header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
53°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
January 26
1990 - "Duplicates" premieres at L.A. Phil; concerto by CalArts Music School dean Mel Powell wins Pulitzer Prize [story]
Mel Powell


A new independent record store, Gray Skull Vinyl, has opened in Canyon Country, where local music fans and collectors have suffered without one for years.

Located at 19983 Soledad Canyon Road, the shop is stocked with new and used vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, VHS videos, DVDs, posters, framed photographs, t-shirts, caps, guitars, amps, music magazines, books, and more.

Victor Torres Jr., a 25-year Canyon Country resident and lifelong record and music collector, and his family opened the retail shop in early April in the small strip mall anchored by the Oak Tree liquor store at Soledad and Langside.

“Customers come in and they’re like, ‘Wow, I could spend a good half a day here going through all these records and talking about music,’” Torres said in an interview at the store last week. “That’s what I want when people come in and just enjoy the record store.

gray skull vinyl

The Gray Skull Vinyl storefront at 19983 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country on May 6, 2021. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

“I want people to walk in here and feel like they’re 15 years old again, see a favorite record or a poster, and say, ‘Oh, I had one of those! I don’t know what happened to it,’” he said. “But if they find it here, they could buy it again.”

From Swap Meet to Storefront

The new Gray Skull Vinyl store is an expansion of a thriving business the Torres family started six years ago, selling, buying, and trading music and memorabilia at the Saugus Swap Meet at the old Saugus Speedway a few miles west on Soledad.

After building a loyal customer base there, and then waiting out the pandemic, the family moved ahead with its plan to open a brick-and-mortar location nearby.

gray skull vinyl

Victor Torres Jr. and the northeast quadrant of Gray Skull Vinyl in Canyon Country, May 6, 2021. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

“We wanted to bring the experience our customers have at the Swap Meet to a natural record store,” Torres said. “With everything that’s been happening, I feel it’s the right time to have a store, especially here in Canyon Country. I feel that everyone wants to have that experience of going out to a place and feeling what it’s like to hold a record.”

The Torres family has been riding vinyl’s resurgence in the past several years and catering to continuing interest among music fans for collectible music memorabilia and promo swag.

gray skull vinyl

It’s a clear case of 8-tracks at Gray Skull Vinyl, May 6, 2021. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

While Gray Skull Vinyl’s name and logo and some of the memorabilia evoke a heavy metal and horror-rock and monster-comics-movie vibe (think cheesy ’60s drive-in movies, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Alice Cooper, KISS, Slayer), Torres said he’s trying to reach every music fan.

“This is a family-oriented record store,” he said. “I want parents with kids to feel comfortable walking in and showing their kids what music is about, what bands have been around for a long time, and have the youngsters appreciate everything their parents grew up with. I want everyone to feel like they’re at home.”

gray skull vinyl

The eastern wall of Gray Skull Vinyl in Canyon Country, May 6, 2021. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

The shop does indeed have choice selections in just about every musical genre, from all kinds of rock (and yes, lots of metal) to Latino, from novelty to jazz, from blues, R&B, and soul to soundtracks, from country to classical.

“Even if it’s Beethoven, Mozart, I have some in here because I also appreciate that style of music and listen to it, too,” Torres said. “I’m also a big fan of soundtracks. Growing up, I listened to all kinds of music, and I have that here. I want to share that with everyone who comes in that door. So, I’m reaching out to all [music fans] to stop by.”

Torres also encourages Santa Clarita Valley and Canyon Country locals to take any music or music memorabilia they want to sell or trade when they visit Gray Skull Vinyl, from single items to collections.

“I’m a collector at heart,” he said. “I’ve always loved collecting music and memorabilia. Now that I’m selling records, I have the same feelings as my customers. So, I will buy pretty much anything. With the vinyl, I clean the records, play them to make sure they are in working condition, and make sure the outer sleeve is in great shape.”

gray skull vinyl

Now, about the store’s name and logo: “I just always loved the sound and the look of the name ‘Gray Skull Vinyl,’” Torres said. “I watched a couple of cartoons, and just the name just caught me. Our logo is not really a gray skull, so it’s kind of a play on words, you can say. My very good friend Eric Pigors created our logo, and I think everything goes well – the name, the font, and the colors.”

Collectibles: Rare Records

 Along with popular mainstream titles, Gray Skull Vinyl’s record bins include a surprising number of collectible rarities.

