Most people familiar with Alfred Howard know him as the lyricist for the bands associated with the Redwoods music collective. When acts such as Dani Bell & the Tarantist and Birdy Bardot gig, Howard can often be observed performing with a variety of unique, often homemade, instruments.
None of his handmade arsenal was up for grabs at his recent yard sale, but plenty of bizarre vintage electronics and keyboards were available for purchase. It was just a portion of the bounty from 15 years of picking at yard sales and swap meets.
“I’ve found some good stuff at swap meets, but I go at 5 am,” Howard said. “If you want to find instruments and stuff, you have to get up real early.”
Howard claims that he has “a kind of insane keyboard collection for a non-keyboardist.” There was an impressive assortment of unique keyboards to choose from at his sale. One oddball, the Casio CK-500, included a dual tape deck. Another mutation created by Fisher merged a boombox with a removable mini-keyboard that you could play through the unit’s speakers.
“In the 80s, they were just, like, ‘What can we make out of a radio?’” Howard theorized. “‘What else can we make a boombox? Boombox waffle-maker? Let’s do it!’”
While I was drawn to the event by the promise of weird electronics and instruments, most in attendance had their sights set on Howard’s vast vinyl offerings. I overheard one picker on her cell phone urging a friend to hurry over to the sale — she conveyed the notion that she had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of garage vinyl. By the end of the day, Howard had sold about 400 albums.
“The funny thing is that I didn’t put a dent in the vinyl. I didn’t even bring any of the stuff from inside outside,” he said.
How did Howard accumulate so many albums? He often buys entire collections. “I get some stuff for Cow, the store that I work at. I get some stuff for me. I keep lots of good stuff, and I just always try to keep stuff that I like.”
The size of his collection makes one curious as to why Howard doesn’t take a stab at opening his own used vinyl shop. Even though the thought has crossed his mind, at the moment he is focusing on selling his own music as opposed to the music of others. As a compromise, he is considering throwing yard sales every other month.
“I’m finally starting to realize that I don’t need 20 copies of Rubber Soul,” he said. “Other people can enjoy them. I might as well open up the garage.”