In honor of Record Store Day 2015, we sat down with Gary as he took us through his pride and joy - his private collection of over 1,500 'pieces of vinyl.'
That's a lot of pieces Boff!
Of all the goofs and blunders and great moments throughout his tenure at the show, the most recent ongoing thread has been Howard's fascination with Gary's collection of vinyl records.
Among Gary's extensive collection – there were actually 1,000 more records that were lost in a flood years ago – Gary has four copies of Bruce Springsteen's classic Born to Run.
His original was so scratched through use that he bought another one, and another one, and another one. He has a rare copy with a mistake on the back cover, and, naturally, a copy where the mistake was fixed with a sticker.
It's hard to say which record in the Dell'Abate archives is the most valuable, he's got many special radio-only promotional LPs etc, but the one that's the most valuable in Gary's estimation is the Phil Spector Wall of Sound box set he got as a college graduation gift.
He even got it signed by Ronnie (Spector, not 'the Limo Driver'). Unfortunately, the box set was damaged in a flood. Gary is desperately looking for another one.
Other stars of his collection include the picture disc single of Toto's Africa (which he's mentioned on the air several times) and a brightly colored copy of The Boss's 'Born in the USA' – which was sent out to radio stations only and included Bruce's version of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'. In the days before the Internet, this promo record was pretty much the only way you could hear that song.
Gary also has newer records that he's purchased online at Mobile Fidelity, and sometimes he'll get gems sent to him. Like this record, which Stern Show superfan John Mayer sent over after Howard was busting Gary's balls about his vinyl obsession on the air.
We asked Gary which records he would play for someone who didn't understand why the sound quality was better on vinyl. 'A lot of stuff from the seventies seems to do the job,' Gary said, 'but maybe that's just where my head's at.' He named Steely Dan's 'Aja' (of course), and any Stevie Wonder, Beatles or Eagles record from the 60s-70s. Those are sure to blow you away aurally.
It's not all records - Gary also has a device to play every different music format – a Turntable, a Sony amp, a cassette player, and even an 8-track player. Bring a commercially-released album of any kind over to Gary's house and he can play it for you.
He does fire up the cassette player once in a while, mostly to show his kids something. Before we had a whole Tapes Team to archive every second of the Stern Show, Gary would occasionally record a cassette tape of something particularly special that happened on the air and he has a box of great moments from the early days of the show.
The electronic device with the coolest story is his reel-to-reel. He'd been looking for one forever, and finally found one for $20 at a garage sale. He called up his old roommate and told him that he'd finally found a reel-to-reel. His roommate, who happened to be a consultant on Private Parts, immediately rented it from Gary for $250 for the summer. He'd been looking for one too, to make Howard's early radio scenes look authentic.
Gary would have to wait a little while longer to play with his new toy.
To close, let us say that Gary also owns a copy of '50 Ways to Rank Your Mother' by Howeird Stern, which is the greatest piece of vinyl that has ever been released (take that, Thriller!).