The Story of Don’s Discs: An Informal Interview with Don Keele


Don Keele is somewhat of a legend amongst record collectors in the Greater Toronto Area. He has been around for forty years, and told me his story on Saturday, May 4, 2013, while I visited his Toronto warehouse to attend his 50 cent deal on 78’s.

Don, you have been selling records for how long now?

 

From a retail location, forty years this year.

 

Tell our readers a bit about your background-how did you get interested in becoming a record dealer?

 

Well, I always liked music ever since I was a little kid. When I was going, went back to school, when I was older, to put myself through school, I’d go around and find find stuff in junk stores and wholesale it to antique stores. Then when I finished school, I opened a little antique store, and I started putting my own records in and they would sell a little bit here and there. Then I bought a huge collection of 6000 45’s from an old DJ at CHUM radio for $600.00. I put a little ad in the Star, and I was swamped, absolutely swamped with people. So that was mostly 50’s and 60’s rock and roll, and then I thought hmm, perverbial light bulb went off in my head. I closed the store and John Black, the departed John Black, designed the bins for me, got them built, and opened as an all records store in December of ’73. I’ve never looked back.

 

Is anyone else in your family a dealer or collector?

 

My son. My son runs the Midtown record show on Broadview, just north of Danforth. Him and his

buddy are called The Record Guys, Aaron and Akeem, and ah they cater to a younger audience, but he’s full time in it for years too, and has done very, very well. 

 

You had a couple of store’s in downtown Toronto years ago-can you tell me how they came about, and what were your most memorable moments at these locations?

 

Well the first store was at Queen and Parliament and I lived in it, and it cost me $80.00 a month for rent. Then I moved to Queen and Lansdowne, and I had a whole building, and that was $500.00 a month in rent. In my last place, as an unofficial place of business was at Queen and Sorauren Avenue, and that cost me $650.00 a month. And what are my memorable moments? I don’t know. Some of the musicians that walked through my door. Ottis Blackwell, ah Willie McCaulder whose is a Canadian artist. Just a lot of people over the years. My best moments were the clubs I went to….Some collectors that I knew in ’73 and ’74 that walked through the door. Some I am still in touch with. Some unfortunately, have passed.

 

Did you have regular customers?

 

The guys who were at all three locations followed me. Some came and went. With the advent of CD’s guys stopped collecting records. I remember when everyone was dumping their records for CD’s and now it’s the other way around. God, I’ve know some guys forty years. Before I had a store, I would sell some records out of my house. And now, I’m basically doing the same thing. By appointment, E-Bay, shows. I don’t want to be in a location, six, seven days a week.

 

How did you obtain your records back then?

 

All kinds of ways! The biggest way was litterally going to the States and just literally just beating the bushes. In 1973, 74′ there was a place in Niagara Falls, New York called Cataract Amusements, an old jukebox company. Amazing, amazing 78’s he had. Unplayed, rare, rare R & B’s. Got them for a buck apiece. I’d literally drive there with a hundred dollars, spend it, come home, sell the records and go back in a few days or the next week. No bank manager would lend me the money in those days-“Want to buy records, what’s that?” Of course when I got successful they all wanted to fall all over themselves and borrow me money.

 

Has this changed over the years?

 

Well, I’m still convinced I could still go into the States and make the drive and find stuff, but I’m sixty nine, and it’s not as easy as it used to be. Fortunately, unfortunately, both, I get a lot of collections, from my old time customers, people that have know me. And a lot of lot of stuff that young guys don’t even want. For instance that Clyde Clarke collection, of which you have bought some, it was an amazing collection of 78’s, and 10 or 15 so called record dealers who were in the house before me, who didn’t even look at the 78’s, and they were fabulous. So that’s all changed. 78’s, I don’t move them like I use to, but I still do. I’ve got another collection coming up, some guy that’s deceased.

 

Do you recall how we first met? Was it at the Queensway Lions Record Show?

 

You and me? I have no idea..sorry!

 

You attend record shows and deal throughout the year. What show would you say, is the biggest and best for you?

 

Well, it depends on what I am selling. If I’m selling 78’s I do the show up on Dixie, Capitol Banquet Centre, and I’ve done really well with it. If I have more current stuff, the Midtown record show, run by a very nice guy, Doug Brown. I don’t bother with the shows out of town, Hamilton, Guelph, it’s not worth it. To take in $200 to $300.00 it’s just not worth it.

Don's Discs at 1576 Queen St West at Sorauren in 1978. Don Keele 001 Don KeeleDon Keele 003 Don Keele 004 Don Keele 002

 

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3 Responses to “The Story of Don’s Discs: An Informal Interview with Don Keele”

  1. i remember dons disks on queen street west when it was close to landsdowne. went to parkdale collegiate and a couple of friends and i used to go in there and talk to don about music etc. learned a lot about music etc from talking to don. was talking to a friend of mine about growing up in toronto and told her about dons disks.. and then found this article. great to see don is still around. thanks Don for the lessons about older rock etc.

  2. Rocky Lane Says:

    Good ole Don. Don’t know where he got it from but he sold great stuff. He could also go off the deep end once in a while and scare people from the store. I’d love to see his personal collection one day.

  3. […] An interview with Don Keele here. […]

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