In this episode of “Behind The Counter,” your host Andy Didorosi talks with the man behind LO & BEHOLD! Records & Books, Richie Wohlfeil, about getting his start by publishing a bus driver’s book of poems and the depletion of one of Detroit’s most prized resources: its records.
Richie Wohlfeil never set out to be a small business owner, but creative work seems to find a way to him. While working at Barnes & Noble, a bus driver from Livonia would leave him poems and short stories. “I don’t think he thought I would publish them,” Richie says. “Nobody knew my intention was to try to do that kind of stuff. It was secret concoctions in my bedroom.” As it turns out, those imaginary schemes were fortuitous. A decade after publishing his first collection, LO & BEHOLD! Records & Books is now in its fifth year as a bonafide storefront on the main drag of Joseph Campau Avenue in Hamtramck.
As Richie tells it, making LO & BEHOLD! a physical store was his reaction to a break up. Though he’d originally envisioned it as a temporary pop-up space to get rid of the records and books he’d accumulated over the years, the idea stuck and so did the business. Peddling in prints, pamphlets, tapes, and textiles, LO & BEHOLD! has become a center for art and music in Hamtramck.
Even though he’s been at it for 10 years, Richie looks at the business as a secondary force in his life. “I don’t see it as an entrepreneurial venture or any of that stuff,” explains Richie. “If the shop fails in sales and doesn’t sustain itself, that’s fine. I can just retain it as a workspace. I haven’t even made rent this month yet. That’s pretty average for me.” For Richie, LO & BEHOLD! is doing something more than just hocking used records. “All these record stores [in Detroit] are basing their retirement off this ocean of records, but that ocean is depleting. Nobody is replenishing the water supply. If I put out records, then that’s my way of saying thank you to the strange record karmic law.”
And he’s been busy at it.
Whether it’s cassettes, 45s, or Bandcamp MP3s, Richie is producing music for generations to come. Besides cutting singles for local garage rock stalwarts Timmy’s Organism, and forthcoming EPs from Deadly Vipers and Moonwalks, Richie plays drums, guitar, and fronts a bevy of bands: The Belle Isles, The Detroit Cobras, Danny & the Darleans, Detroit Pleasure Society, and The Potions, just to name a few. On the second Saturday of every month, the store hosts “Folk Blues Night,” which in turn has joined LO & BEHOLD’s many sub-labels, which includes the avant-garde Marcel Duchamp Memorial Chess Club and the experimental/weirdo-jazz Detroit Magnetic Tape Co. (better known as DMT.)
Additional topics addressed in this conversation include Jack White’s record press, integrating with the diverse community of Hamtramck, vinyl gimmicks, beehive facts, plus we listen to some of Richie’s favorite songs from LO & BEHOLD!
Produced and edited by Eli Newman. Intro music by The Potions; Outro music by Richie Wohlfeil.