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.
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.
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“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.
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