Val Shively

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Val Shively

Class of 1961

Year Inducted 2016

Val Shively attended Stonehurst and Garrettford Elementary Schools, Upper Darby Junior High, and Upper Darby Senior High School.  His list of activities during high school is scant due to the fact that he was so absorbed by his first love, RECORDS! From an early age, Val had a fascination with 45-rpm phono records. He worked most of his young life buying and collecting 45s.  By 1959, he had over a thousand records.

After high school, Val attended Peirce Business School, graduating in ’63, but in ‘62 he discovered Jerry Blavat’s radio show. What he heard changed his life.  Blavat featured mostly obscure, black New York City vocal groups from the mid to late ‘50s.  Later in the 70s, it was christened “Doowop.” He went everywhere looking for those records, eventually ending up in New York at a tiny record shop called “Times Square Records,” the epicenter of this phenomenon. He traveled there on a regular basis buying, selling, and trading records. In 1964, Val landed a job at a Philadelphia record distributor. He went from driver to buyer to manager. In 1965, Times Square Records went out of business. In January of 1966, Val started a mail-order business, “R&B Records,” basically selling obscure group records. He worked at the record distributor during the day and moonlighted with his own business at night.

In 1972, Val left the distributor and opened a store at 146 Garrett Road with a DO NOT ENTER sign on the door, which became his trademark. He soon realized that what he was selling was not what people wanted. People wanted hits they grew up with, so he started buying large inventories from radio stations, distributors, and jukebox operators all over the country. In 1977, Rolling Stone Magazine called him the “Emperor of Oldies.”

In 1990, he bought a building at 49 Garrett Road with two floors and a large basement...eventually amassing an inventory of over 4 million records. He does business internationally...people call, e-mail or come to his shop from all over the globe. Somehow, with all the changes in technology, he’s still in business doing things the “old-school” way. He celebrated 50 years in business in 2016. Terry Stewart, 14 year president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said, “Val has played an exceptional role in making this music available.  He is in the vanguard of individuals who honor and promote this genre of music that became the soundtrack of the world.”

Val’s advice is, “Follow your dreams...”  He never thought he could turn a hobby into a business. “If I could do anything in this world, I’d do what I do.”