Southside Johnny started collecting records in second grade. Now he has more than half a million

Posted at 3:29 PM, Jul 08, 2019

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The joy of discovery is what drives John Wood to keep looking for his groove.

“It's organized chaos,” Wood said. “That is why I like it here because I never know what I’m going to find digging through the boxes.”

Like a miner sifting for gold, Wood’s prospects remain high of finding precious metal, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues.

“There is a bunch of Four Seasons, Aretha Franklin. I love Aretha Franklin,” Wood said.

Wood’s vocation is vinyl -- volumes of vinyl.

“If it has a beat I like. If it has a sound I like or a lyric I like, I’m going to buy it,” Wood said.

His favorite hunting spot is far from flea markets and swap meets. John’s honey hole under his own roof in Chesterfield.

The one-time DJ known as Southside Johnny has amassed a collection of records that is rarely matched.

Wood says he has probably 10,000 or 15,000 78s, 500,000 45s and about 75,000 albums.

“I don’t think my collection is that large. I’ve seen some big collections," he added.

His hobby or rather obsession that stretches back more than a half-century. In fact, he started collecting in the second grade at Bensley Elementary.

“So, by the time I was 14 I had hundreds of records. By the time I was 16 I had thousands of records,” Wood recalled.

Stacks and stacks of records line his walls from floor to ceiling ranging from artists like Elvis Presley to Andy Griffith. Some of Wood’s rare discs are worth thousands.

“I looked and looked and looked on eBay and couldn’t find a copy. When I found this I was elated,” he said.

While other collectors may hear dollar signs, the 59-year-old is not interested in just profit.

“There are records that I’ve spent hundreds on," Wood revealed. "That doesn’t make them great records, what makes them great records is what is in the grooves."

His all-time favorite artist is the late Larry Norman, a pioneer in Christian rock.

“If I have to salvage one record right here. This is it right here,” Wood explained.

Wood’s collection has grown so enormous he was forced to build a warehouse in his backyard.

“I can’t put them in the trash can, they’re records,” Wood said.

One of three extra buildings needed for his albums and 45s. But for the man whose life is defined by music, his desire has always been to hear it.

“Oh, I’m deaf,” Wood said. “I’m partially deaf in one ear and completely deaf in the other.”

In fact, he was born with dead nerves in his ears causing major hearing loss.

The disability caused ridicule in class, so he turned to music to heal his soul.

“I was pretty much a loner all through high school,” Wood said. “Records just became my friends.”

Musicians and their magic in mono.

“I often wondered what it would be like to hear it from both sides, but for me, I only hear from one side,” he said.

Wood said despite not being able to fully hear, he does not miss what he’s never heard.

“I listen to the lyrics and it's like, 'What did you say? She’s got a tick in her eye and she doesn’t care. She’s got a ticket to ride and she doesn’t care,'” Wood explained.

With no children to leave his records to, the man who has spent a lifetime assembling a mountain of music is scaling back.

“I can’t put them in the trash can, they’re records,” said Wood.

This doesn't mean Southside Johnny is done collecting or discovering true joy.

“People grow up and stuff and they lose interest in stuff. I’m old, but I don’t want to grow up I guess,” said Wood.

For Wood,  the song will always remain the same until his very last note.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get through these all but I’m trying,” Wood said. “That is what makes it fun.”

Southside Johnny’s thirst for collecting isn’t just quenched with vinyl. He also collects music memorabilia including a ticket to Elvis Presley’s iconic 1968 comeback show in Los Angeles. Wood also owns a huge collection of antique banks. Once a collector always a collector.

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