The Arbutus Record Show family mourns the unexpected loss of Skip Groff

The entire Arbutus Record Show family was saddened by the unexpected loss of of Skip Groff in February. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family. He will be missed by all of the record collecting community.

Skip’s memorial will be held at the Robert J. Parilla Center for the Performing Arts in Rockville, MD on Sunday, March 24 from 1-4.

Here is his obituary from The Washington Post:

Skip Groff, record store owner who presided over a D.C. punk paradise, dies at 70

by Harrison Smith /February 20

Mark Baily goes through albums at Yesterday & Today, the Rockville, Md., record store that Skip Groff opened in 1978. (Robert A. Reeder:The Washington Post).jpg

Mark Baily goes through albums at Yesterday & Today, the Rockville, Md., record store that Skip Groff opened in 1978. (Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post)

Skip Groff, a radio DJ and producer whose strip-mall record shop, Yesterday & Today, became a vinyl-filled sanctuary, incubator, gathering place and meeting hall for Washington’s punk and alternative music scenes, died Feb. 18 at a hospital in Olney, Md. He was 70.

He had suffered a seizure earlier that day, said his wife, Kelly Groff.

From 1977 until it closed in 2002, “Y&T,” as it was known, was a Washington music mecca. Located in suburban Rockville, Md., the store accumulated more than 1 million 45s, by Mr. Groff’s count, as well as thousands of new and used LPs, CDs, cassettes and music magazines.

“That store was like a clubhouse,” said concert promoter Seth Hurwitz, whose company I.M.P. once sold tickets to 9:30 Club shows out of Yesterday & Today. “It was a gathering place, kind of like a soda shop or a garage in the ’50s. You go in there, and you’d usually see someone you knew.”

Holding court from behind the counter, Mr. Groff steered listeners toward records by the Sex Pistols, Velvet Underground or British singer Kirsty MacColl, for whom he named his daughter. His store was named for a 1966 release by the Beatles, which originally featured a “butcher” cover showing the Fab Four with raw meat and decapitated baby dolls.

Among Washington-area record stores, Mr. Groff’s shop “had the most extensive selection of imported punk records and new wave and post punk,” said Howard Wuelfing, a publicist and musician hired as Mr. Groff’s first employee.

Mr. Groff in 1997, cuing up a record at his store in Rockville. (Robert A. Reeder:The Washington Post).jpg

Mr. Groff in 1997, cuing up a record at his store in Rockville. (Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post)

The store, he added, drew shoppers including Misfits singer Glenn Danzig and Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, who made the trek north up Rockville Pike while on tour in Washington, as well as budding musicians such as Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye.

“Sometimes you go into a record store, and the person behind the counter makes you feel like you have trespassed,” said MacKaye, who co-founded Dischord Records and led bands including Minor Threat and Fugazi. “And sometimes the owner, or the person behind the counter, makes you feel like he was wondering what took you so long. I put Skip in the latter.”

Mr. Groff maintained a wide selection of country and western rarities, rock and new-wave classics, obscure metal singles from Britain and Canada, and a smattering of Top 40 hits. He had initially planned to specialize in late-’60s rock and psychedelia, but his focus shifted with the rise of punk rock in England, which Mr. Groff visited several times each year to buy records.

“When you start selling 15 to 20 Buzzcocks or X-Ray Spex records and one Beatles record, your ideas get changed around pretty quickly,” he said, according to the D.C. punk history “Dance of Days” by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins.

He soon evolved from a punk-music salesman into a producer and patron, hiring up-and-coming musicians at his store and recording many of them on his label, Limp Records. By the early 1980s, he had produced most of Washington’s leading punk groups, including State of Alert, the Slickee Boys, the Razz, Velvet Monkeys, Youth Brigade, the Nurses, Black Market Baby and Minor Threat.

Mr. Groff had never intended to be a producer — “It was just something that was asked of him, and he was happy to help,” his wife said — and largely stopped recording bands after the launch of Dischord Records in 1980. The label was inspired and supported early on by Mr. Groff, who produced its first record, “Minor Disturbance” (1980), an eight-song EP released by MacKaye and Jeff Nelson’s band the Teen Idles.

“To say that Dischord Records wouldn’t exist had it not been for Skip Groff isn’t really a stretch,” the musicians and Dischord co-founders wrote in an online statement. “The very fact that he had his own label,” they added, “was a huge inspiration to a bunch of D.C. kids who had no idea how the music industry worked or that the ability to create records would be within our reach.”

Frank Samuel Groff III was born in Waltham, Mass., on Nov. 20, 1948. His father served in the Air Force, and his mother later worked for the Transportation Department; the nickname Skip emerged out of a pet name she gave him, Skippers.