At the front of one bin was a copy of the infamous “Masked Marauders” “superstar” hoax album from 1969, which I immediately snatched.

Another bin included the first version of the second solo album by Mama Cass Elliot (“Bubblegum, Lemonade and…Something for Mama,” also from 1969, coincidentally), with cover photo by my friend Henry Diltz and art direction by his pal Gary Burden, the ex-architect.

Along with salting the bins with rarities, Torres said he enjoys tracking down other hard-to-find titles, which he has done as a service for customers since Gray Skull Vinyl began operating at the Swap Meet.

“Any records you don’t find in the store or online, feel free to let me know,” he said. “I’m always willing to go the extra mile and look for that record you are looking for. That’s the experience I want to give to my customers.”

Between my questions, a customer came in to pick up a copy of the soundtrack album from the 1982 Arnold Schwarzeneggar sword-and-sorcerer cult favorite “Conan the Barbarian,” co-written (with Oliver Stone) and directed by John Millius and featuring music composed by Basil Paledouris.

“I tried two other places and they couldn’t find [the Conan soundtrack],” the thirty-something woman said.

Soundtrack junkies know Paledouris had previously scored “Big Wednesday” (1978, also directed by Millius) and “The Blue Lagoon” (1980) and went on to write the music for “Conan The Destroyer,” “Red Dawn” (Millius again), “RoboCop,” and “The Hunt for Red October” in the ’80s.

As Torres bagged the “Conan” album for the customer, they swapped trivia about Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for “Red Sonja,” the 1985 epic with Schwarzeneggar in a supporting role.

“She came all the way here from Palmdale,” he said after the happy customer left the shop. (See her photo and pics of other customers here.)

Collectibles: Memorabilia

On the posters and memorabilia front, “I have all kinds here,” Torres said. “When I was growing up, my whole wall was full of posters, and then eventually, I had a couple of posters signed. I think everyone at one time in their life has had a poster on their wall.”

There’s rare cool stuff any direction you look. On the store’s east wall above the bins, I spied a framed gold record plaque for Elvis Presley’s salacious 1960 No. 1 hit “Stuck on You,” which I loved as a precocious 8-year-old, much to the consternation of my mother.

gray skull vinyl

Elvis and Neil are at top right, sharing the east wall at Gray Skull Vinyl with The Cure, Celtic Frost, and The Beatles. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

And above Elvis was a large framed black and white photograph of Neil Young shot in 1990 by my friend Harold Sherrick, who just put out a book of his favorite photos a couple of years ago, “Stolen Moments,” via a local publisher in Castaic.

I could have spent hours in the Gray Skull Vinyl store, flashing back. Repeat visits will be necessary; it’s just 5 minutes from my home.

Lifelong Music Collector

Torres’s obvious passion for all things music drives the Gray Skull Vinyl store’s operations.

“I’ve always loved the whole experience of concerts, of records, and grew up listening to all this, to vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s when they started coming out,” he said. “I learned a lot about music with my dad. I remember watching ‘Live Aid’ [1985] sitting on my dad’s lap.

“One of my early favorites is this Pretenders record,” Torres said, plucking the band’s 1980 debut from a bin. “My first experience with this was listening to an 8-track in my dad’s 1971 Ford F-150 pickup truck. It was the first record he put on that I just loved to listen to. I was probably 10 years old.

“So, this record to me means a lot to me personally,” he said. “It takes me back to that time and place when I was younger. I want my customers to have that experience when they see something: ‘Oh, wow! I remember this record!’”

That was certainly my experience, so mission accomplished on my first visit.

Enterprising Ex-Roadie

Before opening the Gray Skull Vinyl store, Torres held down a variety of jobs, including band roadie.

“I used to be with a road crew for a lot of bands,” he said. “Around 1995, the brother of a girlfriend of mine was in a band and asked me if I could help him move his drums and guitar cases around. I’ve been doing that on and off ever since.

“I just love the whole experience of setting up a stage, lights, and seeing the crowd going crazy, because I know that whoever’s performing, I did something to help that experience,” he said.

Torres has had his share of straight jobs, too.

“I also worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car for seven years and used to wear suits every single day,” he said, so it’s not surprising he knows a thing or two about customer service. “Then on and off I’ve worked with my dad, and at another family business, moving around marble, granite, stone tile. But while I was doing all those jobs, music was always my first love, my favorite thing to do.”

