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Sheffield History

VIOLET MAY'S Record Shop in Sheffield

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Over the years I bought records from Violet May from all 3 of her shops.

I found her to be quite an individual character who had a great knowledge of the music she was selling.

She could be awkward at times as she didnt suffer fools and had no time for timewasters.

She would attend all the nusic concerts at the City Hall always looking her best, usually wearing a long dress and always smoking cigarette from a long cigarette holder.

She was part of my education into Jazz music.

RIP Violet `Bird still Lives`

Happy Days! PopT

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Violet May was a pivotal figure in the development of the music scene in Sheffield and the redoubtable owner of the city's most famous record shop.

The Foreword to Violet May book by Richard Hawley

“Violet May was a pivotal figure in the development of the music scene in Sheffield. Not only in what people bought in terms of records for their listening pleasure but in how that music influenced countless musicians as well. Without her I’m sure that I wouldn’t be making music today, although I never had the pleasure of meeting her but my father did and some of the music he bought in her shop still informs many of my ideas to this day.

She widened the sonic palette of thousands of people from Sheffield and other places in Britain as you will see in the pages of this book. In this age of instant access to virtually any recordings at the touch of a button it is hard to imagine a time when you could spend months, often years, tracking down a rare record by an obscure artist you may have heard only snippets of their music, or had a cursory and rather vague knowledge of, but it really was like that and Violet May was a light in the darkness for the avid record collector and the developing musician. How she got those records is still a mystery to me and this book, written by my good friends “Gaspin” Gus Chapman and John Firminger, at last sheds some light on that closely guarded information.

My Father found records by Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, The Dell Vikings and many, many more which at the time were virtually impossible to find over here, and the effect they had on a young enquiring mind was like a cerebral atom bomb. I still have those records my father left to me and I for one would like to thank Violet for them and the stories I keep with me always, along with her effect on the broadening of her customers musical horizons which is incalculable, although as a hard business woman I doubt she ever knew.

I wish she and her spirit of adventure was still with us, the world is a duller place without people like her, and I truly hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, it’s a labour of love - a thing as rare as some of Violets records - and almost as hard to find.”

ISBN 9781905278305

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Violet sold lots of specially imported American label stuff in the early 60s, Chess and the like, that was unobtainable elsewhere and long before many of the artists were well known in the UK- Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters etc. etc. - we used to go down and just read the the covers in awe!

I recall there were two 6th form pupils at King Teds named Hope and Marsden who went down to Violet's every lunchtime and came back with records they had stolen and then sold at school for a shilling or two - some kids had amazing collections as a result. I recall these two took advance orders on the Rolling Stones EP before it was released, all of which they managed to fill on release day: I expect they are both pillars of society these days!

There were 3 other famous shoplifters at King Teds at the time who specialised in clothing, books and motor bike parts - anything was available to order! Also another couple of budding entrepreneurs who sold condoms and "Ban the Bomb" badges, though I believe these were legally acquired - supposedly Sheffield's best education!

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Thought that Violet Mays was a great shop - spent many hours browsing. After reading this topic I searched online for any postings on Violet May and found that there is a band with that name  (from Sheffield of course)

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