Record Holders

In which we round up 10 of the Bay Area's most obsessive vinyl collectors to see what makes them tick -- er, spin.

Flying to a DJ gig with my records always entails the same conversation:

Old guy on the plane: What do you have in the bag? Looks heavy!

Me: They're records.

Old guy: Records? Vinyl records?

Me: Yup.

Old guy: Kids still play records these days? I didn't think anyone listened to records anymore!

Me: Oh, but they do, Grandpa. Oh, but they do ....

Call us what you want: Luddites, phonophiles, record nerds. For a lot of people, records are a serious business. Not a, "Yeah, I have my Dad's Beatles LPs"-type business, but more like a, "Yeah, I just flew to Finland to pick up that test pressing of "The White Album" with a typo on the label for $7,000"-type business. Record nerds are a peculiar group comprising mainly DJs, store owners, musicians, and music writers. We are like your average music fan with a serious case of OCD. For the true nerd, records come before food and get in the way of relationships; searching out a particular record can become the focus of one's life.

With the Bay Area's rich history of music and our current unofficial title as "The City With Most DJs per Capita," it should come as no surprise that many of the nation's top vinyl junkies reside right here in our own back yard. Some of them you may have heard of, most you probably haven't. Either way, anyone this obsessive deserves to have his head examined, which is what we did.

Justin Torres (30), S.F. Radio sales assistant, record dealer

Approximate record-collection size: 22,000

Preferred genre: Sweet soul and anything from the Bay Area

What's your favorite record or favorite record label? "Johnny Baker['s] 'Fog City (and You Girl)' (Fog City Records) [is] such a great mid-tempo beat with Johnny's sweet voice singing about hoofing it up these S.F. hills through the fog to get to his woman."

What was the first record you bought? "Eazy E's first record and Main Source's Breaking Atoms from Joe at Creative Music on Ocean Avenue here in San Francisco. Creative Music is still the best local record store in the Bay after 18 years."

What record are you most looking for right now? "A Project Soul 45 from Vallejo. They changed their name to the group you all know as Con Funk Shun."

What would you do for it? "Fly to Indiana where Felton, the lead singer, now lives and convince him to give me a copy. After talking to him and his mom (yeah, I even tracked her down), I'm convinced he has a copy! Anyone out there have a copy I can buy?"

James Glass (100?), East Bay. Professional weasel

Digging since: 1980

Preferred format: Soul, jazz, or disco 12-inches

How far have you traveled for a record? "London and Tokyo."

What record are you most looking for right now? "Stevie Wonder 'As' 12-inch."

What would you do for it? "Almost anything."

What's the most you've paid for a single record? "I'm embarrassed to say except that it was almost the same as my rent."

Stephanie Aguilar Gardner (aka DJ Stef) (42), S.F. Graphic designer, DJ

Digging since: "When I was four or five I started sending my mom to the store with a list. 45s were only 49 cents back then."

Preferred genre: Hip hop

What's the best place for records in the Bay Area? "The KUSF Record Swap."

Have records ever come between you and a man? "Yeah, an ex got mad and broke my Cactus Album [by 3rd Bass]. I never replaced it."

Stephan Colloredo (28), Richmond. Owner, psychedelic vinyl mail-order Jellyfish Records

Digging since: 1993

Preferred genre: Psychedelic rock, obscure homemade vanity pressings

How are your records organized? "By country."

What was your best dollar-bin miracle? "Finding the one Christian-psychedelic record that made up for the hundreds of others I've tried my luck on."

Would you ever get rid of your records? "There are days where I get very burned out, asking myself why the hell I'm doing this and have thoughts of settling down on a specific Mediterranean island, returning to my childhood roots, fishing for octopus, and forgetting about all the headache, stress, and eccentric individuals you encounter in the world of record collecting. But at the moment I'm still very much into it and I don't see myself selling the collection any time soon."

Will Louviere (36), East Bay. Traveling salesman

Fun fact: Will has an online museum of wild record covers at www.showandtellmusic.com.

What makes the Bay Area good for records? "Lotsa hippies and tripped-out ex-'60s people."

What makes the Bay Area bad for records? "Lotsa hippies and tripped-out ex-'60s people."

What is the record you are most looking for right now? "I'd like to find an original copy of Psychodelic Sounds [sic] by Jr. and His Soulettes."

What was your best dollar-bin miracle? "The Royals, Royal Music, Salinas, California."

Barry Wickham (age undisclosed), Petaluma. Record seller

Digging since: 1978

Preferred genre: Fifties garage, psychedelia, surf instrumentals, and '50s rockers

What's the best place for records in the Bay Area? Rooky Ricardo's

How far have you traveled for a record? "To the state of Vermont. It was a bust!"

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