The family moved frequently, living in Japan before settling in Suitland, Md., where Mr. Groff graduated from high school. He studied television and radio at the University of Maryland, where he worked as music director of the student radio station, WMUC, but did not receive a degree.

Mr. Groff had been “a record fanatic” ever since he saw the Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan” show as a teenager, his wife said, and after serving in the Army, he worked at radio stations including WINX in Rockville. He was a promoter for RCA in St. Louis in the early 1970s and produced records for the heavy metal band Pentagram before opening the Kensington, Md., record store Hit and Run with a partner, Al Ercolani.

“He was more interested in albums,” Mr. Groff once told Washington City Paper. “I was more interested in 45s. So after a couple months working together I just decided it would be better if we had our own separate shops, with our own separate agendas.”

Mr. Groff opened Yesterday & Today in a strip mall dubbed Sunshine Square, paying $450 a month in rent, and worked occasionally as a DJ at stations including WAVA and WPGC. After closing the store amid rising rent, he and his wife — a former customer — continued to sell vinyl through Internet and mail orders and at local record shows.

In addition to his wife of 31 years, the former Kelly Cuthbert, of Olney, survivors include a daughter, Kirsty Groff of Bethesda, Md.; a brother; and two sisters.

Even when he was closing his brick-and-mortar shop, Mr. Groff was eyeing new records. In an interview, MacKaye recalled that he and Rollins happened to be in town just as Mr. Groff was scheduled to move out and went up to say goodbye, expecting to find the place cleared out.

“We get there, and almost nothing had been done,” he said. “Skip was frantically throwing records into boxes.” What had happened?

Mr. Groff explained that he “had other things going on.” He had, it turned out, just acquired a private collection of 40,000 records.

Mark your calendars for our special 4th Sunday show, May 27 – and we have some big news…!

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First, mark your calendars for a special 4th Sunday show this month, May 27 at the Arbutus Fire Hall! It’s 9am – 3pm and always FREE! The gals in the kitchen will be looking up some great food for breakfast and lunch!

Now for the REALLY BIG NEWS! Finally people are discovering what we knew all along. Vinyl never went away and it is coming back strong! You might have seen Janet’s post on Facebook – she was just too excited to keep a secret for too long. Arbutus Record Show is featured in the May issue of Baltimore Magazine all about the Baltimore music scene. First the cover! “Vinyl Mania: The Record Plays On” refers to our article called “For the Record,” written by John Lewis with photography by Matt Roth. It runs on pages 108-111 and concludes on page 159. We thank John and Matt for such a great article!

We are posting each page of the article so you can read it here but you still have time to run out and get a souvenir copy of your own. We are so proud and honored to be recognized in Baltimore Magazine! 

Vendor Chris Armbruster is featured as well as our beloved Miss Freddie and dealers Catherine Bailey and Jack Skutnick. Joe Vaccarino, the expert on Baltimore music, gets a shout out too. Even some of our great customers are interviewed. Patty Reuhl has a mention selling her “snappy T-shirts.”

Our own Frank Reuhl has his quote featured and we think he sums it up pretty well:

“It’s all about the hunt,
discovering the music, and
meeting good people.”

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Bring your “Presidents” to our Sunday, February 18th show and get some great music deals!

Join us this Sunday, February 18 at the Arbutus Fire Hall from 9 am – 3 pm. Admission is FREE! We also have great food on site, serving great breakfast and lunch! Fabulous deals and a wonderful variety of music-related items to be found!

We had a great turnout at our first show of 2018 in January! Janet was seen sporting the new Arbutus Record Show T-shirt (which you can purchase at the show) and her groovy record earrings. Janet and Frank also showed us that they are our favorite sweethearts, doing a little dancing to some tunes provided by our announcer extraordinaire, Derek Shaw.

February means love, celebrating our past presidents and it is also Black History Month. We found some wonderful music that celebrates the great contributions of African Americans to American music history – jazz, soul, blues and pop!  Represented are the great ladies of song, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horn and Billie Holiday; The Story of Jazz as written and narrated by celebrated author, Langston Hughes; albums by Sam Cooke, Etta James, and jazz greats Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie; 60s supergroup Sly and The Family Stone; and pop all-stars like Prince and the Jacksons on picture discs! Even a fun album by the “greatest” – boxer Cassisus Clay –  soon to be known as Muhammad Ali! So come on down and get your groove on this Sunday! See you there!

Come visit us Memorial Weekend for a special 4th Sunday show on May 28!

The show featured in The Washington Post and the return of beloved vendor

This month we have another special fourth Sunday show over Memorial Weekend on May 28th. Take a break from your holiday festivities – and remembrance of our brave fighting men and women – and join us at the Arbutus Fire Hall from 9 am – 3 pm. Admission is always FREE! We have food on site, serving great breakfast and lunch options. Come by and search for some special music items.

