Archive for the ‘records’ Category


Cecil “Big Jay” McNeely was one of the Big 3 honking tenor sax players out of L.A. – the others were later Long Beach resident Joe Houston (“All Nite Long”) and Chuck Higgins (“Pachuco Hop”).  But Big Jay got a head start, first recording with Johnny Otis in 1949 and having a huge national hit, “Deacon’s Hop.”  The stage was now set for his historic Municipal Auditorium appearance.

On Oct. 18, 1951, McNeely made his first known Long Beach appearance at Wilson High School and at the Dream Bowl at 2259 Orange Ave., all of which signaled an early R&B act had come to town.

According to accounts at the time, “in May 1952, there was quite a surprise. An unknown, billed as Big Jay McNeely and his band booked the downstairs Exhibit Hall, more or less sponsored by Ray Robinson, local disc jockey. Four thousand teenagers stormed the place. That dance is considered the first rhythm blues dance in Long Beach. McNeely now is one of the big rock-and-rollers in the east.”

After the Muni Aud gig, McNeely played at the Lakewood Theater on Carson near Lakewood.

That same year, 1952, Lawrence Welk turned off the bubble machine at his Aragon Ballroom home in Santa Monica and started on his first road tour drawing 3,500 (less than Big Jay the same year) at the Muni.

Twenty five years later, in 1975, the city fathers tore down the Muni, just like Big Jay had torn up the place in ’52.


To find an example of how not only music, but how the entire culture has changed in the past half century, one only has to consider changes in Long Beach and the entire Southern California landscape a mere fifty years ago. That’s when cruising Hodys, or the Clock or Grisinger‘s Drive-In Restaurants was at its zenith.

Jim Lamirand, Poly student body president in the early 1950s, recalled more of the cruising scene. “There was a Clock Drive-In, all around town. Car clubs cruised the most, Carson & Atlantic, if you had a club, you could mount your plaque, the Cutouts and the Renegades went to the Clock, then to Grisingers at Atlantic and San Antonio.”

Grisingers #3 was at 2955 Bellflower Blvd., the current location of Burger King at Spring Street. But the most popular drive-in, Hodys, owned by the Hodemaker family had locations in Lakewood near Wallich’s Music City and at PCH and Anaheim.

“We would cruise down Atlantic, then at 1200 E. PCH, we’d go east past Ray Robinson’s Record Rack. He had a radio show and would talk about the cruisers as we drove by.”

According to Bill Soon, Wilson class of 1960, “the Clock was on PCH right across the street from the Circle Inn Motel at the Traffic Circle, south of what was The La Ronde Rue restaurant that became the Cinamon Cinder.” In the same area was an Oscar’s Drive-In as well as one at Carson and Woodruff. Popular spots during the day, almost totally forgotten these days.

But all the eating wasn’t all high class. “There was a greasy spoon on 7th St. just across from Wilson, Robbie’s Steak House. Notably, no steak was ever served at Robbie’s. But you could get a basket of fries for a dime, and his jukebox was constantly kicking out the round sounds. ‘High Blood Pressure’ by Huey Smith & the Clowns was a big favorite there. A regular crowd hung out there daily, after school.”

“My memories of cruising are passing the hat to get .75 cents worth of gas so that we could cruise around for the weekend (at 30 cents a gallon or so),” Soon recalled.

Soon who drove a ’56 VW, then a ’56 Chevy, after he wrecked the VW, clearly
recalled “sitting in Hodys, watching guys you knew cruise by in a beautiful pearlescent white ’49 Olds fastback, except for the purplish streak down the rear window caused by the guy who had consumed too much sloe gin, his head hanging over the bottom of the window as they cruised through repeatedly.”

But best of all, Soon recalled “were the blended sounds of many car radios and car record players at Hody’s and other drive-ins belting out the good sounds in the summer night.”

