Larry Buford: Smithsonian Magazine Features The World’s Largest Record Store!

Val Shively and a preview of his record store

* I just had a very interesting 3-way phone conversation with Val Shivély, owner of the largest record store in the world, and my good friend for almost 40 years Rondalis Tandy, singer of the group of the 60s The Van Dykes. Tandy wrote the group’s biggest hit, “No Man Is An Island”. Providence brought us together as we discussed an article featuring Shively in the July / August 2021 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

Shively, the longtime owner of R&B records in Havertown, Pa., near Philly, shared amazing, sometimes poignant, stories of how he amassed such a vast inventory comprising over four million single records, and how he has an affinity for the black music of the 50’s and 60’s. Author Richard Grant wrote: One day in 1960, Shively turned the dial of his transistor all the way to the right and landed for the first time on a black radio station.

“It blew me away to hear Etta James, Baby Washington, ‘Valerie’ from Jackie & the Starlites, he said.” I really like white music, I like old country, but for me , black music has more strength, more originality and more longevity. And once I got into the harmony bands Black, that was it. Nothing else ever felt so good to me. .

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val_triptyqueGrant says that by listening to some of the music he was “transported to a time when cars had tail fins and young men from African American neighborhoods sang harmonies on street corners and formed groups such as quails, larks, feathers, Opals, Paragons, [and] spaniels. I was new to this music and at first it sounded too stylized, sentimental and stereotypical for my taste. Then the shape of the music started to fade and my ears opened to the incredible vocal performances, the precision of the ooh-wahs and wop-wops that accompany them, and the painful and painful emotions evoked by the songs.

Over the phone, Shively made us laugh with some colorful anecdotes about her lifelong journey. He has a keen sense of purpose to do what he does – deliver rare recordings for collectors around the world.

It’s a very interesting story for Black Music Month. For the full story, please visit: A Peek Inside the World’s Greatest Record Store at SmithsonianMag.com.

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Larry buford is a Los Angeles-based collaborating writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin ‘Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon); two insightful books that speak to our moral conscience at times like these. E-mail: [email protected]

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Larry S. Buford


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