Stories About Records – Greg Belson

30 April 2021

Welcome to the 11th interview in our series, ‘Stories About Records’ where we ask our members and some of our favourite Djs about their most cherished 45. 

This is not about perceived or discogs monetary value but personal value that is tied up in memories, stories, love, loss, life, family and a passion for this particular 7″ vinyl record.

We want to know what the record is, what it sounds like and why it is so important to you. 

If you’re interested in being apart of this series drop us an email or sign up for our Newsletter to be informed when these wonderful stories drop.

Now to the interview and it’s great to present Greg Belson from LA via the UK.

Firstly, tell us about yourself as a Dj and Collector of 45s, how long have you been playing and collecting, why 45s, what was the first 45 you were given and also the first 45 you bought? Do you still have them?

Thanks to the Forty Five Kings Crew and Mr Lob for the invite….I’m Greg Belson and I’m a vinyl obsessive. Kinda like an Alcoholics Anonymous, only with records. I’m lucky to call beautiful Los Angeles, California my home, and I’ve been a loyal servant to the 7” single format for over 30 years and counting.

My first DJ gig was 1987, at Bacchus Danceteria, in my home town of Kingston Upon Thames, UK. I started a session with ATFC (of Defected Records), and we were on a mission to bring our young, tiny record collections to the local folk. So we called the gig ‘Mission’….genius, right?

The first 45 I bought personally was a double pack from Tolworth Records & Tapes, a store long lost into the ether, and is now a greasy spoon eatery called The Sunrise Café. My folks had bought me a few bits and pieces prior to my first ‘dig’, like Creedance Clearwater Revival ‘Bad Moon Rising’, tunes by Midge Ure’s Slik outfit and Ma’s favorite, the Bay City Rollers. But really that was the stuff they wanted to listen to, so it doesn’t really count….ultimately, we called ‘em ‘family records’. I saved up the 50p pocket money I got every week, and asked the fellow behind the counter what I could afford. The year was early 1980, and I remember as a spritely 10 year old, walking home with Adam and the Ants ‘Zerox Machine’ & ‘Car Trouble’ in a white and red logo’d paper bag, happy as Larry, pleased as punch.

Sadly, those 45s have long since flown the coop, but something happened that day. The whole process instilled a sense of achievement, feeling like I accomplished something by saving up, and having a piece of art to show for it. And that felt good…..I guess that’s stuck with me all through my collecting life.

Fast forward to when I was 15 and my first visit to Los Angeles; down the road from my Aunt’s house was a Tower Records branch, just along Hawthorne Blvd. That place was like a gold mine for the new-to-collecting me, a spot I always spent too much time in whenever I was in town. But it grounded me into the world of looking for vinyl, scavenging through the hiphop, jazz & soul sections, just getting familiar.

By 1990, the Gloucester Road (UK) Black Music Record Fair had taken flight….a breakaway faction from the monster London Music Fair that was specifically Rock driven. This was my first real foray into the collector mentality….I started to really think of myself as a proper collector. Some of the major players sold there, like John Anderson’s Soul Bowl, Des Toussaint, Soul Brother, Soul Explosion, Virgo Vibes….the list goes on. It was here that I developed a real passion for collecting 45s…..the desire to go deeper, to connect the dots, to not just look for the usual, but value the UNusual….the beginnings of ‘essential digs gonna get dug’.

‘Round about this time, I started a gig just outside of South West London with DJ Vadim (Ninja Tune etc). We showcased a lot of ground breaking music, as well as a ton of 45’s, where we brought in guests like Gilles Peterson, Keb Darge, Snowboy & James Lavelle. It was at this session that my interest in Gospel music spiked thanks to Snowboy playing Clarence Smith’s ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’, which in some ways, was a life changing experience in terms of my digging exploits.

Other clubs going off at the time in Central London were ‘Leave My Wife Alone’ at The Wag and ‘Humpty Dump’ at various locations. Mr Darge was plying his trade around town, and after guesting at each other’s night, we decided to collaborate and put on an all-encompassing session in the West End. So was borne, ‘Deep Funk’.

‘Deep Funk’ was all about the 45s and instrumental in building my collector mentality, which overspilled in to other residencies I was holding down….to dig even harder, to bring the next undiscovered discovery to the table, to go toe-to-toe with the other DJ’s. It was healthy competition, to bring the best out of you as a collector and a DJ, and that’s another integral experience that stays with me on the daily. ‘Deep Funk’ itself was a wonderful session in its hay day with all credit to Kebby for building a genre out of a club name. Not many sessions can boast such a detail!

These days, you can find me still as passionate about the record game from morning, noon, and night, chasing the sounds I haven’t heard before. And I’m privileged enough to have a worldwide stage to share my collection. As part of the amazing 45 Live Crew, you can hear the 45 Live Radio Show the 1st and 3rd Friday’s of every month broadcasting on the mighty It’s a celebration of the 7” single like no other….jazz, blues, soul, old school rap, yeah sumthin’ like that. Check out our full roster of world class slangers, throwin’ down the heat from their well-stacked crates.

