#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes from Episode 74 with Paul Ruffino of Rattleback Records

This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Paul Ruffino of Rattleback Records, a business that showcases a combination of a lifelong love of music and vintage treasures. Rattleback offers a wide selection of vintage vinyl, CDs, cassettes, movies and more and is open 7 days a week at 5505 N Clark.

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Paul (left) pictured here with his husband Mike and Rattleback staff for the 2019-20 Neighborhood Guide. Photo by Anjali Pinto.

“Anyone who can take an instrument and make music is amazing to me.”
-Paul Ruffino

Listen to Episode 74 with Paul Ruffino!

Here are some references from Episode 74 that you may want to check out:

  • Paul Ruffino, the owner of Rattleback Records, is from Chicago and grew up on the far Northwest Side in Edison Park. He attended Taft High School and then Northeastern Illinois University where he earned a degree in Education. After college, he lived in the beautiful northern California Bay Area for 5 years where he taught. He loved it there, but Chicago is home and decided to move back.
  • For 20 years Paul taught English, and often incorporated music in the classroom. He recalled earlier days of working retail at Musicland and 2nd Hand Tunes, where he loved to talk to people about music, turn them on to new types of music, and discover new music himself. He decided to pursue music full-time and opened Rattleback Records here in Andersonville in November 2018.
  • Vinyl records nearly disappeared in the early 2000’s but recently have made a resurgence. Paul attributes this comeback to a generation of young people who have grown up in the digital age, but crave tangible items. The way vinyl transmits sound over speakers is fascinating to people, and the sound (in his opinion) is superior to the compressed sound in CDs and streaming services. He points out that all of the music recording formats that have come and gone over the years, vinyl is the one that has lasted.
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Photo by Anjali Pinto.

  • First Records:
    • Paul: (Disclaimer: Given to him by his mother) Captain and Tennille “Love Will Keep Us Together.” 
    • Laura: Maneater” by Hall and Oates. 
    • Sara would rather not say what her first record was, but recalls Toto’s “Africa,” in her parent’s Oldsmobile, a song enjoying a resurgence since it’s recent cover by Weezer.
  • It used to take a lot of work to be able to listen to the music you wanted, which makes the physical interaction with vinyl special. From an educational standpoint, Paul loves the written word aspect; the liner notes, information, lyrics (essentially poems) printed on the back cover or insert. He loves that kids sit down with this format and actually read and learn.
  • The name “Rattleback” wasn’t something he always had thought of, but wanted to incorporate “things that spin.” He and his husband found info about spinning tops, and discovered an ancient top that spins, rattles, then changes its direction. Hence, their name, “Rattleback Records.” Paul likes that the top that lends its name to the store feels rebellious, it doesn’t do what you expect, and has stood the test of time. Paul also likes the alliteration. In the store, Paul has a bin of plastic rattlebacks.
  • When addressing the topic of online music and its negative and positive effects, Paul shares that the potential positive impact is that people are exposed to new kinds of music and might seek it out in his shop. The negative effect is that people rely solely on their device to download or stream music instantly, instead of physically walking into a shop and deciding how to listen to music.
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Photo by Anjali Pinto.

  • Paul shares that his store brings people together – people from all walks of life. Customers who experience vinyl for the first time share that they love it. People share that it brings their family together; listen to music and discuss it, which is so cool. Rattleback Records has regulars, but every day, people walk in who are new to the store.
  • In addition to retail, Rattleback also hosts book signings and live music, recently hosting a performance by Todd Rundgren. The next performance slated will be with a local ukulele group called “The Tiny Bubbles.” Other well-attended in-store performances have been by up-and-coming artists, Suzy Rocket, and Chloe MK (the winner of The Voice in 2017). 
  • Paul’s all-time favorite artist is Joni Mitchell, and “Blue” his favorite album. His desert island artists currently are Van Morrison, the new Bruce Springsteen record, Indie music, and the Grateful Dead – Paul is a (former) Dead Head. He is also into Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Since opening the shop, he’s gotten into jazz, and grown to appreciate names like John Coltrane and Miles Davis in a deeper way. 
  • Paul doesn’t play an instrument himself, and is awe of anyone who can. He remarks a lot of indie bands are bringing in instruments, and recently featured a jazz group with a hammered dulcimer.

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    Photo by Anjali Pinto.

  • In addition to used vinyl, Paul sells CDs, cassettes, vintage barware, posters, and prints. Vinyl is selling well, and Rattleback will probably be expanding their record collection, with a need for more LP bins to be made. Paul dreams of owning his own record label to promote local artists, specifically the LGBTQ+ community and allies, to illuminate the music here in Chicago, outside the usual stereotypes. There’s more than Madonna and Britney! Like hard-core heavy metal and country musicians, for example.
  • Paul’s tastes are eclectic, and tries to push himself outside his comfort zone and explore new music. This “explore” mentality is apparent in his decision to open a brick and mortar business, taking an old-school shop that people know, but updating it and offering something people are seeking. After many years in education, it was scary because he wasn’t sure if he’d be successful opening a record shop, but the feedback has been great. Paul points out that every day he has a blast.
  • Paul also buys media. The selling process at Rattleback is based on condition, and buys all media (CDs, records, tapes). Records are the focus. People drop things off, and they also do house calls – sometimes people unload thousands of records, which is a lot of work, but mostly fun. Paul’s favorite part of house calls like this is meeting the people; he meets really cool people who become customers and friends. 
  • Paul married his husband Mike at Artifact Events, an amazing day filled with an outpouring of love, and before gay marriage was legal in Illinois. At their wedding, Paul and Mike had a live band and their friend Jeff Mikhail (a professional filmmaker with a documentary out soon called “You Don’t Know Me”) surprised them with a video compilation. The video captured the joy of the day, and the music featured Aretha Franklin’s “Baby I Love You,” Paul and Mike’s processional song. 
  • Which Andersonville business would Mike trade with for a day? Martha Mae: Art Supplies and Beautiful Things (5407 N Clark) . It’s such a serene, peaceful, well-curated shop. Every time he walks in he feels peace and warmth, and Jean’s (owner) artwork is amazing. What music would he play in Martha Mae? Something soothing, like Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” 
  • Paul states for the record that he does using streaming services, but was recently struck by the statement that “Hard drives crash but vinyl lasts forever.”

Visit Rattleback Records on the following platforms:
Online: rattlebackrecords.com
Facebook: facebook.com/rattlebackrecords
Instagram: @rattlebackrecords
Twitter: @RattlebackRec

This episode is brought to you by Chicago sales coach, Paul Baraz of Train Wreck Solutions. His new workshop series, Sales Made Simple, occurs monthly every 4th Thursday from 6-7:30PM at 5153 N Clark, #228. Don’t miss this week’s workshop on August 22!