Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop began in May 1946 when Doug Dobell’s father made space in the corner of the family antiquarian bookshop at 77 Charing Cross Road for his son to sell from a couple of cardboard boxes. Opening with stock consisting of just sixty records from Doug’s collection, trade increased steadily until 1955 when it became a dedicated record shop after his father’s retirement. The business would continue (moving in 1981 to 21 Tower Street) until 1992 when it went into liquidation.
An exhibition at Chelsea Space, curated by Donald Smith and Leon Parker, pays tribute to the shop which acted as a magnet for all British fans and musicians of jazz, folk and blues in addition to attracting all the big (and small) name visitors from America where their imported records could be found. Hipsters would hang out at "The Record Shop with the Club Atmosphere", discover music in the listening booths and find out what else was happening in town.
In 1957, Doug Dobell with Brian Harvey and John RT Davies formed their own label – 77 Records - to issue limited editions (99 copies) of LPs, EPs and 78s of emerging artists they liked such as Alexis Korner, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Lightnin’ Hopkins. 1963 saw a young Bobby Dylan record in their basement as Blind Boy Grunt on Richard Farina and Eric Von Schmidt’s self-titled album, released on Dobell’s Folklore off-shoot and is proudly displayed here (safely beneath glass).
Also on show are photographs of the exterior and interior (some great ones by Val Wilmer), the shop’s carrier bags, records, posters and even the original shop sign, opening hours sign and a record rack. One cabinet features a series of 25 photographs taken by David Redfern at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival which were commissioned by Dobell’s and sold as a box set, Jazz Photo 67.
David Redfern was there last night and gave a talk about his incredible career. He’s taken photographs of all the rock and roll “greats” but it was very apparent his real love is jazz as he treated us to a hour of his pictures and funny anecdotes about rioting trad jazz fans versus modernists, Louis Armstrong, Gene Vincent, Ike & Tina Turner, Marianne Faithful, Beatles, Stones, Nina Simone, Ronnie Scott, Buddy Rich, Miles Davis, James Brown, Jimmy Smith, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, BB King, Frank Sinatra, John Lee Hooker and dozens of others, right up to the present day. Still working hard David only last week returned from New Orleans after taking photographs of 83 artists in ten days.
Although reluctantly moving from film to digital photography old habits die hard with Redfern, pouring scorn on those who take 300-400 images in quick succession. “That’s not photography" he said, "that’s button pushing”.
For more about Dobell’s – including a Spotify playlist with tracks from all the albums shown on their carrier bags (I'm sure I remember Monkey Snr bringing home plenty of these when I was a nipper) – plus loads of other stuff about old record shops see Leon Parker's British Record Shop Archive. David Redfern’s The Unclosed Eye, a collection of his photography spanning four and half decades is available here. Dobell’s Jazz Folk Blues at CHELSEA space, 16 John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU until Saturday 18th May 2013.