“Oh, man! I don’t even have any stickers to give you!”
“Don’t worry about it. I took some pictures.”
That was my final exchange with one of the friendly gents as I checked out here, at Friends of Sound Records in San Antonio, Texas, earlier this month.
We were in town for our nephew’s wedding, and I took a couple of hours to go record digging on the day before the wedding. It was quiet at Friends of Sound early that Friday afternoon. A couple of guys were doing a photo shoot, perhaps for a local magazine, so I worked around them as they worked.
All along that beautiful back wall are 45s. I sent a couple of pictures to my friend Larry in New Jersey. “That looks like a place where I could have some fun,” he said. Indeed.
But I’m not a 45 guy. I like LPs, and I had the time to look at a lot of them.
“Wow, you’re really checking everything out,” the same friendly gent said.
“Yep, I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Doing a little record store tourism.”
He found that an interesting notion. I said traveling gets me into the neighborhoods and often offers chances to see records I don’t usually see.
Sure enough, I found one at Friends of Sound.
Then I stopped at one more place.
Everything I read about San Antonio record stores said Janie’s Record Shop was a must stop. Janie’s is a little roadside storefront about 3 miles west of Friends of Sound, more or less right on the way back to my hotel, as it turned out.
Juanita “Janie” Esparza, who died last fall at 94, put her 14 kids through high school, then in 1985 realized her dream of opening a record shop. Janie and the shop became south Texas legends. She sold a rich selection of regional music genres — among them Tejano, conjunto, ranchera and the Westside Sound (aka Chicano soul) — supported the artists and preserved and shared its history.
It was cool to see a shop full of those styles of music — even if I know only a little about them — and the people running the shop were really nice. They also had rock, R&B and soul records and soundtracks, so I dug through those. I found these records.
Went all the way to San Antonio, Texas — 1,400 miles from home — to find four records from Chicago. At Janie’s, I found a copy of this Five Stairsteps LP without its jacket and these baseball instructional records with the Cubs’ Billy Williams and Ernie Banks on the covers.
Back at Friends of Sound, I found this one. Had never seen it before.
Willie Henderson is a sax player who started leading the studio band at Brunswick Records in Chicago in 1968, working there until 1974. He also did arrangements for Tyrone Davis, Barbara Acklin, Jackie Wilson and the Chi-Lites and produced Davis and Acklin.
Here’s a cool cut.
“Off Into a Black Thing,” Willie Henderson and the Soul Explosions, from “Funky Chicken,” 1970.