Rare, strange vinyls — Hitt Records’ owner has ‘kind of seen it all’

Customer Kara Knight said she can find “a little bit of everything” in the store’s crates.

Newlywed couple Kara and Stephen Knight browse through vinyls at Hitt Records on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 in Columbia. Kara said since she bought Stephen a new record player this past Christmas, it added even more "fuel for the fire" for them to purchase vinyl albums | Photo by Lily Dozier

Once or twice a year, Kara and Stephen Knight drive to Hitt Records in Columbia, Missouri, — an over three-hour round trip for them.

They’ve searched for records back home in St. Louis to grow their collection, but Stephen Knight said Hitt Records’ unique selection makes the drive worth it.

The store currently has around 10,000 records to choose from.

“[I like] spending time digging through records and finding that diamond in the rough,” Stephen Knight said.

Kyle Cook, an owner of Hitt Records, said he’s on “a never-ending search” for the most diverse vinyls he can find. Shipments of new records and represses of popular albums arrive at least three times a week. Cook also seeks out entire collections and interesting finds from people. Last week he spent a whole day sorting through old records from someone’s basement.

The store is 10 years old, but Cook has been collecting records and learning about music his whole life. When he searches for new vinyls, he said he has a sense of what people might buy or never touch.

He stocks the store with rock, classical, hip hop, folk, country, jazz, R&B and electronic music, but also takes a chance on odd records he comes across. And after seeing thousands of records throughout his life, he said he’s “kind of seen it all.”

“You find wack, weird things,” Cook said. “One is called ‘Disasters’ and it’s all recordings of car, train and plane wrecks and things exploding. I don’t know where to put that.”

He also has a Phil Collins interview album. The record pauses between each of his answers and it came with a script. Cook said if you time it right, you can pretend to interview Phil Collins, which he finds hilarious.

Cook sells some of the unusual records he finds in the “odd, eccentric dollar bin” in the back corner of Hitt Records and at the ends of alphabet sections in the center of the store. He said these are popular with customers.

“Those are the records you can take a chance on and they’re not going to break the bank if it ends up being something you’re not into,” Cook said.

Records he’s brought to the store include “Candy, the Talking Doll,” in which ventriloquist Muriel Linton sings songs about the Bible, a 1980 Ronald McDonald birthday party album, the 1968 soundtrack to the musical “Man Of La Mancha” and a 14-lesson “Train Your Bird To Talk” album for parrots and parakeets.

While searching for vinyls, Cook also finds rare, valuable albums he puts on the top shelf, like Big Star’s “#1 Record.”

“A lot of those things are first-ever pressings of now what are considered to be definitive or cult-status records … things we’ll never see again,” Cook said.

Stephen Knight said he considers these limited edition vinyls the most interesting finds at Hitt Records. While searching for something to take home, he found Uncle Tupelo’s “No Depression” alternative country album and hopes it’s his new favorite record.

He said he likes a little bit of everything, and Kara Knight does too. Looking at records around the store, she searches songs on Spotify to discover new artists and see if she wants to buy their albums. She said getting absorbed in music makes her feel “lost in another world.”

“It’s nostalgic,” Kara Knight said. “Everything is so instant in the world that we live in right now and when you come here, it’s just a slower pace.”

Edited by Angelina Edwards | aedwards@themaneater.com

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