Located in a lonely alleyway off Britton sits the hidden gemstone of Oklahoma City’s record buying public, the aptly named Alley Records, 918 ½ Britton Rd.
Run by local roots musician Ronnie Jay Wheeler, behind that metal door is a whole world of vaunted recordings, one where it’s easy to spend more than an afternoon just sifting through the listenable goods, walking out with an armload or two.
I was there last Saturday afternoon, after months of wanting to visit, if I could find it. Once inside, at first glance, it resembles a teenage boy’s bedroom, with a variety of posters on the wall and various memorabilia in the bookshelves mixed around the thrift-store furniture. I wish my parents had been this permissible.
This audio love affair started with the bin in the front, the one marked 12-inch singles. Almost immediately, I found three titles: U2’s “Angel of Harlem,” David Naughton’s “Makin’ It,” and, much to my surprise, Ice-T’s “I’m Your Pusher,” a tune that I used to be obsessed with, as they played it on Saturday nights on KAND Radio in Corsicana, Texas.
I never thought I’d ever hear that song again. ‘Twas a holiday miracle!
Happy with those finds, I moved into the backroom; it’s here (hear?) where he kept a good lot of records. Though I found no Beatles this go around, after a bit of digging I found Tone Loc’s Loc-ed After Dark, another wax platter that I never thought I see on vinyl. Tucking my albums under my arm, I walked to the front to pay for them. That’s when Wheeler and I started talking.
I soon learned about his music history when I asked about the instruments that were set up in the back. But, even more than that, we soon started comparing the near-fatal illnesses that put us in the hospital and almost did us in. Eventually, I pulled up a chair and we commiserated on everything else; he even talked about his wife, who had an art studio in the front of the building.
Turns out we know a lot of the same people around town; it was such an unusual meeting, it was kind of funny—to me, at least—that we had never come across each other before. But that was the great thing about Wheeler: in so many record stores, I’m so used to clerks that want nothing to do with you except take your cash, but that varied discussion—one that lasted two hours, mind you—was the highest selling point I could think of.
So, if you got some time to kill, stop in, pick up a few lost albums, and have a chat with him if you get the chance; I’m sure he’d like to talk to you too. Just be aware that the shop is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11:30ish to 5:30ish, the “ishes” prominently displayed on his business cards.
But, for me personally, I can tell you that Alley Records is definitely going into my record store rotation and with immediate pleasure.