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Sacramento’s Records — The World’s Most Famous Record Store You’ll Never Visit

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Endtroducing, DJ Shadow’s debut album. It was composed almost entirely of samples, and many of them were collected in the basement of Records, a record store in Sacramento, California, which has since closed.


Photo by B+ from DJ Shadow's Endtroducing album photoshoot
Beni B, Chief Xcel & Lyrics Born at Records record store in Sacramento, Endtroducing cover photo session, B+ 1996

Records was opened in 1973 by Orin “Ed” Hartman and Lee Cotten. Ed had previously co-owned another store, The Broadway Record Center, which opened in 1960, while Lee had previously sold records through mail-order and advertised his collection in the back of magazines.


Based in Sacramento’s K Street Mall, over the years Records was forced to move to a few different locations inside the mall, as their collection outgrew the store space.


Advertisement for Records from The Sacramento Bee - June 4 1976 p67.
Records advertisement from 1976

Lee was an Elvis Presley and early rock & rock expert, and when The King died in 1977, Records quickly dug out boxes of his music to sell, as fans gathered, eager to pick up some collectors’ items.


In 1981 the store was split up and Lee moved out, opening his own record store Golden Oldies at the nearby 809 K Street. Specializing in 7" records at the time of its opening, the Golden Oldies inventory sat at around 250,000 records. Lee also published his first book on Elvis in 1981, and a further four on him, as well as his three volume Shake Rattle & Roll series on early American rock & roll.



Logo for Records record store by cartoonist Robert Crumb
Records logo by Robert Crumb

Ed Hartman continued to run Records, which featured a logo designed by cartoonist Robert Crumb, who would visit the store looking for early hillbilly and blues records.


The store would occasionally get into the Sacramento newspapers as it became known for its extensive collection, and The Sacramento Bee wrote in 1985 that it had “the Valley’s deepest, widest and largest selection of used records almost all of them rare.”


But Records appeared in the news for another reason in 1993 when a customer reported seeing a ghost in their basement. The unnamed customer had been looking at posters when a 90-year-old woman in Victorian era clothing told them to leave as they were making too much noise.


By then, Records had moved again shifting to an old clothing store at 710 K Street in 1990 which took up a massive 5,000 square feet of floor space. Below the main floor was a basement overflowing with records, which DJ Shadow was eventually invited to explore.

In fact Shadow visited the store for five years before he got invited to even see the basement, as he told Sound on Sound:

“I remember him saying, ‘Well, if you think this is a lot of records, the whole basement is filled and it’s even bigger than the floor up here.’ Me and my friend that I used to go around buying records with at that time, we both thought he was basically just bullshitting us. Then one time he said, ‘Well y’know, we’ve got five minutes ’til close. Why don’t you go down the stairs and have a look?’ It was just one of those moments where it was like, ‘Holy fuck, this is insane!’

In Doug Pray’s documentary film Scratch (2001) the crew filmed Shadow in Records, and also spoke with Ed Hartman. In the film Ed says Shadow usually spends the day in the basement, and that when he comes back upstairs, he always has a big stack of records with him.

DJ Shadow holding a stack of vinyl records
DJ Shadow in Records' basement - The Man From Mo' Wax (2016)

In Scratch Shadow sits amongst piles of dusty records in Records' basement as he discusses what the store means to him:

“Just being in here is a humbling experience because you’re looking through all these records, and it’s sort of like a big pile of broken dreams, in a way. Almost none of these artists still have a career really, so you kind of respect that. If you’re making records and you’re a DJ and putting out releases, whether it’s mixtapes or whatever, you’re adding to this pile, whether you want to admit it or not.”

It was Shadow’s idea to have Records on the cover of Endtroducing. Photographer Brian Cross shot the cover which features the store's cat, Neferkitty sitting on the records.


Brian also directed the video for Midnight In A Perfect World, which again was shot at Records and features Shadow exploring the store, both upstairs and through its basement.

Records' owner Ed Hartman in the documentary film Scratch (2001)
Ed Hartman in Scratch (2001)

On June 12, 2001, Orin “Ed” Hartman passed aged 76. His son Kevin continued running the store which had now become world famous thanks to its appearance in Scratch and on the cover of Endtroducing.


In 2007, Records was forced to look for a new location again when several businesses in the K Street Mall were evicted as a developer had new plans for the mall.


After a bit of uncertainty Kevin found the store a new home, and Records moved to 1618 Broadway.


The new location boasted 3,000 square feet of floor space and over 7,000 square feet of storage and stocked vinyl, CDs, VHS, DVDs, video games and memorabilia.


The new store was also the home of Joey, a cat who patrolled the vinyl stacks after Neferkitty died, aged 19.

Two cats, Neferkitty and Joey, sitting on vinyl records
Left: Neferkitty on the cover of Endtroducing. Right: Joey

After almost a decade in their new location, in December 2016 several news outlets reported Records would close for good due to a rent increase.


But when we contacted him recently, Kevin told us the store was only closed temporarily and might reopen again.


“I closed the store a little before covid hit”, he told us. “I didn’t necessarily intend to be permanently closed. I didn’t see any spaces I liked, and I had things to deal with [that] I wouldn’t have had enough time if I had the store.”


While it may return, for now Records remains closed and the store has become one of legend. For so many music fans, we never got a chance to visit the old K Street Records, but Ed Hartman’s store lives on in all of our memories thanks to DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing.


 

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Guest
Mar 25, 2023

I spent a lot of time at this store during the '90s and early '00s. It was two blocks from my office. After combing the stacks a few times over I'd just hit the new arrival boxes two or three times a week. People were dumping their vinyl at the time and and I was scooping up handfuls of great records for very cheap. I got to peek into the basement once, but didn't actually get to flip. There were vertical stacks and stacks of records down there. Its now an Ice Cream shop.

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Guest
Jun 01, 2022

Looking a cd by Roberta Kelly, in my fathers house. jerrylemon@aol.com. ty

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