We have two pieces of great news! John Kelly wrote a great feature this week in The Washington Post, “At this Maryland vinyl fest, the wax will never wane” and you can view it here or on our Facebook page. It features two of our vendors Greg Greenstein and Tim Harris (he will be there!) Here are a couple of screen shots.

Our second piece of news…after a long absence, a very much missed vendor and all around nice guy will be returning to the show. We were so delighted to see him at last month’s show and thrilled that he will be here this Sunday. Stop by and visit Al Ercolani at his booth to welcome him back.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Join us for the last show of 2016 and come by this Sunday, December 18 and shop for those last minute gifts!

In honor of a great music legend, David Bowie, who we lost too soon this past year, among so many, we thought this would be fitting for the season. Two great music legends on opposite sides of the music spectrum performed this memorable duet in 1977. Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy. 

Hard to believe another holiday season is upon us! Shake the cold and join us this Sunday, December 20 for our last show of 2016!  This is the final chance to get that special gift for your favorite music-lover – or even a special something for yourself.  You can find great bargains and treasures from 9 am to 3 pm. Admission is always free and breakfast and lunch are available for purchase.

Thank you and blessings from our family to all of our vendors and buyers this holiday season. We look forward to seeing you in the new year!

We scoped out some pretty cool Christmas-themed music items last month and we are sure there will be tons more this Sunday! Here is just a sampling:










Fall (and football) are finally here! So is our next show – this Sunday, September 18th (and Freddie is back!)

After our summer break it was fantastic to see so many people at our August show! Fall, football and school have begun and we are back Sunday, September 18th! Admission is always FREE and we are here from 9 am – 3 pm. We also have food service for breakfast and lunch and a 50/50 raffle. The drawing is at noon! As usual there were many wonderful finds and vendors, many coming from near and far, some getting up at 1 am to be there. That is dedication!

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Freddie with our own B Derek Shaw

In August we had an extra special treat – a visit from a true, local music legend. It’s been five years since she came to the Arbutus show but Freddie is back! Anyone who lives in the Baltimore/DC area who loves and has collected music over the past 40 years knows this modest, beautiful lady. And if there is anyone who knows anything and everything about music – from soul to jazz to R&B – it’s this lady. Everyone was thrilled to see her and we hope she comes to many more! Thanks to Derek Shaw, we had a chance to talk to her for a bit – although we probably could have spent hours chatting! She’s got great stories to tell and could write a book (and we told her so!) Derek also found one of her old business cards.

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The Braxtons are her cousins (Yes, Toni Braxton!) For five years she dated a band member who played with Ray Charles. Her ex played with James Brown for 10 years. Freddie attended every show at the Royal Theatre which was THE place to see the biggest stars in the black entertainment in Baltimore. You name them and she has every autograph of every musician you can think of (such as Nat King Cole, Count Basie). She got to go back stage, sat on Otis Redding’s lap and did errands for James Brown.

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Freddie started collecting records in 1957 and became a self-educated student of music. When Road House Oldies opened in Brooklyn just over 40 years ago (sadly it closed but the Silver Spring store is still in operation), Freddie walked in, already an expert and knew more than the owner. She wanted to help and for the first eight years, was not paid “per se.” If anyone had a question about music, Freddie knew the answer.

Working at Road House Oldies was for the love of music. She already had a job at AT&T. Despite a bit of stage fright, she was asked to demonstrate to Japanese and German businessmen how the the first computer chips worked and other advances in technology through the years. She was also a disc jockey on a variety of radio stations starting in 1961 –  WNAV, WKHS, WEBB, WSID and WPFD. We are so thrilled that we had the chance to talk to this incredible lady and we hope to see her sweet smile more often!

We’re Baaack! Join us as the show returns on Sunday, August 21st!

It has been a long, hot summer and we  you hope you have been enjoying crabs, the beach and “dem Os!” The Olympics are almost over and we are so proud of all our Maryland medalists. Excuse the pun, but it must be something in the water!

Arbutus Record Show is ready to rock and roll with wonderful vendors bringing some fabulous new items! Cool off and join us this Sunday, August 21 for some great deals on all your favorite music items. The show is open from 9 am – 3 pm and always FREE! Bring your family, neighbors and friends!

At our June show, one of our favorite long time vendors, “Microdot Man” of MicroDot MindWear, brought 30-40 rare and original, blacklight psychedelic art posters from the late 60s – and they were bought up like crazy! Very popular with bands and the youth culture in the 1960s and early 70s, the posters tried to visually represent the spiritual experiences young people were seeking in a very turbulent era. The style was influenced by curvilinear calligraphy found in Art Nouveau and the bright, intense colors and abstract patterns of of the Pop art movement. Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Who, and Janice Joplin were among the superstars of psychedelic music. For more information on Psychedelia and the Psychedelic movement, go to this link.

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