National Record Store Day: My Love Affair With Leeds' Jumbo Records

To mark Record Store Day As a gateway to the music world this independent record shop is hard to beat. Our man names it his favourite record shop of all time.
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To mark Record Store Day As a gateway to the music world this independent record shop is hard to beat. Our man names it his favourite record shop of all time.


Little shop of genius

When I left school in the early 80s I didn't go to university I went to Jumbo Records in the (Avid) Merrion Centre in Leeds. Not to work, no matter how many times I asked, just to hang out. I'd go listen to what they were playing, to read the handwritten lists of import singles, to flick through the album and twelve inch sleeves in their clear plastic covers, to read the small musicians wanted notice board and look at the fanzines. It was a world of weird names, great sleeves and amazing sounds. King Tubby, Dead Kennedys and Joy Division were everywhere. Jumbo had a sense of style. It was a small but clean, brightly lit unit with a counter and one central island full of sounds, and their singles bags had an elephant logo on them. With the exception of the floor and the ceiling everywhere was covered in records, the place was a bolthole for people who were passionate about new and rare music and collectors of coloured vinyl. There was fuck all to do on the dole in Leeds in the early 80s and walking skint to Jumbo was the highlight of the day. For such a small place they had a lot of staff: Hunter and Lornette who owned it, Mike with the long goth hair,  Choque from Salvation and later Black Star Liner with the terrible shirts, Trevor with the soul moustache. I loved it in there, it was the best thing about Leeds. A trap door to the life I wanted and not the one that was on offer.

Here's how Hunter got into music retail:

"The starting point might be back in the early 60's when I became involved in music when my brother joined a group/band and they needed some transport. I can't play an instrument or sing (believe me I've tried but it can be very painful for the listener), so I bought a van and soon got known by other local bands as a decent bloke to contact to get them from A to B.  Bands came and went and the last one I was running around and managing split up suddenly leaving me with lots of equipment stuck in the van. A couple of DJs got in touch and we purchased the PA equipment, bought some decks and they started a mobile disco with me running them about. Within about three weeks we got so busy that I had to be shown how to spin the decks so that we could honour all our bookings. From this start I ended up working for the Mecca Group and playing in night clubs etc. The shop just came along by accident with no master plan, seemed like a good idea at the time, and I certainly had no idea I'd still be doing it nearly 40 years later..."

And we borrowed this from their website:

"Hunter Smith established Jumbo Records in September 1971, the name and logo coming from the successful disco and DJ business he was involved with called Jumbo Mobile Discotheque. The shop was started on the suggestion of an acquaintance who wanted someone to sell records at the back of his cassette and tape equipment store to encourage customers to come in. Hunter, still DJ-ing in the evenings around the clubs and dance halls of the area, and not being one of the most early of risers, decided, after a lot of deliberation, to take up the offer. Some loans, shop fittings and stock were organized, and he set off trying to learn as much as possible about the business and keep abreast of all the new releases each week (the Tams - "Hey Girl Don't Bother Me" was at number 1 in the charts followed by Rod Stewart - "Maggie May", plus Isaac Hayes - "Black Moses" was our first good selling album). Within two months the 'acquaintance' got greedy; he wanted Hunter and his kit out so that he could use the space for himself. Needless to say Christmas and New Year 1971 was a worrying time. Deep in dept and with all stock in a lock up garage, Hunter trudged off around Leeds to find somewhere to trade from to try and pay the bills. Eventually a small room was rented for £5 per week, on the balcony of the Queens Arcade. The fixtures and fittings were squeezed in, some having to be left in the lock-up garage due to lack of space. A large part of the existing stock was sold to 'a man in the trade' for less than cost, in order to release some cash to help reduce the ever-increasing pile of bills.

Hunter then stuck to selling mainly singles (hits of the day plus imports and all the latest soul and reggae releases). People would call by to ask for the 'tunes' they had heard on an evening, and DJs were encouraged to purchase their records in the store. By late 1973 a full time member of staff was required to help serve the ever-increasing flow of customers coming through the door. Enter Trevor Senior - yes, that's the Trev who's still with us - he came to help over Christmas, but we didn't sort out which Christmas!

By 1974 we were running out of space and the property was due for redevelopment, so a move to 102, Merrion Centre was completed in the September of that year. By this time, Lornette, who is now the driving force behind the business, was helping out on a weekend whilst training to be a teacher through the week. Trading was good in the Merrion Centre to start with, but then we seemed to lose our way a little and sales stagnated (good job the evening DJ-ing was still going).

Then in 1977 - BANG! - along came punk rock. We seemed to be in the right place at the right time. We broadened the range of music we stocked and this period gave the framework to what we are today. Finally, in 1988 we needed more space and a modern shop unit to sell and display the wide choice of music we now stock - so here we are, at 5/6 St. Johns Centre, Leeds: over 30 years and still trading."


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"There was fuck all to do on the dole in Leeds in the early 80s, walking skint to Jumbo was the highlight of the day."