Record collecting can be thrilling, but it also has its pitfalls. How do you know that the coveted record you’re buying is what the seller says it is? This can get especially tricky when dealing with long-lost records–albums that did nothing when they were first released but retroactively have become extremely valuable. NPR has this story about a record–a fake collectible–that almost sold for $18,000.
This is the story of a hoax that almost was. Its motivating force was a hunger for fame, or infamy, or whispered legend in a particularly American sort of way. It begins on a beach somewhere in south Florida.
Earlier this year, a test pressing (literally a test, for labels and artists to hear before ordering a full run of new record) of an unknown musician’s record was put up for sale on Discogs, a resale website popular with collectors. Two days later that test pressing almost became, at a price tag of $18,000, the most expensive album ever sold on the site, besting a record set last year for a sublimely rare Prince piece which sold for $15,000.
The lightning-fast turnaround on this record-breaking sale, however, seems to have been a fiction woven by the record’s creator. This morning, Discogs canceled the transaction,
The album, called 301 Jackson St., was recorded by Billy Yeager, a Florida man who has pursued musical fame (or at least notoriety) for 37 years, by his own account. Despite a clear talent for guitar and a cosmically eccentric and dubiously effective knack for self-promotion, Yeager has been stymied repeatedly. The most eccentric — and ill-conceived — example of his promotional facility, bar none, came when Yeager spent two years planning and executing a hoax that would eventually convince a television station and a weekly paper to believe that he was Jimmy Story, the son of Jimi Hendrix, who was in possession of lost recordings from the psychedelic legend.
And from this point, it gets really, really weird. Keep reading.