Where to find rare records -- Dr. Demento digs for gold, platinum, and out-of-print music at Cali's Ear Candy

If I had my own record store, it’d be a lot like Ear Candy in Van Nuys, about 15 miles from downtown L.A.

It’s the first place I check when I’m looking for an out-of-print LP (which nowadays means practically any LP). Matter of fact, I often go there even when I’m not looking for anything in particular. There are always interesting things to see and hear. And unlike some rare record outlets, this is a pleasant place to shop or just hang out.

Ear Candy has fabulous CDs (including rare promotional items), choice 45s, even a few 78s and eight-track tapes. LPs, though, are the specialty of the house. One thing I especially like about Ear Candy is that there’s a nice balance of rock and non-rock music, right around 50-50. There’s rock all the way from the ’50s to the ’90s, but Ear Candy is also strong on film soundtracks, albums by TV and movie personalities, country music, and comedy.

Ear Candy’s genial proprietor, Kip Brown, knows records; he managed other people’s record stores for more than a decade before starting his own. He’s also a musician (he’s actually on a few of the records he sells, by bands called Little Girls and Shock) and a fan — of surf music, James Dean, and most anything you might like to talk over with him.

A few favorite Ear Candy finds: Joan Rivers’ first LP, a Japanese Spike Jones album, an LP featuring an inebriated Jim Morrison attempting an obscene blues number with Jimi Hendrix on guitar, a couple of elusive Homer and Jethros, and several albums by legendary Hawaiian guitarist Gabby Pahinui that I’ve never seen anywhere else on the mainland.

There are a lot of other worthwhile rare-record places around L.A. (don’t miss Music & Memories for Broadway shows and Sinatra; Rockaway Records for CDs, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys; the Record Collector for classical; or Wenzel’s Music Town, which is a shrine to the 45). But even with its unassuming location (a strip mall), I’d make Ear Candy my first stop on any record safari.

— Dr. Demento (his birth certificate says Barret Hansen) is celebrating his 20th anniversary as host of The Dr. Demento Show, heard in more than 175 cities every week across the U.S. and around the world through Armed Forces Radio.