Record lovers have followed Groove Yard from Jack London Square to Temescal to its current spot on Claremont Avenue in Rockridge. The record store, owned by Rick Ballard, specializes in hard-to-find jazz, world and soul music. Groove Yard began its life as a distribution company in the 1960s, which Ballard started after graduating from UC Berkeley. His psychology major didn’t prepare him to wholesale records, but his love of music, especially saxophone jazz, helped.
Ballard has been selling music around Oakland since the late 1980s, first retailing near Jack London Square. He moved to Temescal in 1992, and further north to Rockridge in 2004. Ballard says his last move helped Groove Yard get closer to BART and a freeway off-ramp, so that record lovers around the Bay could get to the store more easily.
Groove Yard is named after a tune by Carl Perkins, an obscure jazz pianist from Los Angeles (not the Rockabilly guitarist who helped put Sun Records on the map). A customer submitted “Groove Yard” in a name-the-store contest, and Ballard liked it. In fact, he’d thought of it himself, but he says “things pop into your head when you’re toting big boxes of records around, and then they just instantly pop out.”
Reporter Aaron Mendelson visited Groove Yard, and filed this latest Oakland North Radio story. Click above to listen.