Upper Darby, Pa. record store owner has a collection in the millions

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
This local record store owner has a collection in the millions
If you've never stopped at R&B Records in Upper Darby, you better know what you're looking for. Owner Val Shively has a collection in the millions.

UPPER DARBY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- If you've never heard of R&B Records in Upper Darby, the owner probably doesn't want you there, unless you already know what you want. The older and more obscure, the better.

"I sell records. I sell enough to still be here. But I love to buy, that's my game. That's me at my best," said Val Shively, who's owned the store since opening it in 1990.

Don't plan on sticking around too long either - he doesn't want you inside; he'd rather do business by mail.

"This is a landfill, not a record shop," he said. "I said, 'Gotta get a place where I can put it all in one room.' So that's where this place comes from."

Shively's obsession with music started decades before the store opened when he started collecting in the 50s.

"I heard this record 'Don't Be Cruel' by Elvis Presley when I was 12 years old, and I went nuts. I don't know what it was. It just hypnotized me or mesmerized me or something," he said.

He couldn't focus on anything else.

"I didn't care about school or my job or anything else, all I wanted was that music," he said

The only thing Shively cared about was collecting his favorites: "group harmony records."

The sign on the door to R&B Records reads:

"We're Closed If:

You're soliciting

You don't know what you want

You don't have any money

You can't understand this sign

We're Open If:

You know what you want

You have money

You're easy to deal with."

As intimidating as his sign on the door seems, Shively says that's the magic behind his marketing. He knows his customers will be serious and curious. They'll need to know what's inside.

"If you want something nobody's ever heard of, and you see the signs 'do not enter' and 'keep moving,' that brings people in here," he says.

It could be the largest collection in the world, but if you ask him for a firm number, it gets a little tricky. All he knows is it's in the millions.

"I don't care. I ain't counting nothing," said Shively.

And to him, it's priceless.