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Rocker Jack White's Nashville store offer "do-it-yourself" records

Jack White performs at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, February 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Jack White performs at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, February 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Rock musician Jack White celebrated Record Store Day on Saturday by giving customers a chance to record their own voices on vinyl on a vintage machine at his record shop near downtown Nashville.

White, who has embraced vinyl over digital both as an artist and as the head of Third Man Records in Nashville, treated customers to a Voice-O-Graph, a record booth from 1947.

"We'll have the record booth open and available for people to come in, sing a song and get a copy of it on record," Third Man Records executive Ben Blackwell said in an interview on Wednesday.

"It's a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph record booth," Blackwell said. "As far as we can tell, it will be the only functioning record booth open to the public in the world."

Record Store Day, which is marked internationally on the third Saturday of each April, aims to encourage people to visit independent record stores.

In addition to the recording booth in the store's "Novelties Lounge," Third Man Records will be staging in-house performances by some of the music label's artists.

Blackwell said record booths were popular in the 1940s and 1950s and could be found in public places, like train stations, along with photo booths.

"They were used as a way to record an audio postcard and send it to someone you love or to go in and sing a little song so you can hear what your voice sounds like," he said.

The Voice-O-Graph is about the size of a telephone booth and fans will pay a fee to produce their own record.

"Just think of it as a blank vinyl record and when you are singing, it is making the grooves into the record," Blackwell said.

White's Third Man Records has been known for experimenting with vinyl, having in the last few months added a record lathe that enables live acts performing in the Blue Room, the company concert venue, to be recorded directly to discs.

Blackwell said the contemporary music fan has "never been faced with the technology to put their voice and their thoughts on a record" and take it home.

"Jack has been looking for a long time for one of these machines," Blackwell said. "After years and years and years he finally crossed paths with one. It was a no-brainer to get it up and running for our Novelties Lounge."

Blackwell said the booth will remain after Record Store Day, and he expects it to be a popular attraction to the store, which sells exclusively Third Man recordings - albums by various artists as well as by White and his three group configurations: The White Stripes, Dead Weather and The Raconteurs.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Vicki Allen)

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