Another Classic | Newberry

Another Classic

It was really just a moment of nostalgia. A SECOND massive collection of Easy Listening records came in (which gives you TWO chances to pick up some of these albums by Horst Jankowski or Bert Kaempfert.) This collection included a number of what we call “Spoken Word Recordings”. I don’t know where the term comes from, but it means, of course, a record where people talk instead of singing.

And here, among the political speeches recorded on vinyl (several unwrapped, I was pleased to see), was a record by a performer I have thought about only occasionally in the, ahem, decades since one of my high school teachers used to play for us. He used cassettes, if you remember anything so low tech. Oh, right, I lost that crowd at “records”.

I was also shown a videotape of one of his talks when I was in college. So he was known beyond my high school. But never a book nor an LP by him had I seen at the Book Fair. (Once in a great while there’d be a cassette.) If I had ever thought about it—which I didn’t—I might have assumed it was either because he was known only in Iowa, he was a limited phenomenon whose vogue passed about the same time as bell bottoms disappeared, or he was so beloved that nobody ever let the sacred words slip from the collection.

Now I am told that the record I held in my hands was a late pressing of the very first Spoken Word Recording to win a gold record. Never thought about THAT, either. If I had given it any thought, I might have guessed Bill Cosby or Vaughn Meader or maybe Myron Cohen. Nope. That honor goes to a motivational bestseller called “The Strangest Secret” by the one and only Earl Nightingale.

Earl Nightingale found himself while reading the immortal Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which you should have read about in an earlier blog. He decided that the secret of success was all around us, in the writings of great leaders, but that we had missed it somehow. Telling people about this led to a career on WGN and, in 1956, that bestselling album. (He followed this with an LP which presented a condensed version of Think and Grow Rich; he wasn’t shy about his predecessors since part of the point was that the real winners had ALL thought of this before.)

The producer of that first record was Evanstonian Lloyd Conant. (So it was a Midwestern phenomenon; I got that right anyhow.) When the record took wing, the Nightingale-Conant Corporation was founded to produce its successors and, later, all those cassettes. I presume they also handled some merchandising, since the three copies of “The Strangest Secret” which turned up in this collection were given out by a Midwestern starch company. I have turned up no copies of this version for sale online: you might want to make a note on your calendar to rush down and snap them all up to resell on eBay.

OR you could look up the Nightingale-Conant Corporation and order a CD. OR you can hear the lecture on YouTube. OR, for all I know, you can download it from iTunes. You didn’t think Earl Nightingale (who passed beyond the rose in 1989) would let technology develop without him, did you? It’s not the winner’s way.

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