Tough Market

Canyon Country has long been a tough market for music retailers. A Wherehouse chain outlet at Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway closed up in the late ‘80s, long before the chain went bankrupt in 2002.

The last known record shop in Canyon Country, near the old 31 Flavors on Soledad in Canyon Country, was an independently owned and short-lived operation that shuttered several years ago.

gray skull vinyl

Gray Skull Vinyl’s Latinoamerica bins are stuffed with mariachi, Norteno, banda, rock en Espanol, and more. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Since then, local music and memorabilia geeks have had to go to giant Amoeba Records in Hollywood or the smaller Rockaway Records in Eagle Rock to buy, sell, or swap stuff.

A couple of small indie record shops opened recently in Newhall, but now, Canyon Country residents finally have one in their own neighborhood again.

Torres said his family had been looking for a storefront location for a couple of years.

“We were about to get another location, but then the pandemic happened, so that didn’t happen, and then we just waited till everything died down, and then we found this place,” he said. “I believe a lot in energy and locations. This place came with a great energy, a lot of good square footage for what we need, so we just went for it.”

gray skull vinyl

Framed cover of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Time Out” album, a classic from 1959, the same year Miles Davis released “Kind of Blue.” | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

DIY Social Media Promotion

But Torres concedes his location in the small strip mall is not a destination. Customers must know it’s there. He’s not likely to get much random walk-in traffic. Cars whiz east and west on Soledad at 50-60 miles per hour and drivers may not see the big “VINYL RECORDS” sign over the storefront door (unless their peripheral vision’s good).

So, in his first weeks open for business, Torres said he has been relying on social media and word of mouth to drive local fans to the Gray Skull Vinyl store.

“We’re trying to get the word out to whoever is interested in records to stop by and support your local record store, because at the end of the day, my record store is everyone’s record store,” he said. “It’s here for you, and we’re here for your pleasure.”

The website and online store can be found at grayskullvinyl.com. “That’s where I put some of my records up for sale for people who cannot make it to the store,” Torres said. “I send out online orders quick, same day or next day, ’cause I know they’re going to a good home.

“I also have an Instagram page, @grayskullvinyl, and Facebook, Gray Skull Vinyl, where you can find everything,” he said. “I’m a big dork when it comes to posting stuff, so I do apologize ahead of time for my posts. But they’re fun, they’re exciting.”

Until the store gains more traction, Torres said Gray Skull Vinyl will also continue to operate at the Swap Meet on Sundays.

gray skull vinyl

Victor Torres Jr. files vinyl LP’s in the back room at Gray Skull Vinyl in Canyon Country, preparing to add them to the bins out front, on May 6, 2021. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

“Since we’re brand new here in the store or at this location, we still don’t get the same traffic we get at the Swap Meet,” he said. “Plus, we have a lot of customers there who still send me their [want] list of records, and I have them for them at the Swap Meet.

“Eventually, once I get more inventory in here, more records, CD’s, tapes, we’ll figure out a way to have the pop-up store at the Swap Meet and this location open at the same time,” he said.

Torres said he and his brothers were excited to meet members of the metal band Celtic Frost at an in-store appearance 15 years ago, and that he would also like to bring artists to Gray Skull Vinyl for record release events, and perhaps a little live music.

“I want to have that kind of experience here in Canyon Country,” he said. “I want to do signings, maybe even an acoustic show, to bring the music to life and have it here for everyone to enjoy.”

Gray Skull Vinyl is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Soledad location, on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Saugus Swap Meet, and anytime at grayskullvinyl.com. The phone number is 661-904-7303 and email is GraySkullvinyl@gmail.com.

