K-Tel Records Got Me Hooked on Vinyl—And I’ve Never Looked Back

All the platters that matter are still spinning.

Music was my first passion. I remember sitting on the floor with my ear pressed against the fabric speaker of our stereo, singing along to records at the tender age of two. My parents had quite an assortment of records by artists such as Anne Murray, Doris Day and Burl Ives, and soundtracks like “Dr. Dolittle” and ‘The Sound of Music.” It made me so happy when the turntable in that vintage stereo was spinning.

K Tel Records CollectionPhoto: Maria Powell
A random sampling of cover art from Maria’s collection.

Discovering K-Tel Records

By the age of eight, my obsession with vinyl morphed into something new when I discovered K-tel records while watching TV and their commercials came on. I was completely transfixed by song titles scrolling down my television screen, a very charismatic announcer selling the records, and snippets of the songs playing throughout in the background. I simply couldn’t live without any of these advertised albums!

In case you’re unfamiliar with them, K-tel records were compilation albums released primarily in the 1970s by a Winnipeg-based record label, featuring the top hits (for the most part) of the day. In some cases, songs were shortened to allow for as many songs as possible on each side.

Many K-tel records like “Daffy Dances,” “Jukebox Jive” and “Canadian Mint” had themes involved, while others like “Out of Sight,” “Fantastic” and “Sound Explosion” simply featured a great cross-section of popular songs.

The first album in my K-tel collection was called “24 Great Tear Jerkers.” My parents had to have a discussion as to whether or not I was old enough to own the record due to the mature song titles. I was thrilled to receive it, and I still have it today along with many, many other albums that brought me joy then, and now.

When I was ten years old, I received my very own record player for Christmas. It was beautiful: red and white, with a tinted blue cover. “ABBA Greatest Hits, Volume II” was also under the Christmas tree that year. It was 1979 and I was in heaven.

80s Vinyl CollectionPhoto: Maria Powell

Joining the Club

As a young child, a Columbia House Record Club membership seemed to be what dreams were made of for a music lover. Their ad would appear in the weekly TV Guide magazine, and I would circle all of my choices each week—12 records for a penny, too good to be true, and such a hook!—knowing that I was not old enough to actually join.

Things changed in the 1980s when I had a part-time job, and I became a Columbia House Record Club member. I made many trips home from the post office on foot, carrying armloads of records that arrived after I placed each order. It was quite a celebration to open each box of records, in anticipation of the hours of enjoyment that were in store for me. My record collection grew extensively with albums from artists like Air Supply, Tracy Chapman, Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna and Billy Idol to name a few.

Heritage Posters & Music in CalgaryPhoto: Maria Powell
Funky “vinyl siding” at Heritage Posters & Music in Calgary.

During the 1970s and 1980s, I loved visiting record stores in search of 45s—those small records with a large hole in the centre of them. It was wonderful to have the option to purchase just one song instead of an entire album, in particular Top 40 hits and one-hit wonders.

I know that I am not alone in my love for vinyl, as there has been a resurgence in album and turntable sales in recent years. Secondhand record stores and record-collector trade shows are still enjoyed by many people. I treasure my vintage vinyl and will never part with my collection, as it is truly a part of me.

Next, take a look back at 10 classic TV shows that could only have been made in Canada.

Most popular song - Whitney HoustonPhoto: Wikimedia Commons

Every Year's Most Popular Song

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada