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Sheffield History

VIOLET MAY'S Record Shop in Sheffield

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Looking for information on Violet May

What were the shops like and where were they ?

Does anyone know what happened to Violet ?

Excuse my ignorance but I am a huge fan of small record shops and would like to know more..

So far I've got shops listed as Duke Street ?, Castle Square, Chapel Walk ?

Also turns out that Violet was a real person and not just a brand name, (same as Bradleys Records in Sheffield too that was named after the owner), and that May was her middle name - but still don't know her surname.

People are recounting that Violet was a serious chain smoker and that the shop she worked in was usually heavy with smoke !

She's unfortunately passed away now.

I always wonder what motivated her to open and manage a chain of record shops ?

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Looking for information on Violet May

What were the shops like and where were they ?

Does anyone know what happened to Violet ?

Excuse my ignorance but I am a huge fan of small record shops and would like to know more..

So far I've got shops listed as Duke Street ?, Castle Square, Chapel Walk ?

Also turns out that Violet was a real person and not just a brand name, (same as Bradleys Records in Sheffield too that was named after the owner), and that May was her middle name - but still don't know her surname.

People are recounting that Violet was a serious chain smoker and that the shop she worked in was usually heavy with smoke !

She's unfortunately passed away now.

I always wonder what motivated her to open and manage a chain of record shops ?

She certainly was and her knowledge of records was amazing. You could ask her about almost any obscure artist or song title and she would tell you the label it was on and in most cases the recording number that used to be on the label.

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God I love music/record geeks (I'm one myself)

he he...

If anyone knows her surname let me know.. (could it be Hadley ?)

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She certainly was and her knowledge of records was amazing. You could ask her about almost any obscure artist or song title and she would tell you the label it was on and in most cases the recording number that used to be on the label.

I remember Violet Mays record shop. There was a guy who worked there who was a big David Bowie fan. I bought my first Bootleg tapes from that guy upstairs in Violet Mays. He was really worried that Violet would come upstairs and catch him selling his own stuff to us.

We got 4 live David Bowie tapes for £1.00 (How times change)

That was around 1974 and Violet was an old lady then but she had an extensive knowledge of records.

She had boxes of singles on a high shelf behind the counter. Each one was for a particular record label so if you wanted to look for a Bowie single you looked in the RCA box etc etc.

She always kept an eagle eye on you to make sure you weren't pinching anything from the box!!!

STEVE K.

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Looking for information on Violet May

What were the shops like and where were they ?

Does anyone know what happened to Violet ?

Excuse my ignorance but I am a huge fan of small record shops and would like to know more..

So far I've got shops listed as Duke Street ?, Castle Square, Chapel Walk ?

Also turns out that Violet was a real person and not just a brand name, (same as Bradleys Records in Sheffield too that was named after the owner), and that May was her middle name - but still don't know her surname.

People are recounting that Violet was a serious chain smoker and that the shop she worked in was usually heavy with smoke !

She's unfortunately passed away now.

I always wonder what motivated her to open and manage a chain of record shops ?

I seem to recall a shop on Earl Way ? Earl Street?

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Violet May had two shops as far as I know and that is since the early 1960s.

The first was at 22 South Street (1963 Directory) and when that was demolished she moved to Cumberland Way at its junction with Matilda Street. (see photo) I hadn't realised that May was her Christian name.

I bought from her at both shops. She was a thin angular woman who knew her records and their value. She was sharp but she had to be in a man's world - I saw very few women in her shop.

One anecdote I recall was the time when she was weak enough to give credit to a celebrity who called at the shop. He never repaid her and she never forgot it. During the course of conversation his name would crop up and she would tell you her sad story.

He was a famous clarinetist - more I dare not say.

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I loved Violet Mays. It was a regular destination every Saturday with my essential carrier bag of albums to swap and exchange or sell.

I have to admit to the odd stolen album too, slid into the carrier bag below shelf level but I reckon Violet came out on top with regard my custom.

I bought a 'Not For Sale' copy of 200 Motels (Zappa) from there and a whole bunch of albums that were virtually impossible to find anywhere else.

I seem to recall the shop used to have a CCTV surveillance camera mounted in the corner above the counter. In reality it was two black painted boxes and a toilet roll tube with two bottle tops stuck onto it...........but I'm sure it fooled many would be hardened shoplifters back in 1973-76!!!

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remember going in once to try and get the first Genesis album (From Genesis to Revelation) which I couldn't find anywhere.Just a minute she said and went off to make a phone call.She came back and said it'll be here next week. She'd rung the record company to get it.Charged me a bargain price as well.

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remember in the 70s looking everywhere for the night by franki vali/four seasons went to violet mays and found it no problem.