Also on dublab, is The Divine Chord Gospel Show, focusing on Gospel Funk & Soul tunes that have been buried for far too long. Every 4th Wednesday we shine a light on this incredible music, OG 45s and LP’s on lock. And every Sunday morning on London’s Soho Radio, it’s The Divine Discotheque, where we take a trip around the musical universe….it’s not just a 7” showcase, but a celebration into the DJ crates of a vinyl obsessive.

Finally, you can check out the compilations I’ve curated for various labels. ‘Divine Funk’, & ‘Divine Disco Vols. 1 & 2’ are available now on Cultures of Soul, and ‘Time For Peace Is Now – Gospel Music About Us’ released on Luaka Bop. You can also get more insight into Gospel music with the ‘A Stranger I May Be – Savoy Gospel’ series released by Honest Jons, and the ‘Holy Spirit (Spiritual Soul & Gospel Funk From Shreveport’s Jewel Records) available on Harmless Recordings. All feature music from an amazing array of 45s alongside rare LP cuts showcasing this wonderful music.

What is your most cherished 45? Why is it so important to you? What is it’s story (label,year, artist, musicians), where did it come from? Is the B-Side any good?

As is always the case with these questions, there are so many 45’s that I’ve collected over the years that mean so much, in various different ways. From unbelievable cheap finds and crazy locations to sentimental reasons and pivotal ‘career’ records, I can pick many and tell a story on each. But on this occasion, I’ll select Sacred Four ‘Somebody Watching You’ b/w ‘Lord I’ll Make It Somehow’ on Champ.

My interest in Gospel music started to take flight in 1993, although I didn’t really realize it at the time. I was buying Soul records, but some of the killer stuff was on the Gospel Truth label. It took me a minute to make the connection that these were different to the secular tracks I was buying previously, even though they were usually filed away in the Soul section at record stores and the like….the Gospel crates as we now know it, just didn’t exist back then.

So during my next buying trip to the States circa ’94, I hit the racks for Gospel fairly hard. In doing so, I met a guy casually working at one of the stores, a like-minded record hound, Mr Aaron Anderson. He’d been investigating the records that often went unchecked and unloved, and back then, it was the untapped world of Gospel music. We struck up a friendship and shared some of our pretty limited knowledge, helping each other to grow, to make the connections….to learn. By 1997, we were really hittin’ a stride feeding off each other, finding the most beautiful recordings.

We continued our relationship transatlantically, with weekly phonecalls to play our latest discoveries. This was before the days of the internet proper, sharing sites and what not. This was good ol’ fashioned play-it-over-the-phone business. From Michigan to London, often a two-hour call, racking up the phonebill…..but man, was it oh so worth it.

Towards the end of the 90’s onwards, Aaron had the bit between his teeth and was turning up some ridiculous records. We would continue our phonecalls, right up until I moved to the States in 2005. But it was a call from Mr Anderson in 2003, that really left me stunned… pressed to my ear, probably mouthing an expletive, asking him to rewind it pronto.

From the snap of the first kick and snare, I knew this was something special….the phoneline kinda muted the bass sound a tad, but when the vocal came in like a ragin’ rhino, it was really game over. A total ‘lightbulb’ moment! This Gospel thing has untapped music that’s pure gold….it has the power to hang with any secular Soul recording, and can absolutely annihilate a club through a monster PA. This was Aaron’s discovery, and when I blew my top about it, he was sitting humbly on the other end of the phone, saying ‘The good news is, I’ve got a copy here for ya!’

I picked myself up off the floor, we conducted a deal, and that was that. A genre defining tune, discovered and into the crates, over a phonecall.

When I received the record through the post, of course the A-side got rinsed at home all day every day, completely ignoring the Deep Soul beauty that was on the flip. Honestly, it was probably too early in my collecting habits back then to truly appreciate the quality of the B-side. But once I got buried into its mechanics, I could ‘feel’ the soul, the intent, the sincerity of the session, all wrapped up in a rawness that bathes in what seems like a quick one take. It’s really, pretty glorious.

This story ends in two ways….the first is the impact that particular record went on to have. Towards the end of the decade circa 2009, UK DJ Paul Sadot bought my one spare off me I’d managed to find and introduced it into the Soul scene proper. It was embraced pretty much immediately, and now it’s arguably one of the most desirable Gospel Funk tunes within the collector’s scene, certainly from a club DJ’s perspective. It’s a record that I get so many requests to play around the world when I’m in your town. Everytime I hold the 45, it becomes a symbol of what Gospel music really is, not just the preconceptions of what Gospel music should be. It’s a ground breaking discovery, to which I’ll doff my eternal cap to Mr Aaron Anderson and our wonderful, wonderful phonecalls.

On the other side of the coin, it’s a record that I’ll hold dear for the rest of my days. A memento of a friendship….sadly, not long after I moved to the States, Aaron fell ill, and left this mortal coil….a tragic loss to all those who knew him, and quite possibly to many folks who didn’t. His ethos and business ethics are inspirational guidelines to dig by. Aaron Anderson knew how to play the game, knew how to embrace, knew how to share, and did so as humble as they come. The record collecting fraternity need more folk like him….so when I see this Sacred Four disc, I see Aaron.

Rest In Peace….Breakself….Records Are People Too.

Check out Greg’s 2020 mix for The Forty Five Kings

Find Greg Belson on his Mixcloud Channel: