Happy to feature our first female collector. Couldn't have a better start than with the stylish AmbitiousOutsider. Stephanie been very supportive of High Note Radio for which I'm very grateful. We only had the chance to meet briefly in the UK a few years back but I hope she and her man Akro1 will come back to these parts soon. Stephanie has exquisite taste in music. And she loves plants. Love plants too. Wonderful. Definitely follow her on Instagram, her feed is top notch. But before we get to that, let's chat...
Stephanie Ramirez aka Ambitious0utsider from San Jose, California. Also ½ of Flipside Lovers with Akro1. I have been fortunate enough to be able to share my collection in LA, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Portland, England, Paris and Mexico City.
Tell us a little bit about how you fell in love with soul music?
I was born and raised in East San Jose on King and Story, one of the birthplaces of lowrider culture and Lowrider Magazine. At the time I didn’t know this was my culture, it was just a part of everyday life and I was surrounded by it. I didn’t know about Soul music, we just called it Oldies. Not until I was older and saw the world was not the same everywhere I realized I grew up somewhere special where we always appreciated Soul music. I’ve been collecting records for about 15 years. I started buying 45s and LPs at the flea markets and thrift stores. At the time everyone was throwing these records away, and I was collecting them.
Do you remember your very first record?
One of the first 45s I bought was the Sapphires "Who Do You Love", a record I bought at the flea market for 25 cents and the same copy I play out. This sparked by collection of Sad Girl songs from female vocalists from 1960 - 1970.
If you could nominate one record for "most moving soul song of all time", which one would you pick?
One of my favorite 45s that I will carry to my grave is "After Laughter Comes Tears" by Wendy Renee. This song is a reminder that life isn’t always happy, there are those sad dark places that happen, and you are not alone. Sad songs are the ones that make you feel alive, bring you back to reality, and these songs are a reminder that you are not alone.
There are so many songs that are great. Another one that sticks out is a "Dancing In the Street" by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. It wasn’t until I had the privilege to visit Motown in Detroit that I realized how important this song and many others are. This song was produced at a time when the civil rights movement was happening. The producers wanted to create songs that brought people together and forget about the cares in the world for that moment. No matter where you were in the world they wanted everyone to feel the love and forget at least for 3 minutes. I have a version from a Venezuelan Group Las Cuatro Monedas sung in Spanish. Proof of how powerful the message that it translated to other countries, cultures and languages. One of the things I love about soul music, it brings everyone around the world together.
Tell us a bit about your collection. Do you now how many you own and any special way to keep them organised?
I haven’t counted how many 45s and LP’s I have but I can tell you its never enough. The collection keeps growing. I have my records organized by Genre. Most of my collection consists of Soul 45s, Soul LPs, Smiths/Morrissey singles/albums, Punk, Post Punk and French Pop. Most of these live in the Record Room.
Any records you are tired of hearing? Played to death?
If I ever get tired of playing a 45, I put it on the shelf, and a couple years later take it out and I’m always reminded how much I love that 45. I keep all my 45s, I am not one to sell. I’m a collector.
What's ranking on top of your wants list?
I have a list of wants that I have been checking off. As soon as one is checked off there is another one at the top, a never ending list.
How do you source your records?
I started collecting at flea markets and thrift stores. Graduated to record stores, and online. My favorite way is to dig out in the field. I love planning trips to places like Detroit and Chicago where you can find stuff you have been after.
Deep and sweet soul has gained a lot of popularity in the last years while before it was limited to certain regions or subcultures. Especially, the culture you grew up in. How do you feel about that?
The past few years the soul scene has grown, and it has been rewarding to meet new friends around the world, where our common love for soul has brought us together. I have met many good friends from collecting. Everyone has been so welcoming, which has lead for opportunities to play around in different states and countries.
That's beautiful. Any stories to share from those travels?
Met a fellow collector on one of our travels. We were able to hang out and he invited Akro and I to his house. He let us in his record room and said Everything is for sale in my personal collection, only if I can replace it. I got a few wants checked off my list from his collection and grateful for the experience. I love getting my records from fellow collectors. It gives more life to the 45 to know where it came from and where its been. Some of my 45s I have gotten from fellow collectors, I have been able to trace back to their previous owners.
Awesome. Hopefully one of your next travels brings you back to Europe. To close our Q&A... what are 10 records you keep in rotation?
Kal’s Kids "Long Lonely Broken Hearted" on Vernon
Gent’s & The Lady "I Can Feel the Tears" on Hue
Toni and the Hearts "Never Change our Love" on Path
Soul Suspension "What Am I To Do" on Julmar
Judy McDonald and the Mellowettes "There’s Nothing I’d Rather Do" on VRC
Vonciel Myers "It Won’t Be Easy" on Gaynote
Lovations "Later Baby" on Cap City
Helene Smith "I’m Controlled by Your Love" on Lloyd
Fabulous Flares "Ain’t No Big Thing" on Hit
Sunny Ozuna and the Sunliners "Smile Now, Cry Later" or Key-Loc
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