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About this collection

This unique collection of alternative music, poetry and exhibit posters documents the performances at the now defunct Bebop Records & Fine Art in Reseda.  Signaling the rise of independent labels, bands such as Los Lobos, Jane's Addiciton, Minutemen, Del Rubio Triplets, Sam I am, Nels Cline Trio and spoken-word artists as Henry Rollins, Xene Cervenka, and many others have taken the stage at this iconic venue. Using exisiting and donated materials from the performers, artist Richard Bruland created original posters for each evening's performances.

Wall of posters at Bebop Records in Reseda, CA

History of Bebop Records & Fine Art, 1982-1990

Bebop Records and Fine Art was opened in July 1982 by Richard Bruland and René Engel. The business opened in a small storefront on Sherman Way near Reseda Blvd. in Reseda, on the west side of the San Fernando Valley. It was a combination record store, performance venue and art gallery. The name for the store came from the 1958 hit song by Gene Vincent “Be-Bop-A-Lula.” 

Richard Bruland’s father, Raymond Bruland worked for Braniff Airlines. He had been a radio engineer and was working in the marketing end of the aviation industry. When Raymond was sent to South America for his job, his wife, Mary, went with him. It was during this time, 1946 in Lima, Peru that Richard Bruland was born. Mary Bruland was a homemaker. Richard had two siblings, a sister and a brother. The family moved to Seattle, Washington, when Bruland was three years old, and then to Dallas, Texas. Richard was ten when the family moved to Madrid, Spain. The family moved again when Bruland was eleven, to Geneva, Switzerland. Bruland attended high school at the international school there and by thirteen found his passion for art. Geneva is where Richard Bruland feels he was raised. After high school Bruland moved to Chicago, Illinois, to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Bruland received his draft notice to report to the U.S. Army, but chose instead to enlist in the Navy in 1967. He was trained by the Navy to be a photographer. During his four years in the Navy, Bruland was stationed in Florida, Georgia, and Keflavik, Iceland. Bruland served his overseas tour of duty at the NATO base in Iceland. He used an EH38 film processor to take aerial reconnaissance pictures, mostly of Soviet submarines and icebergs. Bruland was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1971. He continued his education at the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied painting.

René Engel’s background was as a musician and radio broadcaster and programmer. Engel had been a radio disc jockey in the Los Angeles area. He started his career in radio at California State University Northridge’s radio station, KCSU, 88.5 FM. Engels then went on to KCRW and KPCC, and eventually returned to KCSU as the general manager. Engel had also worked as a programmer in radio.

Richard Bruland and René Engels met at a record store in Valencia, CA where Engels was the store manager. Engels hired Bruland to work there in 1972, and after Engel left, Bruland became the manager. Bruland married in 1975 and moved to Northridge, where he and Engels met again. They lived on the same property in the San Fernando Valley. In 1981, Engel and Bruland started talking seriously about opening a store of their own. In 1982, they opened Bebop Records and Fine Art with the idea that the record store would also serve as a performance stage and art gallery. Bruland did not want to be disconnected from his passion - art, and though he did not paint during this time, he made the many original performance art posters donated to the Urban Archives Center.[1]

Bruland and Engel ran the store together for a little over three years, from 1982 to 1985.  At the close of 1985, René moved on. Bebop Records and Fine Art opened mainly as a record store, but over the years the store’s focus shifted to the performance venue and gallery aspects. After the Engel years, Bruland increased the number of shows per week and stopped purchasing and selling new records. During the Engel years, 1982 to 1985, 143 performances were held. During 1986 under Bruland, alone there were 148 shows. Music was at the forefront of Bebop Records and Fine Art when the record store opened with a performance by the band Los Lobos on July 22, 1982. Los Lobos was paid one hundred dollars to perform. Many other bands and musicians would follow them to the stage at Bebop, many who would pass quietly into obscurity, while others such as, Lucinda Williams, the Del Rubio Triplet, and Henry Rollins of Black Flag are still performing today.

Bruland created an environment that would allow “interaction between artist and audience.”[2] Both René Engels and Richard Bruland were instrumental in the birth, foundation, and early development of the enterprise. The store became known as an alternative performance place for local musicians, poets, and visual artists. Bebop Records quickly became a cultural force in the San Fernando Valley.

Bebop Records and Fine Art was never a money making proposition. The store did not charge admission for performances, instead they asked for donations. The donations were split 50/50, with 50 percent going to Bebop and 50 percent going to the band. This system worked well as long as the band helped get the word out to bring people in the front door. Later, Bruland changed the arrangement to ensure his costs were covered. The first fifty dollars went to the store and the second fifty dollars went to the band, and any money after that was split 50/50.

Richard Bruland created posters, original works of art, to announce each evening’s show displayed in Bebop’s front window. “Each [poster]”, says Bruland, “was normally made the day of each event, usually in 3 or 4 hours. Often, finishing touches were being added as the audience was arriving for the show.”[3]  With as many as three or four performances a week, the art collection quickly grew.

In addition to a long list of musicians and bands that played, poets also found a space at Bebop Records. Poetry and “Open Mike Nights” were part of the creative environment at Bebop Records. Bebop Records was one among many distributors of Out Loud, a free monthly listing of Los Angeles area poetry events.[4] Bebop Records made it onto the “Map to The Poets’ Homes” in The Moment, Spring 1990.[5]  Newsletters, flyers, and journals were how the word got out as to where poetry events and places were in pre internet days.

Bruland found there were lots of people who wanted to perform; as many as ten or more people a day would approach him. Bruland had unusual booking policies. He would ask for a tape, then not listen to it. If he liked the person who gave him the tape he would then let them play. Bruland called Bebop Records “an underground place that was out of the Hollywood loop.”[6] What set Bebop apart was the control given to the artists. Creative censorship was not placed on the performers. Bruland booked performers one at a time. Once someone was given a date to play they could add people as they wished; it was their time on stage.

“Bebop became more important than any of the people running it.”[7] Bruland said he learned new stuff all the time. “If you look at the percentages, things worked most of the time.”[8] Bruland enjoyed the decision-making aspects of running Bebop alone. At times he would book the wildest punk rock bands and have punk concerts without problems. As Bruland explained, “There was nothing broken or stolen, and no fights.” Bruland felt that the respect he received was the result of the respect he gave to audiences and artists alike. Bruland said “It [Bebop Records] was the greatest experience of his life.”[9]

 


[1] 16 Sep 2007 and 20 Sep 2007, telephone conversations with Richard Bruland. Rico, Diana; Daily News; “Bop on Over to Bebop:” article, 30 Dec 1984; Box 11, Folder 37

[2] Joe Christiano, The Bull, “Bebop Records and Fine Art”, Box 11, Folder 14

[3] Exhibit at Iquana Café; Bebop Posters: Flyers, Aug 1993

[4] Out Loud, “The free monthly of Los Angeles area Poetry events”, Box 11, Folder 34

[5] The Monent, Journal, Spring 1990, Box 11, Folder 25

[6] 16 Sep 2007 and 20 Sep 2007, phone conversations with Richard Bruland.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

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