from the groups or record
sellers. Over the years it grew larger and larger.
About 15 years ago my brother was singing with the Gospel Harmony Boys and met a guy who was into records and gave him my number. That was David Miller and over the years we became close friends. He and I would exchange records back and forth, though we never kept track of the numbers. Sometimes he would send me 10 and I would send him three and vice versa. He was more into mixed groups but he also collected others as
well. As a result, I began to meet others who collected and further exchanges took place.
I never imagined it would grow to this extent. But there is something exciting about going through a box of records at a flea market or garage sale and finding a record that you have been looking for.
Q. I understand that you copy some of your albums over to MP3s. Can you share the process for doing so, for anyone else who’d like to give that a try?
A. I have a stand alone CD recorder that is hooked to my turntable. I use it to copy records to CD. If the record is clean, I convert the CD to MP3 via Windows Media Player. If the record is scratchy or distorted, I clean it up using a program to filter out pops and hisses before I convert it. I also have a USB turntable that I can hook directly to my computer and using the program Audacity, I can filter it and convert it directly to MP3. It is a relatively simple process and directions for doing this are readily available via the web and on YouTube.
Q. Where do you look for your additions to your collection? Do you have those amazing finds where the seller has no idea what they have? Or do you have to pay top dollar? If you feel comfortable doing so, what is the least and most you have paid for
something in your collection.
A. I find my records and other memorabilia in a variety of places. There are three flea markets nearby and I go to them often, sometimes every week. Many of the vendors know that I look for gospel records and if they have any they will flag me down.
Occasionally I will go to an estate sale if the newspaper ad indicates they have records. A lot of these don’t have what I want, but sometimes I find a ‘jewel.” As I indicated earlier, I traded a lot with David Miller and as I became acquainted with other collectors, I would trade or buy from them. In the past few years, people have offered me opportunities to buy their collections as they learned that I was a collector.
I have paid top dollar for a few records but mostly I have been lucky and I have gotten them pretty cheap. One of my best bargains wasn’t a gospel record; it was an early LP by the group Alabama when they were known as Wildcountry and singing at Myrtle Beach, S.C. They had a recording on Tar Top label. I bought it for thirty-three cents and sold it for $160.00.
I paid $50 for an early Kingsmen LP; the most I have paid. Another bargain I found was 10 sealed copies of Black and While LP by the Singing Americans and many consider this to be one of ‘the’ top gospel LPs.
Q. What is one of your most treasured additions and why?
A. Well, to me there is a difference between most treasured and most valuable. My most valuable is probably 10” red vinyl Rangers Quartette (that’s how it’s spelled on the LP) and it was a gift.
My most treasured are LPs that include my family members. Family is important to me and this is a way I can connect with them, even those who have passed on.
Q. Undoubtedly you are the top collector of albums in the industry.. how do you feel about that?
A. That is flattering but I am far from the top collector. A number of individuals have more extensive collections than I. One of my joys is to be able to exchange information
with other collectors and also to help new collectors get started. It is also satisfying to provide LPs to artists – many like to collect and I enjoy trying to help them.
Q. What does your collection mean to you?
A. To me there is something almost magical about finding a “gem” – an album that one has sought for a long time. Also I like finding LPs of regional groups that contain a member who later becomes a well-known name in the genre. I suppose one of the joys is
that the LPs transport me back to a simpler time – when the harmony and the dynamics of the recording transported me mentally to a higher plane.
Let me add something that just came to mind…
When collecting anything, one has to be careful that it doesn’t become an obsession.
There was a period of time when I was so consumed with looking for a particular record that I would spend an entire weekend going to garage sales, flea markets, estate sales etc. trying to find it. Also I would buy records whether I needed them or not. I finally realized that I needed to focus more and be more selective.
Q. Are you still collecting? And what do you plan on doing with your collection?
A. I am still looking for records but I am more selective now since I have many that I want. There are some that are still out there! Plus, I play my records and some are worn or were worn when I got them, so I also look for upgrades.
I have a list of people who collect and they will be contacted to see if they are interested when I decide (or my heirs decide…lol) to get rid of them. None of my family has yet expressed an interest in keeping them, so if they can’t find a buyer, perhaps they can
donate them to SGMA Hall of Fame.
If you truly want to know something, you’ll ask. If you honestly love what you’ve learned, you’ll want to share it. Just as the Holy Spirit reveals itself to a child of God at the moment of salvation, music moves the spirit. It instantly captures our thoughts and
feelings into a plethora of emotion. As a language of the heart it is meant to be treasured, collected in and then given away.
Thank you, Professor, for sharing the history of our genre. Thank you, Dean for bestowing us with those precious memories as we move along in this life toward our eternal treasure in Heaven.