Collector doesn’t want these tracks in the trash
For the record, “Music Man Murray” has tried his best to keep his rare 400,000-album collection intact.
Murray Gershenz has spent 72 years amassing his music trove, after all. He has century-old operatic performances captured on Edison cylinder tubes, 1930s-era Big Band crooners on fragile 78-rpm discs, early rockers on 45s, show tunes on LPs and pop artists on cassette tapes and CDs.
The collection is crammed into homemade shelves in a two-story cinderblock building on Exposition Boulevard, as well as two nearby warehouses.
Last summer Gershenz, 88, announced his intention to close his walk-in and mail-order record business so he could focus on a budding career as a character actor. He said he hoped to find a museum or college willing to acquire his $3-million trove.
That hasn’t worked out, he said. So his next stop could be the dumpster.
“Selling individual records isn’t paying the rent,” Gershenz said. “I’ve found about five people with an interest in the collection. But they want me to give it to them. I really can’t afford to do that. This is my life’s work.”
Gershenz is a onetime St. Louis Opera singer and synagogue cantor who opened a used-record shop in Hollywood in 1962. As his collection grew, he moved it to the West Adams area in 1986.
A music collector since age 16, Gershenz had hoped that his son Irv Gershenz, 53, would eventually take over the shop. The younger Gershenz, a musician and artist, continues to handle online record and album sales. But he does not have the time to run the business full time, he said.
“I think he’s just been hoping and praying. I don’t think he knows where to go to find someone to keep the collection intact. He’s just not in a position to give it away,” the younger Gershenz said of his father.
Music Man Murray has reduced his asking price to $500,000. He wonders if a philanthropist such as David Geffen might acquire the collection for a public music library. Or maybe Dolly Parton, who could house the trove at her Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Maybe the Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum would be interested, he says.
Other possible sites for public access to his records include music centers in New Orleans or Nashville, perhaps in conjunction with the Grand Ole Opry, he suggests.
“The collection is worth $3 [million] to $4 million, I’d guess. But a half million will allow me to breathe easier,” Greshenz said. “I’m not setting a deadline, but my ability to pay the rent will determine it. I can go another couple of months. I don’t want this collection to be taken over by trash bins.”
Meanwhile, his character-actor work is thriving, Gershenz said. He had a part on Sunday’s “Mad Men” TV show and will appear “in a big role” on “House” the second week of September, he said.
But for Music Man Murray, in the end it’s the platters that matter.