When a pair of turntables showed up in the living room of a 15-year-old Studebaker Hawk, a future of lugging heavy crates of vinyl, cleaning dusty 45s, and giving up all available wall space to record shelving came into focus. The eclectic record collection that teenage Hawk had built in his youth became tools for his early DJ sets, but the hunt for new and exciting rhythms had just begun. Endless hours digging in record shops, thrift stores, and flea markets led to buying record collections, and before Hawk finished his college degree, he’d already been selling vinyl records full-time. A decade later, he was one of the best U.S.-based Sellers on Discogs.
During that decade, Hawk cut his teeth gigging constantly around the northeastern U.S. and on the airwaves of WMUA. At the radio station, he met two DJs who would become his brothers, Bongohead and Andujar, in the creation of the record label Peace & Rhythm, putting out contemporary Latin, African, and Caribbean music. After leaving the station, Hawk used international DJ tours as the catalyst for record-digging through five continents, periodically returning home to organize his vinyl convention, the Northampton Record Fair, and keep up his online store, shipping records all around the world.
Discogs: Tell us who you are and how long you have been a Discogs user.
Studebaker Hawk: I joined Discogs the summer of 2007, and it was the catalyst for moving into selling records full-time. I had been DJing for six or so years and had started buying former DJs collections to get awesome records. With the duplicates and 12-inches I didn’t want, I was setting up at local record fairs to try to sell them. A fellow record dealer friend of mine (Discogs user Domcasual) let me know how nuts I was, setting up at record fairs with separate sections for disco, Italo, and freestyle, but “Rock, Jazz, and Other” was one mixed section. I was 22 at the time and the youngest dealer at every fair. I joined Discogs at the same time I picked up an amazing DJ collection with around 7,000 12-inches. Soon after I quit my office job to go back to university, and when sales were going well on Discogs, I realized I didn’t need to find a part-time job.
D: What is your favorite record store and why?
SH: I’m going to shine a spotlight on two shops. Probably my favorite store in the U.S. just recently closed its doors. Every trip to Richmond, Virginia, I looked forward to going to Steady Sounds. I don’t think I ever left with less than a massive stack. A record store that had an amazing selection, way lower prices than basically the whole rest of the country, and a killer dollar bin. On top of that, run by great people with excellent taste. Multiple times I bought records I didn’t know because they were listening to them in the shop. This is from years of passing through town two to three times a year. I can’t imagine how much I would’ve bought if I was a local.
Peace & Rhythm 45s | Photo by Pablo E. Yglesias
With a good shop, if it’s extremely well-curated … you’re not pulling expensive records out of the dollar bin. Or, a [good shop] will have all the best new releases, but not a great selection of older obscurities. Somehow, Steady Sounds had all of it at once. They closed this year during the pandemic after being looted in the middle of the riots in Richmond. Luckily, you can still buy from them on Discogs.
Red Point Records in Singapore is a true diamond in the rough. It’s in a random part of the city, in a nondescript looking warehouse building, on the sixth floor. No sign — you have to know where you’re going. Everyone has to take their shoes off, and every time I’ve gone, the owner brings me a bottle of water. Even though I only get there maybe once a year, I walk in and the owner remembers me, saying something like, “Funky, garage, disco?” I say yes, and he brings me stacks of records to preview. I usually end up buying around two-thirds of what he brings me because it’s all killer South East Asian funk, disco, and garage rock. If I have time left, there’s plenty more to dig. In addition to a well-curated shop with all kinds of genres, the 12-inch wall is extensive.
D: Do you have a story that you’d like to share about record-selling?
SH: I’m sure I have tons more, but here are a few that come to mind.
I respond to someone’s classified ad selling a record collection. The seller tells me on the phone that it’s a DJ collection but when I get to the apartment he’s watching a rodeo on TV and I notice the open brochure featuring cowboy hats, so I’m starting to think I’m in the wrong place. He says the records are in his bedroom, he leads me in, and the room is wall-to-wall Nazi flags. Seeing the fear on my face, he says, “Oh I just like to collect flags, don’t worry I’m not a Nazi or anything.” He leaves the room and I’m there with the records unsure of what to do, but there are records, so I start checking them out. If I wasn’t convinced by the Man to Man and Bobby Orlando 12-inches, finding a copy of the I’m A Man (Who Needs A Man) by Gay Men has me confident that this collection belonged to a gay DJ in the ’80s. The seller has a turntable set up and is encouraging me to put records on as I go through the collection. Every time I put something on, he names the song by just the intro drums. This was definitely his collection. Surrounded by Nazi flags and a rodeo flashing on the TV, I’m talking to him about his club residencies.
A record store has a bunch of boxes of records in front saying “free.” I’m taking a look and find a couple boxes of sealed records. When I ask if he’s giving these away for free he says, “Take ’em.” I pull out a few things but it’s almost entirely 101 Strings LPs, so I add them to the dollar records I brought out to go under my tables at a record fair. At the fair, someone pulls up a sealed copy of Astro-Sounds from Beyond the Year 2000 by 101 Strings and I realize my mistake. A sealed copy of that would likely sell between $80-$100. The buyer happily pays $1 and excitedly opens it. Pulling out the record, we see that it’s cracked. Turns out selling it for $1 saved me from unwittingly selling a cracked record for full price.
