By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Big Ed's Records Caters to Roots-Music Fanatics—Sans Computer
Hillbilly, psychobilly, rockabilly, roots—Big Ed of Big Ed's Records has your hookup.
How long have you sold records?
I started selling records and CDs at nightclubs that catered exclusively to rockabilly and R&B-type stuff in the late '90s. I started my own shop in 2001. There have been different owners of the shop over the years, but I've always been the guy in the back that sold the records and CDs. My audience likes psychobilly, R&B, rockabilly, hillbilly—[any] genre with "billy" at the end. If you carry Johnny Burnette, then you want to carry Sid King. If you carry Sid King, then you want to carry Webb Pierce and Faron Young. If you carry Webb Pierce and Faron Young, then carry Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. It all sort of falls in place.
Do import records make up a lot of what you sell?
I think most of the stuff I sell are imports, three-quarters . . . maybe more. The scene in Europe has been going since the '70s, and everyone sort of ages with the scene, whereas here, they always seem to be 22 years old. They don't age because when they get bored of it, another 22-year-old comes along.
Is Southern California a good place for a shop like yours?
Southern California has always been strong for rockabilly and always will be. Long after we're dead and gone, someone will be interested in roots music, whether it's blues, country or rockabilly. I don't get foot traffic in our shop. People specifically come to the shop to buy a Three Bad Jacks CD, or the new Big Sandy, or a reissue CD on Bear Family. They don't come walking into the store going, "Wow, what is this you sell?" It just doesn't happen. I used to do all the clubs. It's tough going out till 3 in the morning. And it's easy for people to say, "We'll just go into Ed's shop on the weekend. We don't need to buy anything tonight. We're chasing girls or chasing beer."
Do you have special considerations compared to the average record store?
What I sell, 90 percent of it you can't buy in the United States. You couldn't go to Amoeba in Hollywood and find 95 percent of what I sell. They carry a little rockabilly and a little psychobilly, but there are thousands of titles. I'm glad they don't carry it! I fill in that gap. I've been into this stuff for so many years. I've been a fan since I got bored of punk in the '70s. People come in and ask me what I can recommend. They ask me a question, I'll give them an answer, and I won't be rude.
That's good, considering it can be intimidating to ask about music in a record store.
Yeah, especially if you're getting into it and you don't know where to start. I always tell them to start with the three best CDs in the genre: the Meteors' In Heaven, Big Sandy's On the Go and the Johnny Burnette Trio's [self-titled album]. If you like any of those, then come back and I'll sell you some more. If they like the wild stuff, I'll sell them Johnny Burnette. If they like the early psychobilly, then I'll sell them the Meteors. If they like modern rockabilly, I'll sell them Big Sandy, or Dave & Deke, or the Barnshakers.
Are you into the lifestyle or cultural side of rockabilly?
No. I drive a beat-up Honda car. I live in a house full of vintage furniture, but only because the guy I live with has a collection. I do buy vintage clothes, but as you get older, your priorities get a bit different. I have two houses full of vintage clothes that I never wear. A lot of the rockabilly fans just buy the clothes. I have loads of people who buy clothes, but they'd never buy a CD. But, boy, do they sure look the part. In England, it's the exact opposite. They know the music, but the clothes are secondary.
A lot of stores are closing or turning to the Internet to stay alive.
I don't even know how to turn on a computer. Business is good enough that I don't have to do all that nonsense. Most of the record stores closing are closing because of Amoeba. But I'm recession-proof.
Big Ed's Records, 2146 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 433-8601.