And no self-respecting lowered cruiser behind the wheel of a ’49 Mercury with blue tail lights – now also an infraction – or ’55 Chevy – not to mention driver – would be caught listening to top 40 radio. No, man. Art LaBoe, Huggy Boy, Hunter Hancock or Ray Robinson on a low power station like KGFJ or Wolfman Jack on a border radio station or better yet, out of a customized in-dash record player – a Norelco or an ARC (RCA spelled sideways) spinning 45s, sometimes custom made 45s, which they’d gladly put on metal acetates at Wenzel’s Music in Downey, for a fee of course.

Popular cruising sides were “Rumble” by Link Wray; most anything by Dick Dale & the Deltones in the early 1960s and rare 45s by Little Julian Herrera, just to name a few. Main local cruising routes were Atlantic, PCH, Anaheim St. and even Lakewood and Bellflower Blvd.

Car culture began early in post-World War II popular music. The King Cole Trio’s “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66” was a major hit in 1946. Felix Figueroa recorded the novelty, “Pico & Sepulveda,” not a hit at all in 1947, but huge when Dr.  Demento got a hold of it.

Then came records about popular locations, like jazz tenor sax player Jimmy Giuffre, who came up with “Big Boy” at the Lighthouse in honor of the new Bob’s Big Boy in 1952 and the Robins who sang about “Smokey Joe’s Café” in 1955, a song than became a popular stage play about the Coasters, but which ex-Robins member Grady Chapman complained he had to pay to get into.

In 1962, the Pastel Six sang about “Cinamon Cinder,” a teenage night club located at the Traffic Circle with another location in the Valley. The Starfires did the Long Beach-oriented “Jordan Stomp” in 1962.

The two cruising-est records of all time were “Whittier Blvd.” by Thee Midniters out of East L.A. in 1965 and the War’s #1 record of 1975, “Low Rider,” created by Long Beach musician and low rider Chuck Miller, whose ride was featured on the picture sleeve.

Such sums up the state of Long Beach and Southern California cruising culture between 1946 and 1975 – roughly.

Record Store Boogie Pt. 2

Posted: January 26, 2011 in records

Speaking of hit and run record dealers.  Mini-Max in Seal Beach was probably related to Bob’s Discount and Larry’s Patio Records, which operated at various hit and run locations for about two decades.  Allegedly, they’d open up as Music Minus, or some such, then do business, while forgetting things like rent, until they were evicted, then open up some place else.  Loved finding their newest locations.  Last seen on Tenth St. near Redondo.

The Record Collector was owned by Bob Setlik and jazz collector Jeff Barr.  They kept it going until someone broke in and stole their rarest LPs.  Don’t recall a thing about Spinning Works except they had a card.  Zed was world famous, first specialized in progressive rock (Gentle Giant, etc.); incubated punk and lasted in three locations, most recently on Lakewood near the Traffic Circle.

Both Mundae near the Pier and Revolver on Seventh St. rocked.   Speaking of rock titles, Beggar’s Banquet in O.C. was famous for handling Springsteen bootlegs.  The story alleges they were sued by The Boss, who agreed not to collect if they’d cease and desist.  They agreed.  Smart move.

Flip Side was opened by high school or college kids who visited my collection and bought some LPs until they saw a price sticker on a rare LP and were upset I’d increased the price.  Like there’s a little known LP price control law, I imagine.

Lamar’s Records was begun by dyed-in-the-blues fan Gilbert Duarte who was part of the Moon & Mars duet when in junior high in Compton.  He specialized in hard to get blues LPs and the newly invented blues CDs in the 1980s.  Just across Atlantic Avenue was Bobby Dalton’s eclectic record and curio shop called the Velvet Underground, which created an early rare record zone.  It was in business for a few decades.

Dalton gave pieces of his business to managers like Chuck Davis, who had put Wenzel’s into the rare record auction business and when Chuck left, to a larger than life guy named Junior.  Neither stayed around to cash in their part ownership.  For awhile Dalton presented live music from an in-store stage and I recall the district’s councilman Jerry Schulz made up part of one audience.  Lamar moved on to Wardlow Rd. where he  hung in for at least a decade, having blues collectors bring in rare records for after-hours 45 and 78 rpm recording spinning parties.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when vinyl in all speeds and forms were marketed in our town.  There was Licorice Pizza on Seventh near CSULB which kiddie record collector Glen Banks managed and where I found a bulletin board advert for some rare 45 sold to me by an old Hawthorne lowrider named Jerry Silvester (I still have the sticker on a Red Robin label 45) out of Seal Beach.  Pizza also had Fifth St. location downtown with plush couches and orange crate record shelves near the Rivoli Theater.

