Early on a Saturday, they file into a tiny backroom bingo hall at the Arizona American Italian Club in Phoenix.
Men and women — mostly men in their 40s — anxiously search for the black, circular holy grail.
Fingers flick past each album stacked in cardboard boxes until they find the record that has eluded them, the one their parents tossed out or the one in their collection too scratched to salvage.
A man lingers in the middle of a stack of country LPs before liberating a record from the box. Sliding it out of the cardboard sleeve, he examines each groove.
"Bingo!" he says. The irony escapes him.
Another record swap has brought the audiophiles out of their cocoons, in search of long lost vinyl and the memories that go with it.
Duke Ellington to Elvis Costello. Charley Pride to The Who. There’s a song in this room that would evoke the passion of anyone who ever owned a turntable.
"Memories, great memories," says John Dixon of Tempe. "That’s a big part of why people are here."
Dixon’s find came early in the day.
"This is really cool," he says, holding up the coffeecolored 45 rpm record with the bright yellow label. "It’s probably a $2 or $3 record but to me it’s a treasure. This was worth coming to the show today."
The record was Keith King’s "I Can’t Feel At Home," with "I Heard a Silver Trumpet" on the flip side. It was the first 45 rpm record released by the Liberty Bell label that was started in Phoenix in 1952.
"I collect anything Arizona," Dixon says.
Mary Scanlon, who helps organize these monthly gatherings, collects jazz. As she stands by the doorway gathering the $5 early admission fees from fellow vinyl junkies, she says, "I need eyes in the back of my head to see what’s out there."
Scanlon has amassed more than 3,000 records in her private stash. At least that many are up for sale atop the 20 tables rented by vendors and private collectors looking to sell at this record swap. Some records are just $1; others, like Elvis Presley’s second pressing of his debut album, are priced at $150 or more.
"I went to a Goodwill in central Phoenix, and it just happened to be three for $1 day," Scanlon says. "I found 125 jazz LPs — Miles Davis, Coltrane, Max Roach. Someone had dropped them off and I just happened to be the first person to find them. That was my biggest day.
"For me, the record is an artifact. There’s something about it being the original and being close to the artist. It’s funny because growing up I always envied people with a lot of records," she says. "I guess I’m catching up."
Looking for more places to obtain old records? Here’s a list of area stores that specialize in vinyl. If you are looking for bargain basement prices, search thrift stores, garage and estate sales:
• Bookman’s Used Books, Music & Software, 1056 S. Country Club Drive, Mesa, (480) 835-0505
• Eastside Records, 217 W. University Drive, Tempe, (480) 968-2011
• Rockaway Records, 1312 W. Southern Ave., Mesa, (480) 964-6301
Stinkweeds Record Exchange, 1250 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, (480) 968-9490
• Tracks In Wax, 4741 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, (602) 274-2660
• Memory Lane Records, 940 E. University Drive, Tempe, (480) 968-1512
• Monkey Mambo, 6824 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale, (480) 574-1200
• Prickly Pair Records & CD’s, 107 E. Thunderbird Trail, Phoenix, (602) 631-92222