By special request, here’s the first of a two part article on an abridged history of Long Beach record shops.
My insane buying of 45 rpm records began in about 1960 and continues unabated to this day. Every fourth Sunday, I drop significant dough at the Orange County Record Show in Buena Park and hang out with some of the strangest guys you’ll likely ever meet – and when I say guys, I mean males; it’s the rare woman who collects vinyl at this level.
An early recipient of my college day funds (at a quarter a pop) was a Long Beach cop named W.W. Braden, who dealt out of print 45s to local teenagers out of his kitchen on 28th St. near Clark Ave. Bill found out about Braden and told me, so every Saturday morning, Bill and I and a few other teens would arrive at his house and plow through boxes of 45s he’d sell for a quarter apiece. I got some great records this way.
Bill loved country music, so he kept these for himself. Many were the times I’d be visiting junk shops on Anaheim St. and environs and spot Braden’s black and white cop car near the back door, where, as Bill and I liked to joke, he’d be giving the clerks at song and dance about donating these records to “crippled orphan” homes in the area and he’d be walking out in full uniform, boxes on records tucked under each arm.
A retired Long Beach cop whom I met much later on well remembered Braden, whom they gave the nickname “the sheriff,” because he reminded them of how law was enforced before modern policing methods – and when I say modern, I mean 1960s modern.
Braden was last seen tending to a 45s shop at Stearns and Lakewood Blvd, after having divorced his wife and moving on. I hear he died, but my collecting bug was just getting started.
His was not the only “hit and run” record shop in Long Beach. Larry was an older guy (about my age now) who’d occupy a store front, calling it Larry’s Patio Records or some such in the small set of businesses on Seventh and Redondo a few doors down from where the late lamented Bistro did business.
By reputation, he’d pay rent for the first month or two, then continue selling records for the few later months it took to evict him. He hired Bob, who carried on the tradition into the 1980s, opening shops he’d call Music Minus, dealing out old vinyl. I recall one at Tenth and Redondo.
These loosey/goosey record dealers weren’t the first, by any means. Long Beach has always had record shops: VIP, Zed’s in the 70s and beyond and the legendary Moreys, Humphreys and others in the 1950s.
In the 1950s through the ‘70s, there was a variety of shops that sold 45s, Wallich’s Music City in Lakewood and Wenzel’s Music Town in Downey became two of the favorites. This was the time of the four and eight-track tape, so Wenzel’s would record your old 45s onto this new technology. Employees at Wallich’s, across the street from Lakewood Center at Candewood called them “bootleggers.”
Wallich’s had listening booths where customers could audition records and thieves could squirrel these same records in their shirts or other hiding places. Wallich’s put out weekly Top 50 lists of best sellers. Later I came across a stash of these from 1959 through about 1967 – some weeks were missing – but it was fairly complete and I’m using the info in a book I’m writing about the rock and roll / r&b side of pretty much a complete history of all 45s recorded by L.A. area acts. Right now, I’m working on the late 50s. It’s slow work, but fun work.