Val Shively’s R&B Records is based in an old very creaky, and some would say leaning like the Tower of Pisa building in the West Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Darby. It is considered one of the biggest record stores in the world with approximately 5 Million recordings.
When he started, to support record buying, Val got a paper route delivering the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin from 1957 to 1961. He soon became enamored with what has become to be known as Doo-Wop.
Apparently Val does not like the term Doo-Wop and prefers to call them “group harmony records” or “group records.” Take that into consideration of you decide to visit the store. Also, the shop has limited hours so call ahead – 610-352-2320.
The most expensive item in the collection is the 45 on Betta Records of “Rosemarie” by the 5 Chimes which he claims to have spent $16,000 on as it is the only one known to exist besides bootlegs.
From Val Shively’s Website:
“Besides buying from record collectors—most of my inventory came from Juke Box operators, closed record shops, radio station libraries (my favorite) and record distributor dumps (containing promos and stock copies).
I was friendly with a lot of disc jockeys from Philly and nearby cities. I gave them records and in turn they plugged my store. In the 80s, I started advertising on popular shows that played records I stocked—that continues to this day.
Even though mail order was always the bulk of my business, off the street retail in the 70s and 80s was very good. Since the store wasn’t very big, there were usually people waiting outside to get in…especially on Saturdays. From the 70s through the 90s, the first thing I did when I came to work—was take the phone off the hook and throw it on the floor. When I did take calls, the trash can got a lot of the action, too—‘cause if I didn’t like the way the conversation was going—I’d throw the phone in the trash—while the guy was still talking.”
Val Shively’s R&B Records
49 Garrett Road
Upper Darby, PA 19082