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Local music shops gear up for 'Record Store Day' Saturday

Paul Spina browses the selection of vinyl records at The Last Record Store in Santa Rosa, on Friday, April 19, 2013. April 20 is Record Store Day, and certain titles are being released only at record stores.

(Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.

A Santa Rosa music shop is gearing up for Saturday's nationwide release of new and reissued songs in a format that many people thought had gone the way of the typewriter: the vinyl record.

Fans will line up Saturday at The Last Record Store on Mendocino Avenue for the chance to buy the new records. It's all part of Record Store Day, a national event involving 700 independent music stores.

In Santa Rosa, the early birds will be able to select from 150 newly released long play and 45 rpm records, ranging from rock and heavy metal to jazz and rap. Last year nearly 100 people were waiting for the store to open, and the event attracted at least a few hundred shoppers.

“This is bigger than Christmas for us,” said store manager Gerry Stumbaugh. “It's our biggest day of the year by far.”

The new releases include the Grateful Dead's “Rare Cuts & Oddities 1966,” a double record set for $30. Stumbaugh said the store had asked for 50 copies but received only 25.

Also available are such 45s as David Bowie's “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” for $7.99 and Jimi Hendrix's “Hey Joe,” for $10.

Other releases feature such artists as Bob Dylan, Cream, The White Stripes and Miles Davis.

The Last Record Store opened in 1983 in downtown Santa Rosa. Owners Doug Jayne and Michael “Hoyt” Wilhelm moved the business a decade ago to its current location north of Santa Rosa Junior College.

The building's outside wall features the store's iconic image of a jackalope, while the interior walls are crammed with concert posters and images for such artists as Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

When the store moved to Mendocino Avenue, record sales made up about 10 percent of the store's business, Stumbaugh said. Today that figure is closer to 40 percent. A used record album typically sells for about $5.

Part of the switch is due to the decline in new and used CD sales, he said. But it's also occurred because an increasing number of music lovers want a different experience than downloading an MP3 file off the Internet.

“I'm selling more vinyl now than I was 16 years ago,” Stumbaugh said.

Record Store Day began in 2008, when Metallica officially kicked off the event with an appearance at Rasputin Music in San Francisco.

The event isn't as big for Vinyl Planet in Petaluma because it doesn't stock the new releases. Even so, as with The Last Record store, shoppers looking for vinyl are expected to appear today from various parts of the Bay Area.

“They're hitting all the record stores,” said Phil Lieb, owner of the Washington Street store.

The days are gone when shoppers could turn to such music meccas as The Wherehouse, Musicland and Tower Records.

The record business remains “very difficult,” said Lieb. He gets by with the help of his Vitamin Planet health business, as well as by selling books.

Stumbaugh said the good news for The Last Record Store is that the business seems to have leveled off after years of decline.

He expressed satisfaction that teens and young adults are buying records, “cause they weren't for a long time.”

The interest seems partly the result of a “backlash” to the new digital formats and players, he said. It also seems to stem from an interest in a retro way of listening to music.

Vinyl, Stumbaugh said, “really makes you spend times with a band.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.)

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