Like Wilson Pecks, and Cann’s, Curtis Records is another local Sheffield record and music chain which has largely disappeared without trace, despite being around for some fifty years in the city (and beyond).
They began as an electrical goods shop, F. Curtis & Sons. at 64 London Road (in the Sheffield & District Trades Directory for 1927-28) when they were sole local agents for Homochord Records (a name which might indicate a more niche market today than it was then! The name disappeared around 1930). Curtis moved to 82 London Road, advertising “10,000 Records always in stock – Repairs a speciality, all parts kept.” They were named Curtis & Co. for a time on their sleeves (which also curiously advertises them selling Cutlery & Electro Plate).
The business then moved to larger premises, 68-72 London Road, two shops joined together, under the name W. H. Curtis, selling records, as well as players, radios and televisions, and probably similar electrical goods.
By the fifties the shop had expanded to at least four branches, and a 7″ paper bag from the time advertise W. H. Curtis Record Bars at 1 Porter Street, Moorhead (which may have opened in the 1930s); 68-72 London Road, 253 Crookes and 669 Chesterfield Road, as well as the fact that they made ‘private recordings’. The Curtis Recording Studio had been operating for some time and appears to have been able to record one-off 12″ 78 rpm discs (acetates?). These carried a Curtis Recording Studio label, with space for the customer to fill in the details (see photo). Exactly what other facilities they had isn’t known (Wilson Pecks also had some sort of recording facility). There was also a branch of Curtis at Darnall at the bottom of Handsworth Hill, managed by Keith Merill, a big music and disc fan.
The chain either expanded or relocated during the sixties. There was a small branch opened on Angel Street in 1961 in the new cinema development there. One of the staff was singer Karen Young who fronted The Cadillacs before enjoying a short solo career (the shop became The Crystal Room amusement arcade. The cinema and indeed this whole block has since been redeveloped – again).
The new Moorhead branch (which we assume replaced the Porter Street shop when that area was flattened for redevelopment) was quite big but we don’t know when it opened. Chris Hobbs recalls his brother buying Apache by The Shadows there (his first record). Released in 1960 this suggest Curtis moved into this new development as soon as it was oepned. W.H. Curtis (Sound & Vision) Ltd. are still listed at 5 The Moor in the 1973 Kellys directory (and were main stockists of B&Q hi fi equipment). Curtis must have shut that year and the shop was taken over by Quadrant Stationers (the building is still there but currently awaiting another idiotic redevelopment).
Curtis also opened in other counties; a 1950s bag proclaims stores in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In 1973 they also had a shop in Doncaster according to the directory.
The only branch which I have memory of was the one at the top of The Moor in the early seventies. It was quite a big store and always had a good selection of albums. I even remember seeing a rack of bootleg albums on one visit, the first I’d ever seen (indeed I didn’t even realise at first what they were). Amazingly for a while in late 1970 / early 1971 it wasn’t illegal to sell them, and someone had persuaded Curtis to take a wedge of titles (they weren’t alone, Virgin in London had also been selling them openly). I gave in to temptation for a live Deep Purple album at £4.00 (around double what a normal album cost). A few weeks later after hasty legal action by record companies, the courts ruled that bootlegs were illegal, and the albums vanished from Curtis.
If you have any memories of the shops, staff or family do drop me a line.