In the central part of California lies the Central Valley. The Coast Ranges make up the western flank. The eastern flank is made up of the Sierra Nevada. It's one of the nation's most productive farmlands. It's home to Bakersfield - birthplace of the Bakersfield sound in country music. The state capital, Sacramento, is on the northern end. Fresno, the 'raisin capital of the world' and the fifth largest city in California, is at its center. Modesto, where American Graffiti takes place, is a typical example of a Central Valley small town. The place is flat and hot.
This brings us to Visalia. Located between Bakersfield and Fresno on State Route 99, it's a slightly larger than average town in the central valley. It serves as the gateway to Sequioa/Kings Canyon National Parks. The closest place to the park one can get a hotel room. They have a somewhat vibrant downtown with nice restaurants and a restored movie palace. It's the last place you'd expect to find a record store.
About two years ago, we took a family trip to Sequoia/Kings Canyon. Not wanting to spend the first day of our trip driving, we left Los Angeles in the afternoon with the plan of staying in Visalia overnight and taking the 40 minute drive up to the park in the morning. While looking for a place for dinner, we ventured into the central business district. We found a nice restaurant that could hold its own with any of the fancy-ass places in the big city (the name escapes me - but this isn't a restaurant blog - so forgive me. I think it's name was a number). While parking, we found ourselves in front of Velouria Records. Unfortunately they were closing as we pulled up.
|I don't have a photo of the store - but I did get me a t-shirt|
My wife, Winnie Margate, who fully understands my obsessions, suggested we delay our departure in the morning so I could crate dig. Knowing that I would chomping at the bit until they opened, I let rational reasoning take the lead. I thought it best that we stop on the way back. The valley is so hot, I wondered how people ever got records safely from the store to their home. So stop on the way back we did.
What I found was a revelation. I wasn't expecting a used vinyl selection as deep and varied. Stock rivaled the finest used record stores in the big city, without the picked over feel one normally finds in larger stores. From what I gather, the store is owned by a woman who always wanted to own a record store. She got her wish. She appeared to be the only employee - or maybe the only one who was willing to work on Sunday. Stock is nicely organized and staff knows where everything is and what they have.
Given their location, they do have a decent selection of country, but it doesn't predominate. All genres are represented healthily. My only regret was that I didn't have more time to spend going through the 45's.
I don't recall what I got there that day. I think maybe Loretta Lynn's 'Fist City' album. It was once owned by someone named 'Marg.'
I wonder if Marg liked this song because of the lyrics.
If you don't wanna go to fist city
You better detour around my town
'Cause I'll grab you by the hair a the head
And I'll lift you of the ground.
Did Marg get in barfights with other women when she heard of her man 'cattin' around with a kitty?'
I digress. This speculation of a record's previous life is the subject for future posts. I actually like it when a used record has someone's name on it. Even better when there's some sort of dedication.
If you ever find yourself in Visalia, be sure to visit Velouria. Just remember to take your records out of the car when you stop for ice cream at Dewar's in Bakersfield.
Website: Velouria Records