I bought my first 45 at Rooky Ricardo’s Records, but not on my first visit to the shop.
I first walked in during my initial exploration of Lower Haight, the neighborhood that I had just moved into. I didn’t buy any records then, mostly because I did not have a reason to buy any; it would take a few more months after that point before I came to terms with my disconnection with music. I shyly entered the store and walked around mindlessly, I was trying to make myself look as confident as possible. The storeowner, a man by the name of Dick Vivian, whom I will later develop a close friendship with, asked if he could help me. I thought my cover was blown, that the storeowner saw through my feeble attempts to look coolheaded and knowledgeable. I said no and quickly walked out of the store with my gaze glued to the floor. It would be months before I saw the inside of Rooky’s again.
I made my second visit on December 5 of last year. The whole experience seems like a blur, but I at least walked out of the store with something in hand. Dick, once again, asked me if he could help me find something; I later found out that he asks all his customers if they need help, even if they look coolheaded and knowledgeable. This time I said yes, and that I was looking for “funk 45s”. In hindsight, this was a silly answer because almost everything in Dick’s shop could fall under that category. Nonetheless, Dick didn’t laugh at me and instead pointed me to everything in the store. I browsed around and then bumped into the James Brown stack in the $2 soul section; I thought to myself “finally, something I recognize!”. The first 45 I ever picked up was Soul Brother Number One’s, “These Foolish Things” with “(Can You) Feel It” on the A side. This gave me the confidence to pick up a few more records in the vicinity before moving towards one of the store’s listening stations, a collection of four technica turntables lined up against the wall, each with a differently colored headphone set.
I bought about $55 worth of records that day but, aside from “These Foolish Things”, I don’t remember what all of them were (a very scratchy “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob and Earl was in the pile though). All I know is that I had a bag of records in my hand, and I was happy. I went home and put them on my desk. Now what? Well, that’s about all I could do with them at that point. I couldn’t listen to any of them because, well, I didn’t own a turntable.
I would return to the shop again and again, on a weekly basis, each time buying a sizable stack of records and making a financial dent in my pocket. Dick caught on to the type of music I liked and started suggesting 45s from the “Girl Groups” section. I was shocked and surprised at how dead-on his picks were, and now I was buying high quality 45s that weren’t so scratchy. I, in turn, caught on to what labels I should keep an eye out for and I began to understand that anything on Galaxy, Invictus, or Stax was going to be good. But the problem was still there though. I still didn’t own a turntable and I was too ashamed and embarrassed to admit that to Dick. I continued coming to the shop and buying records, and then placing them in neat stacks on my desk at home. It would take at least another month and several stacks of unheard records for me to buy my first turntable: a Numark pt-01.
I bought it on DJ Foxx Boogie’s recommendation (if you don’t know about Foxx Boogie then check out Control Freaks and The Get Free Movement). The Numark is portable, can run on batteries, and it came with a built-in USB connection so that I can convert the vinyl records to mp3. In hindsight, I think that a small part of me didn’t want to completely give up on digital music. But the more honest answer is that I naively thought records were incredibly fragile and that I had to preserve them as much as I could. It seems I had a lot to learn, and my journey was just starting.