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i remember going in violet mays to buy rock'n roll by led zepplin on a single,to which she told me that as led zep were the biggest band on the planet they did'nt release singles in the uk cos album sales were their thing & they did'nt like how the record companies rearranged them for radio play or top the pops,but she said i could get an american copy as this did'nt apply there,wooow yes please mrs may! [what a coup my mates will be well jealous] anyroad after a few phone calls & some paper work she said it will arrive by the end of the month & it will be £17 +p+p [did'nt ask] so i thought for a minute [whilst trying not to faint] then said -tell you what mrs,ave you got the album? the english one please. for younger viewers:-£17 in 1973 ish was more than my weeks wages [& i worked dow'nt pit] i reckon in todays money it would equate to £150-200, on this subject shall we start a topic on how much stuff used to cost?. i'l start by saying a pint of stones in my local in 1973 was 12pence [i'm sure! i think lol]

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In 1964 a friend boasted that he had a recording of a Les Paul & Mary Ford song, not available in the UK. A challenge for Violet. Over the years I popped in and the same reply, "sorry not yet. I finally got my copy last year, just 42 years later. One of Vi's rare failures. Funny, the track doesn't seem a good after all that time. Tempus Fugit rides on. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

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remember in the 70s looking everywhere for the night by franki vali/four seasons went to violet mays and found it no problem.

She had a real knowledge of the northern soul scene and always used to have a few records in her shop that you couldn't get anywhere else.

BTW I was at Wigan casino the first night that Frankie Valli record was played in this country.

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One visit to Violet May's I really regretted was when I was a particularly skint teenager and I went down there with my older brother & sister's singles collection - I flogged them for about 6d each - and forever bemoaned the loss of all those Everley Brothers, Ponytails, Franki Valli, Del Shannon etc singles. My siblings had both left home & left them to me but I was into pregressive rock at the time :(

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In the fifties Violet May's shop was down Duke Street. I seem to remember it was more a swap shop than a record shop.

I wanted a record player at the time, so I sold her my Hornby Dublo train set for £7.00....... without telling my parents. They went barmy when they found out!

Some years later (when her shop was at the bottom of South Street) I used to buy old jazz 78s which I still have.

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God I love music/record geeks (I'm one myself)

he he...

If anyone knows her surname let me know.. (could it be Hadley ?)

Hi, My sister was engaged to Violet`s grandson and her full name was Violet May Barkworth.

She died aged 85ish in 1995 even though she smoked like an old chimney, And used to live on Cherry Lane in a big old house which she later sold and bought a bungalow for her retirement.

Her old house was an aladdins cave and some of the pictures and other belongings bore the names of the people who would inherit them after she passed on.

She would say write your name on the back and you can have it when i`m gone.

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I once took Country Life- Roxy Music, a Bonzo Dog Doodah Band LP and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and all she could offer me was a Hey Jude LP by the Beatles. I've still got it.

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As a teenager I stopped going into her shop because she was so rude and

unfriendly to her customers. She didn't like you looking through the boxes

of records, how could you buy until you viewed the stuff.

I went to the rag and tag ,you could always get what you wanted including a smile.

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I once took Country Life- Roxy Music, a Bonzo Dog Doodah Band LP and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and all she could offer me was a Hey Jude LP by the Beatles. I've still got it.

The Hey Jude LP was originally an American import and was not in the British Beatles catalogue.

It contained only a few tracks as some of them, namely the title track, were quite long.

It was however very popular in Britain because it contained several singles B sides (Rain / Revolution / Old Brown Shoe / The Inner Light) and even single A sides which had never made it onto an LP before and so in some cases were only available in mono. On this album all the tracks were Stereo, even if it was that very artificial electronically created stereo.

Although it is a good collectable album it still doesn't seem a fair swap for the 3 albums you offered, - but then again Violet had to make a profit somewhere.

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I recall Violet Mays shop in Duke Street, it got me into serious blues and jazz music that was almost unavailable any where else in Sheffield. At the time my favourite spot was the Esquire Club, Terry Thornton was much into jazz and blues-you heard the music there, if you went down to Violet May's and she almost surely had it. She must have been one of the best benefactors to the music scene in the North of England. I cannot recall her ever being difficult to deal with....Happy days

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I have been told by a Record Company rep that Bradleys Records in Sheffield was the "Chart Shop". IE: if you bought a single from there it was loged for the BBC's top 50. Whereas if you bought one from Violet it wasn't. I doubt it was ever a chart shop. I can't see her writing all her sales into a BMRB diary every time a record sold.

I bought a few records from that shop on the moor. I didn't like the place much, it was a bit dirty. Condition of some records poor- overpriced- and label boxes were packed tight and it made browsing hard, if the shop was busy on Saturday. You had to ask for each box, plus you didn't always know what label an artist was on. She would charge full price on ex-chart records, so I was more likely to go to a place were they were only 25 to 50p - not 75 to 85p at May's.

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