If you remember when I editorialized about how I became a fan of music—you know, it started when I was just a little kid. What I didn't touch on in that piece is the fact that I lived in a town of less than a thousand people. This meant—get ready for this one—I grew up without a record store.
In fact, my only sources of music sustenance were infrequent trips to the mall in Kennewick, Wash., to visit Musicland and even rarer trips to Tower Records in Portland. So, though my parents had nice music collections, mine was disgustingly small.
It wasn't until I left the nest and headed to Oregon State University that I discovered the greatness of a local, dingy, eccentric record store. In Corvallis, I found Happy Trails Records.
Now, before you think this was the vinyl record lover's story that it could have been, I should confess that I didn't bring a turntable with me to college. That's right—I listened to CD's. Still this record store changed my life.
It was at Happy Trails that I uncovered a magical substance known as Nag Champa. I know that music and incense is one of the biggest college clichés of all time. But it's one for a reason. The two make each other better. And while that smell is awesome to have at home, it's best experienced when mixed in with the scent of old vinyl. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably just took a little trip in your head to your favorite record store.
Still, even with vinyl off the table, Happy Trails was my oyster. It was there that I dug deeper into N.W.A. by buying albums from Yella and M.C. Ren. I stumbled across an awesome Colorado band called Big Head Todd & The Monsters and took advantage of the five dollar/slightly scuffed "weasel" bin to load up my collection with used albums I needed but couldn't afford to buy brand new.
Mostly, I spent my afternoons there grabbing albums I didn't recognize and listening to them on players in the back, always trying to ferret out a find to impress my friends with. Those days didn't last long enough.
Things have changed at Happy Trails since I left Corvallis. Unfortunately they are no longer in the space they once occupied next to The Peacock—the most well-known bar in town. They are now located in a smaller store on 3rd Street.
But all the things that made Happy Trails awesome still remain. I visit every time I return and now that I'm a vinyl shopper, I can finally take advantage of Happy Trails the way I always should have. They've got odd vinyl upstairs along with a small collection of cassette tapes. Downstairs you can find brand new vinyl along with a hefty selection of used CD's. Just like the good ol' days.
During a recent trip on my way back to Bend from Thanksgiving at the coast, I stopped in and spent some good time reminiscing with Doug behind the counter. I left with some Black Friday vinyl they hadn't unloaded yet, a couple of ancient but in good shape Broadway musical recordings for my fiancé, an old Pete Yorn album and the piece de resistance, a just-for-fun copy of Bertie Higgins's Just Another Day in Paradise featuring the adult contemporary hit "Key Largo"—I know you remember it.
Happy Trails may not be the exact record store from my youth; nevertheless, it holds a ton of nostalgic value for me. And hey—it's still one heck of a place to go spend an afternoon searching for good music. Stop by on your next trip to Corvallis and pick up something special for yourself.
Happy Trails Records
100 SW 3rd St.