There was also American Music which expanded to Viking Way in time for me to get a rare promo of the Ruben & the Jets LP in about 1970.

Wallich’s closed up shop in the late 70s or early 80s and that was just the start.  Luckily, we still have Fingerprints, we still have Bagatelle and we still have Dizzy on Vinyl on Seventh Street and a few more I’m not revealing.  Let‘s treasure these brave retailers of new and second hand vinyl, while we still can.

For more on record shops in the area, check out Record Collector News, found on-line, at Bagatelles or at the Orange County Record Show in Stanton, while they last.

Record Store Boogie Pt. 1

Posted: January 25, 2011 in records

I’ve been shopping at local record stores since the mid 1950s.  When I was at Jefferson Jr. High and Wilson High School, no one in my family dared supply me with a motor vehicle, a smart move considering my accident record when I began driving.

In 1958, I had to take a city bus as I almost died from a very bad smog-related asthma attack when I was returning from a daylong visit to San Diego in 1957.  A few years later, I returned to visit that border town to check out Arcade Records, where unsold records went to die.  Had I bought their quarter-per-record titles then, I’d own some extremely rare and valuable records, but I bought only the ones I knew.


After my hospitalization in Harbor City, I took a weekly bus downtown to get allergy shots at the Kaiser clinic on Ocean Blvd.  The bus stop was at the Bernaderet Record Store on First St. next to an alley east of Pine Ave.  Every week, I’d go in and pick up the KFWB Top 40 Survey for the week.  One time the lady at the counter mentioned, “I never see you buy anything,” so I went through her .39 cent browser bin and bought something.  She never complained again.


I still have all those surveys.


The main shops in Long Beach were Morey’s and Humphrey’s on Pine Avenue in the 50s.  Morey’s had a bin of new 45s with a locked stick through them to prevent shrinkage.  It worked, but was a less-than-friendly sales device.


But the main players for rock and roll fans were two shops just north of Long Beach:  Wallich’s Music City in Lakewood, which opened in 1957 and Wenzel’s Music Town in Downey, which opened in late 1958.  Wallich’s, which had an extreme shrinkage problem as they’d let teens audition 45s and LPs in listening booths (stick the 45s in your clothing and briskly walk out) was frequented by cruisers as Hody’s Drive-In was just across Lakewood Blvd.


I loved both stores.  I got to know Wenzel’s quite well in the 1970s as I gave them the idea to sell collectable records, which kept the store afloat into 2001 when they posted the sign, “Wenzel‘s has left the building.”  Wenzel’s was where great surf instrumentals like “Pipeline” by the Chantays and “Boss” by the Rumblers were recorded and released on their Downey label.  At one time, Barry White was a Wenzel’s talent scout.


Over the years, record shops have come and gone.  Tape and Record Room, which was subject to a raid a few years ago was begun by Ray Goucher, whose idea was to rent records.  Jeremiah McCain on the Shore als rented rock LPs in the 1970s, but Goucher’s idea was to rent 45s.  He took on a young partner and sales guy, Mark Stuckey, who still sells records on the Orange County Record Show.  At some point, new owners took over.


Of all these stores, only Bagatelle is definitely known to survive.  It’s now on Atlantic just south of Third Street and is jam-packed with vinyl.   One of the Bagatelle cards was from when owner Steve Mintz and his mother opened up on Fourth Street after arriving from Sacramento – that address is on the card.  For a while, Wil-Mar on Atlantic, a few doors from Bagatelle sold sound tracks, but despite two editions of their card, folded for lack of business.



Hit and Run Record Dealers

Posted: January 24, 2011 in records

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.