Rhino Records’ 33 1/3? No, 35th

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When the Rhino Records store in Westwood closed in early 2006, I wrote a column to explain the history of the Rhino store in Claremont. Briefly, Mark Leviton, a friend of Rhino founder Richard Foos, opened the Claremont store in October 1974 under Foos’ ownership.

Foos sold the Claremont store in 1976 and it continues as an independent operation today, with no connection to the record label of the same name, which was also founded by Foos.

At the time my piece appeared, Rhino’s current proprietors weren’t cognizant of the store’s history. Based on the “about us” section of their website, they quickly forgot. Their motto “Independent since 1976″ continues to appear on their website and on T-shirts. Oops. Since businesses tend to overestimate how long they’ve been around, not underestimate it, maybe Rhino is just being modest.

I recently spent an hour going through 1974 issues of the Claremont Courier on microfilm, hoping to find a feature about the store’s launch.

Well, no such story seems to exist — I went through the issues page by page from August through mid-November — but I did find something: one lone ad for the store on Oct. 19, 1974. Hey, that’s 35 years ago today!

So, while no one seems to know the date the store opened, this is as good a time as any to wish Rhino Records a happy 35th anniversary. Even if they don’t know it.

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Above is that ad at roughly original size, to the right is (why not?) the page it appeared on and at bottom is a current photo of the store’s original location, what was then 269 W. 2nd St., a house between City Hall and the Pizza N Such building; Leviton told me the store occupied half of the space (he didn’t remember which half).

Later it moved to Yale Avenue, first to what is now Viva Madrid and, in 1991, to the former Bentley’s Market location. It remains there today, thriving as the only full-service indie music store in the Inland Valley. Even if it no longer sells cassettes and 8-tracks.

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  • Dennis

    Hi David,

    Rhino used to be in the eastern half of that building (on the right as you face the front). Most of the used LP’s were 25 cents each.

    Dennis

    [Wow, you're a longtime customer! Thanks for clearing that up. -- DA]

  • DebB

    Interesting history — I’ve always wondered about Rhino’s connection to the record label. But if I were the proprietor of that dress shop, I’d be a little disconcerted about the sign telling my customers not to enter!

  • John

    I started shopping at Rhino in 1978. I remember the store’s logo said something like “Rhino Records, since 1976.” It seemed silly back then, but 30-plus years later, “since 1976″ sounds really impressive!

  • Curt

    I bought quite a few Beatles bootlegs at that Rhino location. Those were the days — when ‘independent’ meant ‘possibly illegal.’

  • http://sakionline.net Debra MacLaughlan-Dumes

    Rhino wasn’t the first “counterculture” record store in Claremont either. That was American Records, on the west side of Harvard Ave. across from the old Claremont Courier building. They had a good selection of jazz albums too and would special order on request. I remember going down there about 1968.

    I think American Records closed before Rhino opened, though.

    [I hadn't heard of them, so thanks for enlightening us. -- DA]

  • Linda Frost

    Though I have never shopped at Rhino Records, my daughter did when she lived here. I did, however, shop at Bentley’s Market and miss it greatly. At least Wolfe’s Market is still there, so not all is lost.

  • JMac

    I loved Rhino because it was the only record store that carried imports locally. Being an avid prog fan, trying to find the latest Amon Duul or Gong at a Wherehouse, Licorice Pizza, or Music Plus was futile. Although, when I began working for Discount Records at the Plaza in ’75, their catalogue would certainly include those.

    As Curt stated, the other reason for shopping in that tiny room at Rhino was for the “live” content you couldn’t find anywhere else. I still have the Zep “Live on Blueberry Hill” lp I bought there.

    In this day of mp3′s, ITunes, and bit torrents it is comforting to know that a Rhino, Amoeba, or Lou’s Records still exist.

    [Yes, but they'll do so only if we don't take them for granted, which was easy to do until record stores became an endangered species. I'm a fan of all three stores you mention; Lou's, for the uninitiated, is in Encinitas and well worth a visit. -- DA]

  • Mark Leviton

    I’ve told the current Rhino Claremont people several times the store was founded in ’74 not ’76 to no avail as far as their ads go. The store opened in Sept. ’74. And yes American Records closed before we opened — in fact to some extent the reason Linda Powers (we got married in Aug. ’75) suggested we open the store was because she knew Jeff Powers (no relation), the former manager of American Records, at Pitzer, and thought Claremont should have a record store.

    [Thanks for chiming in, Mark. In conversation, at least, they seem to have finally gotten the message re 1974, not that you'd know it from their T-shirts. -- DA]

  • Eric Daniels

    Jeff Powers was a close friend of my older (and late) brother, and lived in one of the apartments behind our house… And I’m pretty sure I remember him (Jeff) working at Rhino Records, zooming off to work on his beat-up Honda 350. In fact, in my hazy memory he helped found it… but I was just an impressionable kid at the time.