I regularly shop at a flea market (tianguis) in Guadalajara, Mexico. There’s a seller there I bought from a few times who convinced me to check out his “warehouse full of records.” We pick a day, and he tells me it’s close to the flea market, so I should meet him there. I show up and tells me to get in a beat-up looking van. I tell him I can’t just get in a van with him, I don’t know him or where we’re going. He now tells me it’s far, so I tell him to give me the address and I’ll get a taxi there. He says he doesn’t know the address just how to get there. After some back and forth, I eventually agree to go with him after texting a photo of his driver’s license to my wife. There are only front seats in the van; he’s driving and I’m in the passenger seat. After we’ve been driving for a while, we stop, and a younger guy jumps in the van. I’m weirded out but the seller says the young guy is going to be moving boxes of records in the warehouse so it’s easier for me to browse. I’m uneasy and sending my location to my wife periodically through Google Maps. We’re outside the city limits and I’m trying to keep my eye on the person directly behind me. I obviously have cash on me to go shopping and I’m the easiest target of all time. Then we stop again. I ask why, not sure what I should do, and the answer confuses me because I didn’t know the word “toldo”. Before I can bail, I find out when someone shows up with a large umbrella. Toldo is Spanish for “awning.” Things start to make sense. The warehouse is so packed, there’s no way for me to go through it inside. They’re going to set up an umbrella in the street for me to sit outside and go through records, while the young guy brings them out. When we’re finally there and things are set up, I get a look inside the warehouse (actually a storage unit). There are records all right, but no shelving. Just rows of records stacked on each other. Moldy warped records. Great. I’m already there, so I go through them and cut myself off when I’ve found 100 worth buying. Lots of them are sealed, and there’s good stuff, but I’m trying to avoid obvious signs of mold and warps, hoping every sealed record I buy doesn’t turn out to be a mistake. All in all, I got some great records at a good price. I only ended up going through about a tenth of what’s there, and the seller has asked lots of times if I’ll come back and buy more, but that’s a hard dig to hopefully find the good stuff that hasn’t molded or warped.
D: How did you get into DJing?
SH: When I was 15, my brother bought a pair of Technics Mk2s and left them at my parents’ house when he moved out of the country. Since there were decks, I just assumed I’d start DJing. I was playing in punk bands back then and first cut my teeth DJing at house parties and spinning between bands at gigs. When I was 18, I joined a community radio station, and playing for hours every week is where I learned to blend. Being on the radio having to constantly find new music you want to share with the world is one of the most valuable things a new DJ can do.
I continued spinning weekly on the radio for 10 years, even when I was touring internationally, just sending in my pre-recorded shows, lots of them live sets recorded from the boards at my gigs. Spinning led to buying record collections, which led to selling records full time, which led to running record fairs, which led to starting a record label, which led to starting a subscription service. All because those turntables fell into my lap as a teenager. My brother did end up reclaiming his decks a few years later. He’s a fantastic DJ and runs the label Alliance Upholstery.
D: Do you sort alphabetically, chronologically, by genre, or other?
SH: Since my collection is DJ-focused, I sort by genre and then by BPM within genres.
D: Tell us about the record fairs you’ve organized.
SH: I’ve organized The Northampton Record Fair 11 times since 2015 in Northampton, Massachusetts. Forty to 50 dealers each time, DJs spinning all day. I had previously run a series of record fairs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the late-2000s for my old radio station WMUA and I ran a monthly flea market for a year at another local arts venue. In 2014, the radio station was going through changes and I realized they weren’t going to be keeping their fair going, so I decided the community needed a fair and got it going.
The Drop is the brand new vinyl subscription curated by Studebaker Hawk. Subscribers receive two new release 45s per month, curated for you and dropped at your door! This is for lovers of soul, funk, and global grooves. Only $25 a month in the US, free shipping! $35 a month for Canada and Mexico, $40 a month for the rest of the world, all free shipping.
SH: I still use a bunch of 45s. Most of it is the kind of stuff that will be in The Drop. labels that The Drop will include like Discos Mas, Colemine, and Sunflower Soul. There’s some older interesting stuff at the beginning. It should still give people a feel for what The Drop will be like, since there’s Funk, Disco, Boogie, Afrobeat, Cumbia, Salsa, Reggae, etc (also Rai and and Lookthung, which are less likely to be in The Drop, though if hot 45s of those genres come out, then I would definitely include them).
Here’s the tracklist. I, unfortunately, can’t type the name of the opening record because it’s all in Thai.
- [Something from Thailand]
- Dr. Love & Sister Love – “Doctor Love & Sister Love Rap” (1979) [Heavenly Star Records]
- Le Club – “Front Page News Instrumental” (1983) [Roullette]
- Cheb Tati – “Dawili Hali” (1989) [Blue Moon Productions]
- MC Peligro – “Mata De Vaina” (2015) [Discos Mas]
- Aníbal Velásquez – “Entre Palmeras” (1980) [Peerless]
- Tortuga – “Grand Drum” (1982) [Best Record]
- Sandra Sá – “Usa E Abusa” (1986) [RCA]
- Bio Ritmo – “Picaresca” (2014) [Vampi Soul]
- The Bombay Royale – “Sote Sote Adhi Raat” (2011) [Hope Street Recordings]
- Sister Mantos – “Fin Del Mundo” (2017) [Discos Mas]
- Chris Joss – “Sequence of Spectators” (2012) [Eighteenth Street Lounge Music]
- Jungle Fire – “La Kossa” (2017) [Colemine]
- Mestizo Beat – “Featherbed Lane” (2018) [Colemine]
- Los Santos Caballeros – “The Chase” (2019) [Sunflower Soul Records]
- La Misa Negra – “Pistola” (2017) [Discos Mas]
- Alogte Oho & His Sounds of Joy – “Yu Ya Yumma” (2016) [Philophon]
- Super Hi-Fi – “Q Street” (2015) [Peace & Rhythm]