Touch of Grey: Becoming a Middle-Aged Record Collector at Trolley Stop Record Shop

A couple of years ago, I used to dwell about a block or two from Guestroom Records; I didn’t know just how good I had it then, because I very rarely would ever walk there, the huffing and puffing far too strenuous on my engorged ticker. But now, living roughly half a mile from the Trolley Stop Record Shop, 1212 N. Penn Ave., it’s the replacement record store that I walk to at least once a week, typically at a medium pace, usually to the tune of “Shakedown Street” in my headphones.

Standing around the roomy shop, sifting through the voluminous bins of old albums, I’ve come to an aged realization: now, at 41, I’m officially in the process of becoming one of the “old” guys that hang out in used record stores for hours on end. While I don’t have long white hair or a tie-dye t-shirt—give it time, I tell myself—I do find myself interjecting years worth of useless musical knowledge into discussions about what session players were on Steely Dan’s Gaucho.

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Originally located somewhere down on Classen, the first incarnation of Trolley Stop was formerly housed in a tired building with a showroom that was impossible to navigate without knocking stacks of wax across the floor. I only went in there once, mostly agitated at the impossibility of finding anything among the clutter. Thankfully though, when the store closed he quickly reopened this one in a spacious old theatre—the Penn Theatre—with the records alphabetized and grouped according to genre and even subgenre.

Run by a pleasantly gruff dude named John—at least I think it’s John—many of the city’s vintage record collectors will come together here in one big concert-shirted black mass to see his latest acquisitions and other assorted buys; I usually show up on just about every Saturday afternoon, the loyal Trolley Stop dog that is always omnipresent following me around, needing gentle head-rubs and some slight attention.

The first place that I always give the once-over is the section of Oklahoma records, mostly to learn about the forgotten local bands of the past—bands like Maya—that scrounged just enough money together to put out a few copies of their vinyl dream. From the Northwest Classen show-choir the Cry-Slurs to autographed copies of Ben and Butch McCain’s oeuvre, if I had enough money, I would buy them all and turn these Okie covers into a moderately priced coffee-table book.

Trolley Stop is cash only, by the way, so make sure you’ve got a couple of bucks on you; sure, in these days of cashless living it can be a bit of a pain, but John usually makes up for it with expressed haggling over the marked price of his records. Usually, in order to limit myself, I bring about twenty bucks and, every time, they’ve made it work. Either way, in case you forget, there’s an ATM in the dispensary next door.

I double-finger through the rock, looking for garage pop, power pop and other forgotten pop fodder like Paul Revere and the Raiders or the Sir Douglas Quintet. Last time I was here, John pointed me in the direction of a reasonably full collection of classic Indigenous rock LPs; with a selection that goes far beyond Redbone, I had to pick up a copy of the lost 1972 disc Broken Treaties by Silverbird, a fist-pumping Native clan that really should’ve been bigger.

On down the aisle, I overheard a pair of guys, both older than me, talking about the most underrated Beatles solo projects and spinoffs, over by the country music; I felt the need to defend Yoko Ono’s solo output, as I tend to, and they mostly listened. The backroom caught my eye however—it was filled with rock grimoires and old concert posters, the odd stack of underground comix and, of course, the ever-present 45 singles, unpriced and unbagged, all seemingly waiting for some fandom to take them home.

Walking past the live stage that frequently houses shows in the store, I made my way over to John, sitting at a table going through a few boxes of recent buys; I showed him this week’s picks, talking him down to an even twenty bucks and some change. Tucking the sweet finds under my arm, the vinyl protected by the clear plastic sheaths that house each delicate cover, I found myself eyeing records I missed on my first go-round, mentally jotting their titles down for when I come back next week.

My beard, complete with its growing touch of grey, will be just a little bit longer.

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