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A life devoted to vinyl

Charlie Rice started buying records when he was 16 years old and never stopped.

The 68-year-old Medford resident has 260,000 albums in storage, but he says age and illness is prompting him to part ways with his prized collection that includes everything from Little Richard and Elvis Presley to Brahms and Beethoven.

"My health is not the best anymore," said Rice. "It's making me get rid of my life's love and my hobby. Life just dictates the things you have to do."

In his heyday, Rice would spend $200 to $300 a month buying records as he worked in the lumber industry or while driving a truck. At one point, he said, he was paying less in rent each month than he spent on vinyl.

Now he's filled two 10-by-20-foot storage units with albums he's trying to sell.

He's got old 78-rpm records, including one with Presley being interviewed and singing "Merry Christmas." He's got red, green and white albums. He's got Steppenwolf, Bo Diddley, Lead Belly, Iron Butterfly, Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys, as well as Billy Haley & His Comets.

He's got Cream's Disraeli Gears in mint condition featuring Eric Clapton.

"I do have some gems here," he said. "The only thing I don't like is rap. It sounds like some people that got mentally disturbed heebie jeebies."

Not far behind rap on Rice's do-not-like list is punk, although he has an extensive collection of punk hits from England.

He recently acquired an orange album of Dolly Parton's "Better Day." His "Elvis Moody Blue" is on blue vinyl. "Cadillac Elvis" is on pink vinyl, pressed specifically for Barbados. His collection includes seven different heart-shaped albums

He started collecting as a hobby, Rice said, but it grew into a passion and finally became a love affair. He said there's something special about vinyl that you can't get with CDs or other media.

"You can hear it talking to you," he said. He likened CDs and digital recordings to "surgical room music."

Rice said he plans to keep some of his prized collection and leave it to Rachel Woods, his significant other who also has an interest in Rice's hobby.

Woods said she didn't care much for collecting albums as a youth, but that changed after she got to know Rice.

"I never thought Charlie would sell his records," she said.

Rice had part of a lung removed and has other ailments that will require medical attention. He said he wants to sell his collection in case he gets stuck with a big medical bill.

"I'd like to sell all those records so my wife has something to live on other than Social Security," he said. Rice and Woods consider themselves a couple but aren't married.

Woods, 72, said she doesn't want to get stuck with so many albums if something happens to Rice.

"I'd like to get them sold and out of our hair," she said.

This won't be the first time Rice has sold records because of health issues.

One of his ex-wives had to have kidney dialysis, so he parted with 700 Elvis records to cover the medical bills. But he ended up getting only $3,000 from a man in Grants Pass.

"That guy cut my throat on that deal," he said.

Rice tried to estimate the worth of his records in storage, which he would like to sell as a unit.

"I've got 260,000 and they're worth about $1 each — you do the math," he said.

Potential buyers can reach Rice at 541-857-8909.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Charlie Rice of Medford is selling his collection of 260,000 record albums, including thousands of brightly colored albums he acquired over five decades. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]