gray skull vinyl

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
NEW ORLEANS – The California State University, Northridge Men's and Women's Cross Country programs earned U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Teams for the 2022 NCAA Division I Cross Country season as announced by the USTFCCCA Thursday.
Matadors Cross Country Programs Named to All-Academic Teams
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency Board of Directors will now be meeting in-person for all Committee meetings.
Feb. 2: SCV Water Engineering, Operations Committee Regular Meeting
Friends of Placerita Canyon Natural Area invite the public to share in the grand opening of the new "Know Your Nature Center" on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m.
Jan. 28: ‘Know Your Nature Center’ Grand Opening
Join Landmark Opera at Santa Clarita United Methodist Church as it presents Gilbert and Sullivan's famous operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance," Sunday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m.
Feb. 5: Landmark Opera Presenting ‘Pirates of Penzance’
In Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation's latest episode, you’ll learn about DrinkPAK, a premier contract manufacturer of premium alcoholic and non-alcohol beverages based in Santa Clarita.
SCVEDC’s Latest Podcast Features DrinkPAK CEO Nate Patena
The College of the Canyons Sports Medicine Program and Valencia High School Medical Science Academy will host the 2023 Sports Medicine Professions Fair on Saturday, Feb. 4, from 10 a.m. - noon, at the college's Valencia campus.
Feb. 4: COC, Valencia High Partner to Host Sports Med Fair
The Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons will present "Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience" on Sunday, May 21. Two shows will be offered at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
May 21: Santa Clarita PAC Presents ‘Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience’
On Jan. 19, the Board of Directors for the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation approved long-time board member John Shaffery, managing partner of Poole Shaffery, to step into the role of Board co-chair as successor to Roger Seaver.
John Shaffery Named New SCVEDC Co-Chair
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station reminds Santa Clarita Valley residents that the past rain event may have created great riding trails, but riding off highway vehicles unauthorized on private property is considered trespassing.
Unauthorized Off Highway Vehicle Owners Reminded to Remain Off Private Property
SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a new partnership at a press event today between the California Department of Education and California Volunteers, Office of the Governor, to promote new pathways for California Volunteers service corps members — a group that includes 10,000 per year across all corps, including the California Climate Action Corps, AmeriCorps, #CaliforniansForAll Youth Jobs and #CaliforniansForAll College Corps — to become teachers in California classrooms.
State Schools Chief Unveils Plans to Recruit More Teachers
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday no additional deaths and 62 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley, with 23 additional deaths and 1,095 new cases countywide.
Thursday COVID Roundup: 62 New SCV Cases
1990 - "Duplicates" premieres at L.A. Phil; concerto by CalArts Music School dean Mel Powell wins Pulitzer Prize [story]
Mel Powell
Nominations for the 2023 Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce Business Choice Awards is coming to a close soon.
Jan. 31: Deadline for Nominations for Chamber’s Business Choice Awards
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued beach closures for the following areas due to the release of approximately 64,000 gallons of untreated sewage:
Several Beaches Close Due to 64k Gallons of Sewage
The Santa Clarita Community College District’s Independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee voted to accept the results of an independent audit confirming the district properly accounted for all bond expenditures in the 2021-22 fiscal year.  
Audit of COC Bond Spending Affirmed
Nominations for the yearly SCV Man & Woman of the Year are coming to a close, but there is still several days left to submit a nomination. 
Last Chance to Nominate 2023 SCV Man & Woman of the Year
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health cautions residents who are planning to visit the below Los Angeles County beaches to avoid swimming, surfing, and playing in ocean waters:
Ocean Water Use Warning For Jan. 25
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed Supervisors Lindsey P. Horvath’s and Hilda Solis' motion to extend COVID-19 eviction protections for renters and further the process of setting up rental assistance programs for renters and owners. 
Supervisors Extend Eviction Protections For County
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asked the State of California to launch an investigation into natural gas utility bill spikes that County residents experienced this month and to develop a plan to prevent future spikes.
County Requests State Leaders Investigate Natural Gas Price Increase
With their striking orange wings laced with black lines and bordered with white dots, monarch butterflies and their annual migration south from the United States and Canada to California and Mexico have become the stuff of legend. But habitat loss threatens the future of not just the butterflies, but other pollinators essential to the nation’s ecosystems.
CSUN Student Receives Grant to Increase Habitat for Butterfly, Other Pollinators
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health today confirmed 22 new deaths throughout L.A. County, 1,254 new cases countywide and 20 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Wednesday COVID Roundup: Santa Clarita Adds 20 Cases to Total Count
1915 - Death of pre-Mentry oilman & San Francisquito vintner Ramon Perea [story]
Perea grave marker
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion today by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and co-authored by Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell that establishes a $45M countywide relief fund for small property owners. The new rent relief program will benefit mom-and-pop property owners hardest hit by non-payment of rent.
Board of Supes to Bring $45M in Relief for Small Property Owners
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health today confirmed 20 new deaths throughout L.A. County, 919 new cases countywide and 118 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Tuesday COVID Roundup: 20 New COVID Deaths, 919 New Cases in County
SCVNews.com
%d bloggers like this: