'Mystery' passed down four generations of a Liverpool family

Paula Quinn at the newly opened Musical Box Record, Archive-Museum
Paula Quinn at the newly opened Musical Box Record, Archive-Museum -Credit:Photo by Andrew Teebay

'A "mystery" passed down four generations of a Liverpool family has now been solved after decades.

Dating back to 1947, The Musical Box record shop on West Derby Road in Tuebrook first sold toys and LPs to customers before becoming the business we know today. The city's oldest record shop, it has an extensive history spanning over seven decades and was originally owned by Diane Cain's uncle Jack.

Diane's mother, Dorothy, later bought the Tuebrook shop and as her mother's passion for music grew, the business became solely a record shop. Today, The Musical Box is run by Diane's son Tony and his wife Paula, with her grandsons also helping and running the social media accounts.

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Through the decades, the family has kept and preserved many items from the past surrounding the shop's history and Liverpool's music heritage. In 2022, ahead of their appearance on BBC's Antiques Roadshow, specialist Wayne Colquhoun visited The Musical Box, which inspired them to transform Dorothy's former upstairs living room, which for years had been a stockroom, into a second shop floor and museum to display some of their history.

Taking 14 months to complete, The Musical Box never shut during the upstairs renovations and on December 9 last year officially opened their new heritage museum to the public, with Wayne Colquhoun attending to cut the ribbon. But more treasures have since been found - one which has led to a 60-year-old family mystery being solved.

The Musical Box Record Shop on West Derby Road in Tuebrook is about to reach a milestone birthday. Thought to be the oldest surviving record store in Liverpool, it's run by owners Tony Quinn and his wife Paula. Pictured, Tony Quinn's nan Diane Cain (shop's original owner) next to two-year-old Tony in the arms of his mum, Diane.
Diane Cain with her mum Dorthy and son Tony inside The Musical Box Record Shop -Credit:The Musical Box Record Shop

Paula Quinn told the ECHO: "When we were doing the renovation we were looking through the stockrooms and cupboards to see what we could find to display on the walls because we love preserving the history of the family and the shop. In one cupboard there was loads of documentation from record companies because the family didn’t throw much away.

"There had been decades of the shops old paraphernalia scattered around the building including vintage record players, documentation from old record companies, stacks of record magazines, books, record company catalogues, posters. Then I found some little books tucked in between.

"I wasn't quite sure what they were at first but when I looked at them they were the record sale logs that Tony's nan had logged so she could keep track to reorder stock. In the cupboard I unearthed over 20 old record sales logbooks dated between 1958 and 1990.

"Dorothy would log the names of the artists in the book and if another copy had sold, she would mark the sale with a tick next to the name. I couldn’t believe what I had found when I noticed the dates and the artists names that were logged in the books such as Elvis Presley’s King Creole and Jailhouse Rock EP’s also Chuck Berry's Johnny Be Goode, and Buddy Holly's EP 1958 with their respective quantity sold ticks displayed next to them and their prices."

Paula said her first thought was to research The Beatles record sales and so far has found 22 logs of their records on release days. The Beatles Museum in Mathew Street have since recommended showcasing them at the museum along with historic documentation and artefacts from The Musical Box.

Tony and Paula Quinn at the newly opened Musical Box Record Archive-Museum
Tony and Paula Quinn inside the Musical Box Record Archive-Museum in Tuebrook -Credit:Photo by Andrew Teebay

Now with the help of the museum, the family were able to help solve a decades old mystery passed down four generations. Paula said: "The story is that Tony's nan heard some girls shouting ‘that was The Beatles’ when two young guys left the shop in the early 60s.

"We never knew who it was, we’ve only ever been able to tell the story. The family presumed one was Pete Best as he lived local, but we were never able to know.

Liverpool's oldest record shop, The Musical Box, has recently found documents from their past while renovating. This includes logbooks of sales going back decades
The Musical Box, has recently found documents from their past while renovating -Credit:The Musical Box
Liverpool's oldest record shop, The Musical Box, has recently found documents from their past while renovating. This includes logbooks of sales going back decades
Logbooks of sales going back decades from the family business -Credit:The Musical Box

"The museum has asked Pete Best and he has confirmed that both he and John Lennon were frequent visitors of The Musical Box when John stayed at Haymans Green. He said we would check out what was new and have a chat with Dorothy - Tony’s nan.

"We always called it our ‘magical mystery’ and to think that if we'd never found these old logbooks in the cupboard, we would never have known about Pete Best and John Lennon being customers of our shop. We were so excited and to have it confirmed by Pete Best himself - it's been fantastic for the family."

Paula said the shop is now also included as a stop on Beatles guided tours and that they now have some of the logbooks on display in a cabinet for customers to see. She said they are thankful for the help from The Beatles Museum and eventually they intend to make digital copies of the logs to display them on a screen at the shop.

The family are always keen to preserve the history and the legacy of their business, as well as musical heritage or the city and artists from further afield. Paula said for the artists still with us, she'd love to reunite them with the pieces of their past they have found in The Musical Box.

Paula said: "Of all the artefacts we have unearthed so far during the shops on going renovation, the gold has been the discovery of the record sales logbooks as they lead us to The Beatles Museum and for them solving our 60 year old magical mystery that John Lennon and Pete best were once frequent visitors of The Musical Box. It's more than just the logs, it’s the history of our business and the musical heritage of the city.

"We’d love to be able to get this history out and it would be wonderful for these artists to know this is the roots of their music, where it all began. There's so many on the first day of the releases as well.

"There’s just masses of information there. We’re yet to start on our renovation of the downstairs stock room, so we’re excited to see what gold will be unearthed there."

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