I’ve been to most of the vinyl record stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. Today, I went to Groove Yard and if it wasn’t an hour from my home, I’d go all the time. If you’re looking for the best selection of used vinyl jazz in excellent condition (and very fair prices), it’s Groove Yard.
I saw (and bought!) many LPs I don’t typically see at the usual haunts (such as Rasputin’s, Streetlight, Amoeba, etc). Owner Rick Ballard was friendly and helpful. The place is small and crowded, but you can tell upon entry, it’s a great place. Stacks and stacks of LPs on top of the bins. Sure, you have to move the stacks to get to what’s beneath, but it’s just part of the experience. Don’t be put off by your first impression…and be prepared to spend a few hours at least. I only had about an hour, and got thru the A through M section of jazz. There were also sections for jazz vocals, soul, rock and etc. About a half dozen of the hard to find Mosaic collections lined the wall, including a Lee Morgan for $100.
I rarely spend more than $50 dollars at a record store. Today, I dropped nearly $200. I knew that I’d never see some of these records again locally. No, you won’t find LPs for a dollar here. Most of my purchases averaged $8 to $15. I’d call that expensive if I was at the other stores, but not at Groove Yard. The place oozes great music, so it seems worth the money. I did find a couple of Stan Kenton LPs for $3 each. Bought ’em.
I found a Swedish bootleg LP of Charlie Christian and Wardell Gray for $8. I wasn’t sure if it was some band just covering songs by Christian or Gray, so Rick put it on his turntable and there was no question it was Wardell…so I bought it. It’s hard to find ‘new’ Charlie Christian tunes! The songs by Charlie were not a rehash of the usual stuff you see from his days with Benny Goodman, or Minton’s. So I was excited to find this. According the Rick this was the first and last release on the Fran Svenska label.
The other exciting find was a $12 LP by guitarist Bill Harris (see my earlier post). Bill’s first LP is one my faves, so I am hopeful that this LP is more of the same. I’ve never seen this LP anywhere else.
Rick imported jazz LPs after college and has operated Groove Yard for some 25 years now. There are a few parking spots out front, but you may have to park down the street a bit. I did not see any parking meters.
Groove Yard does not have its own website. But there are plenty of Yelp reviews about it, and most are overwhelmingly positive. Don’t be confused by another site that is about guitars from New York. No iPad or computer to scan your LPs. Rick hand writes your receipt (below). It’s an old fashioned business, filled with the dusty remains of America’s music and for my money, worth a visit if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Check out a quick slide show of pictures (same show appears on my Record Store Photo slideshow link) from my visit!