Wednesday, October 3, 2012

London's Memphis Music Geek

A visit with Neil Scott of No-Hit Records.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 1:37 PM

LONDON — So I went looking for Elvis in London and instead found England's biggest fan of Memphis roots music, Amy LaVere, Jim Dickinson, and Sun Records.

"I am a music geek," said Neil Scott, who works at No-Hit Records in Camden Town, a short bus ride from central London and as packed on a Sunday afternoon as Beale Street is during Music Fest.

Scott joined an Elvis fan club when he was 8 years old, came to Memphis for the first time when he was 10, and has been back several times since then. He plays the upright bass and splits his time between Memphis and Nashville when he travels. His bible is Shangri-La Records and its guide to low-life Memphis called "Kreature Komforts."

No-Hit was founded in 1987, and the name is a reference to the owner's preferences for old-school 33 rpm vinyl albums and 45 rpm records kept in boxes stashed all over the store. Scott, 45, has worked there for 17 years, starting with compilations of various artists then digging deeper and deeper.

"Most of the stuff we've got is pretty obscure," he said.

That's an understatement.

Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis sell their share of albums and their pictures adorn the walls, but the store's biggest seller is a rockabilly guitar player named Charlie Feathers, a contemporary of Elvis who recorded at Sun Studio with Sam Phillips and died in 1998.

 "I saw him twice when he came to London," Scott said. "Both shows were sold out. He never had a hit record, but he's still a household name here and has a lot of young fans."

In 2004, the Flyer's music editor, Chris Herrington, did a guide to the 50 best albums in the history of Memphis music, which I brought along as a souvenir swapper.

Scott knew them all, from Herrington's number-one pick, Al Green ("too smooth and too soul for us"), to Jerry Lee Lewis ("still reissued, and came to London three years ago") to Rufus Thomas ("his early blues sells well") to Carl Perkins ("god-like") to Jim Dickinson ("he had just passed away when I came to Memphis") to Sam Phillips ("Peter Guralnick's documentary on him is amazing") to Herrington's number 50, Mud Boy and the Neutrons.

He's also a big fan of Amy LaVere, the bass player for the Wandering, and Big Star, whose boxed set is one of No-Hit's bestsellers.

No-Hit does half of its sales through the store and half via the website or on eBay. For some reason, Johnny Burnett is enjoying a revival this year, along with Johnny Cash, who is outselling Elvis.

"Elvis is still popular, but most people have got all of his music by now," Scott said.

Talking about rock and rockabilly made Scott as wistful as Americans get when they see travelogues of Europe.

"I've got to get back to Memphis," he said. "I love it more every time I go."

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