Cann The Music Man

Philip Cann record shop sheffield
CANN’S is well remembered by Sheffield record buyers and others. It was named after the founder and owner Philip Cann, and his name was on the front of the original building. The shop opened at the top end of Dixon Lane, at No. 4. Dixon Lane today is a rather forgotten backwater, but was once a busy thoroughfare leading up to the city centre from the old market. They are listed there in the Sheffield Trades Directory 1927-28, although judging by surviving 78 rpm sleeves from the shop (with their catchy slogan “Cann’s The Music Man”) were probably there before this; one early 78 Cann’s sleeve lists them stocking Winner, Pathe, Zonophone and other early labels.
The record sleeve design changed regularly and variously advertise Cann’s as “For Everything Musical – Most Complete Record Stock In Yorkshire. Gramophone Records / Gramophone Players”, “Record Cases, music, strings”, or “Music and Musical Instruments of every description”. The shop expanded next door into No. 2 then 4a Dixon Lane.
Carole Froggatt remembers beginning work there in 1956 and was put in charge of the four large 78rpm players linked to listening booths. She says the store was always very busy on Saturdays, and recalls selling hundreds of copies of Rock Around The Clock (the track came out in 1955 but following the movie in 1956 it went on to became the biggest selling UK single of the fifties, reaching number one in 1957).
I have a dozen 78rpm card bags from the original shop, all with different designs on, some very jazzy. Two are shown above, along with two of the paper store bags.

Philip Cann record shop sheffield
The only half decent photo of the store I can find was taken when it was standing empty, ready to be replaced by a massive British Home Stores building with a nightclub underneath (the BHS building has now been empty itself for many years).
With redevelopment, Dixon Lane had become more marginalised and Cann’s relocated to a more modern central shop on Chapel Walk, and bowed to the inevitable by naming it just Cann’s. We think they moved around 1959 as I have a receipt for a purchase in the new shop from that year, while an advert for the old shop dated 1956 (listing them as stockists for a new range of Pye speakers) has been seen (and Carole worked there for a couple of years but only at the old store).

Philip Cann record shop sheffield

The new shop had a ground floor entrance, with the records in the basement, instruments and hi-fi etc. upstairs. It still had those strange peg-board-clad listening booths when I first frequented the place. This great shot shows the record department, and was taken for the local newspaper (in the early 70s judging by the stack heels on the girl in the centre – all the girls shown were members of staff [it has now been dated to 1973]). Cann’s also ran competitions, I entered one and to my surprise won an album. My joy at this rare piece of luck was short-lived when of all the albums they could have given me, they picked one I already owned – Hawkwind’s space rock masterpiece “In Search Of Space” (I got both copies autographed by Stacia, the band’s exotic hippy ‘dancer’, soon after).
Cann’s were still listed here in 1973 as “Television, radio, music and musical instruments and gramophone record dealers”. The shop was taken over by Vallances in 1974. There is some debate on forums whether a rival shop Bradleys later took over, but the consensus of opinion seems to be that Bradleys had a separate shop of their own on Chapel Walk for a time.

UPDATE : Mick Armitage worked at Canns for a few years and has been able to fill us in on the end of the shop.
“I worked there as an apprentice Audio/TV engineer in their little downstairs workshop between 1970 and 1974. My understanding is that ‘Philip’ retired sometime in the 1950s, and the shop was taken over by his three sons. I used to know all their names, but can now only remember Cecil Cann. The three Cann brothers retired around 1968, and sold the business to the Leeds electrical company Vallances. However, they stipulated that the shop name should remain as Cann’s for at least 5 years. Vallances said they were totally happy with the way the shop was run, and would change nothing for that period. They remained true to that promise – even the shop manager, Norman Cockerham, continued to run the business. So, while I was there it was run exactly as it had been under Cann’s, but was actually owned by Vallances. When the 5 years expired (around 1973), they immediately changed the shop name to Vallances. They later moved in their own under-manager, and gradually started to make changes. They closed down Cann’s workshop (about 5 of us were made redundant) and transferred all the repair work to their own workshop in Mexborough. They then kicked out Norman Cockerham, I’m not sure why, he seemed to run the shop quite well. The place then quickly began to deteriorate. I think it only remained on Chapel Walk for a few more years (till around 1976), when they moved to a shop down the Moor selling just electrical goods. I believe a few years after that Vallances folded altogether. I wasn’t particularly interested in the history of the shop back then, but now I’d like to know more. I never got to see the family, or even a picture of them (would love to see a photo of Philip). I did once visit Cecil Cann’s house at Calver. He’d been in the shop and bought a new TV. I went with the delivery lad in the van to install it but Cecil wasn’t home at the time.”

This helps explain some of the confusion over the name of the shop. It was still a good record shop in the early 70s when I used to go there (and was still called Cann’s) but I must have noticed the decline in quality as I certainly didn’t bother going much in later years. I do recall Vallances towards the bottom of The Moor but it only had a small token vinyl area by then.

You can see another view of the Cann’s bag and in-store receipt, and other Sheffield shop bags here on the site.

Jump Up Byron Lee sleeveWe did spot Byron Lee’s Jump Up album in the near rack, cover drawing by Abigail Maucotel – here’s the 1967 original (the one in the rack is a UK edition). For a bigger photo of the shop interior, a listing of some of the sleeves in the rack and an advert for the store, see page 2.

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7 Responses to Cann The Music Man

  1. David Heys says:

    Canns was indeed on Chapel Walk and was taken over by Vallance and Davidson, later called just Vallances, in about 1974.

  2. Steve Ellis says:

    I used to frequent the record department, listening to the latest vibes in the booths on a Saturday afternoon. I bought my first electric guitar, a Les Paul copy, from the instrument department in 1973. Bradleys shop was down the lane a bit on the other side. My girl, later wife and later ex-wife, worked in there and, moved to their Fargate branch and then to their new store in the Arndale centre in Manchester.

    • simon robinson says:

      Thanks for the recollections Steve. I’d not known Bradleys tried out the Arndale centre for a time. I must admit I’m old enough the remember the grim shopping centre being built, and perhaps more depressingly some of the stunning buildings they ripped down to make way for it, and rarely went in all the time I lived there. Didn’t HMV move in there later?

  3. john van boolen says:

    I bought my first drum from Phillip Cann in 1965!

  4. Bushbaby387 says:

    The BHS shop which replaced the Cann shop on Dixon Lane had a nightclub above it, not below. It was called The Penthouse (for obvious reasons) and was one of Stringfellows’ dens of iniquity. I went in one night after watching Dr Feelgood at The Black Swan and the band came in behind us. Had a good chat with Lee

    • simon robinson says:

      Thanks Steve. I never went there, but recall the entrance was down beside the loading bay doors, and never realised this must have been the stairway up!

  5. Lesley says:

    I have just come across this by chance. I am sales assistant in the centre behind the counter. I worked there when I left school in July 1972 until January 73

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