Tag Archives: rooky ricardo’s records

Fried Chicken Salad with Dick Vivian

Dick was having two beautiful ladies over for dinner yesterday and was nice enough to invite me over for the festivities. I got there as he was finishing up dinner prep and I decided to shoot this video just for fun.

“Who are you?”

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Yesterday was a busy day. It started with the San Francisco Lower Haight Art Walk where various musicians and artists are sponsored by the local businesses in Lower Haight. They either showcase their art in the store or perform at the door. Overall, a positive vibe and it brings a lot of energy to the neighborhood. And the best part for me was that I got to contribute to that energy.

Thanks to Manny I got to drop a 30 minute set on behalf of Black Pancake Records. It was a short set, so I thought I should go all out and make it as energetic as possible. My thoughts were this: only a handful of people would sit and listen to the whole set, and that the majority of folks would just be walking through, hearing only bits of songs that I play. In which case, I might as well go full blast so they will start bobbing their heads regardless of what song they walk through. I tried to pay attention to the crowd to see if this strategy was working and it seemed like it actually was. Some people even started dancing for a few seconds as they walked across the street. One memorable moment near the end of my set was when I played “Suddenly It’s Yesterday” by Freda Payne and the three guys that were setting up to go on after me all lost it at the same time. They started dancing, laughing, and singing along and I got some high fives for dropping it. It definitely felt good to get a reaction like that from listeners. Big thanks to Manny for letting me rep Black Pancakes.

Afterwards i went over to Rooky Ricardo’s to have a back and forth with Dick. I’d play three records from my collection and he’ll hunt through the store for two songs with a similar sound. This turned out to be an interesting challenge for me because I had to group songs by what I thought was the same “sound”. The back and forth lasted three hours and near the end of it we were both burnt out. Dick beat me to it and took a nap on the store couch. I continued to play records and tried to keep a lounge-like vibe in the store by playing songs like Joe Simon’s “Drowning in the Sea of Love”.

Dick then woke up, refreshed, and asked me to fetch him the Joe Simon box that was stowed away on the high shelf. He started digging through it and pulled out a half dozen songs he thought I should have. He then told me to switch places with him so he can man the table. Not being one to argue, I dropped down on the couch and tried to catch some Zs. Dick, masterfully, played the perfect series of songs to lullaby me to sleep.

By the time I woke up, I saw that Dick added records  that he was going to give me as gifts to my already tall stack. They were the songs that he played while I was snoozing plus a few others. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and thankful. I got on the turntable and started playing the Joe Simon songs Dick picked out earlier and ended up getting these as gifts too! The man really knows how to take care of his friends.

And now it was closing time and, energy-wise, I wasn’t one hundred percent yet even though I took a nap. But I was happy because I got to leave the shop with a stack of 40 new records, two pretzels, and good feeling. I had a lot of chores waiting for me at the house and needed to rest up for an underground farewell party at Koko Cocktails.

Six hours later, around midnight, I left the house with Moses towards Koko’s. The first thing I saw when I got in was Armand playing 45s on the tables by the door. I greeted him and asked him for information about Madrone. He said he’ll be playing there this coming Saturday. I’m hoping I can get in this time. The vibe on that level was cool and shortly thereafter, Gabe, the third musketeer from our household, who just landed at the airport on a trip from the East Coast, met up with us. But what was really cool was the underground space Koko’s revealed.

I guess this was their last event at this location before moving on to a new location on Pine and Polk and they were going all out. The rule was that they’d stop letting people enter after 2am and the party would go on until 6 in the morning. The basement was separated by color, blue for the makeshift bar and red for the dance floor. Also I bumped into T.O.D., the DJ who let me spin at his happy hour gigs and also let me team up with him on Mama Knows Best; I got a lot of appreciation and respect for this man. And not to mention Manny was there, supplying that crazy thumpin’ music that made the crowd go bananas. I was vibing out and dancing house all night until 4am. And suddenly it’s yesterday. What a busy, busy day.

(Note: I accidentally deleted all of the pictures I took yesterday from my camera! And I had some great shots too…)

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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.

James Brown and The Famous Flames

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.

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Less than two years ago, I went to Amnesia, on Valencia between 19th and 20th, and heard Vinnie Esparza spin records with his friend who I currently only know of as Chris. They have incredible taste in music and I highly recommend you check them out. They also own a record shop on haight called Groove Merchant that only sells gold.

On that night at Amnesia, I heard them play this crazy funk track, and I had to know what it was. I got on stage and asked the DJ what he was playing. It was a 45 by Lou Courtney called Hey Joyce. I was happy to get the name because I thought I’d rush home and ask my friends back in Philly if they can find it for me. But turned out, I already had the song on my ipod. This was embarrassing and a little depressing. I’ve had this music for so many years and I didn’t know about Hey Joyce; who knows how many other gems were hidden in it?

This was the first major step towards my entry into the vinyl scene.

The second step was more of a giant leap. It happened about nine months ago. That’s when I traded my entire digital music library with a friend.

(Side note: If you are working for some copyright legals department and you are thinking of filing some case against me then you should realize right away that (1) there is actually no proof that I did this and (2) there is a non-zero probability that this entire post is fictional.)

Anyways, it wasn’t my idea and I was reluctant to do this. I was willing to share music but just not my whole hard drive, and especially not all in one go. Something felt off about doing that, almost like I was giving a big piece of myself away. But we traded music nonetheless and just like that, I went from having 60 gigabytes of music to having 120 gigabytes. In sum, I doubled my music collection in less than five minutes.

And that’s when it hit me. A feeling I can only describe as a complete disillusionment with digital music. How worthwhile was my collection If I could double it with a push of a button? And what is keeping me from deleting all of it with the same effort?

60GB is worthless under this mentality.

But it took me years to get to that 60GB mark. And yet I did not listen to the majority of it. Otherwise I would have known about Hey Joyce long ago. The reason I did not know about Lou Courtney’s song was simple. I had no connection with the majority of the songs in my library. For years I’ve been dancing to music; I thought I knew music. But I couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I had no real grasp of my collection. And that reminded me of an important discussion I had with Skeme Richards (world famous, Philadelphia bred, Dj of the legendary Rock Steady Crew and Sesion 31).

Skeme and I had a working relationship when I was in college. And, I think in 2007, while I was helping him carry his equipment back to his car we chatted briefly about what music means to new DJs. His contention was that the DJs he saw in the scene now were all playing digital music. He claimed that many of them didn’t own a single record and that they have no connection with their music. He said that when you buy a record, even before listening to it, you begin to build a story. You see that “this cat on the right side has this crazy afro, and this black girl on the cover looks hot as hell in those bellbottoms” and immediately you connect with the artists, the musicians, just by looking at the album cover. At the time I did not own any records and I did not truly understand what Skeme was talking about. I could not fully appreciate what he meant by “forming a connection” with the music. But his message rang loudly in my ear on the night that I doubled my library. To reconnect, or more accurately, to truly connect with music, I would need to follow his advice. I would need to go analog and step as far away from digital music as possible.

And that’s when I walked in to Rooky Ricardo’s Records on Haight street, between Fillmore and Webster, and bought my first 45 record. There are probably many more reasons for why I went to Rooky’s and not any of the other half dozen record shops in the vicinity. The most important reason being that I had a strange fascination with the 45 rpm record that would quickly develop into an intense love. But later would be a better time to explain myself.

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