Skip Groff, legendary DC punk producer and record store owner, dies at 70
Skip Groff, owner of Yesterday & Today Records in Rockville, MD, passed away earlier this week at age 70. His wife of 31 years, Kelly Groff, confirmed the sad news to WTOP. After suffering a seizure at home, he died at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center.
Skip and Yesterday & Today played a pivotal role in the DC punk scene of the ’80s. He had his own label, Limp Records, that released music by Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Black Market Baby, The Slickee Boys, The Shirkers, The Razz, and more, and Skip produced early records by Minor Threat and others. Yesterday & Today, which opened in 1977, also employed many members of the key bands of the era as clerks, including Ian MacKaye, Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty, Razz/Tommy Keene bassist Ted Nicely (who would produce many famed DC records in the ’80s/’90s), Kim Kane (Slickee Boys), and Velocity Girl’s Archie Moore and Jim Spellman. Henry Rollins helped out in the storeroom packing boxes.
“As a teenager growing up in the DC suburbs, trekking to Yesterday & Today Records was a near-weekly pilgrimage,” says Sohrab Habibion who played in DC band Edsel, and went on to form Obits and, currently, SAVAK. “It was thrilling to go to a place where all of the people who worked there played in my favorite bands and would recommend the records that inspired them. You couldn’t leave without an Undertones single or a copy of the Empire album. It’s a testament to Skip’s understanding of the power of music to have created a place that employed a generation of punks who could share their wealth of knowledge and pass the secret torch of the underground along one 7” at a time.”
Dischord Records posted the above photo of Ian MacKaye and Skip on Tuesday to their Instagram, along with this tribute:
To say that that Dischord Records wouldn’t exist had it not been for Skip Groff isn’t really a stretch.
It was Skip that took The Teen Idles to Inner Ear Studio back in 1980 to record what would become Dischord #1 and it was Skip, having gone through the process with his own Limp Record label, that walked us through the steps of getting a record pressed. The very fact that he had his own label was a huge inspiration to a bunch of DC kids who had no idea how the music industry worked or that the ability to create records would be within our reach. And it was Skip’s record shop, Yesterday and Today, that first sold our records and it was Skip’s trust in us and belief in the label that led him to lend us money to press records when we were completely broke.
Making the trip to his shop became an instant ritual for young punk rockers like those of us who were discovering a new universe of music and culture in the late 70s and early 80s. Y&T blew our minds. The breadth of Skip’s knowledge about music, especially music from the 60s, was staggering and to this day I’ve never met any other person who, given a song title, was more able to name the artist, composer, producer, label, and year of release. He used to say that, while impressive, this talent didn’t really have much of a practical application outside of the record shop (for instance, try putting a fire out with that sort of information), but I don’t think it was merely a party trick. In my mind it something akin to proof of a higher power.
Skip clearly sought and found joy in music and it was through the vernacular of music that he empowered so many to experience the same.
Skip, we love you! – Ian, Jeff, and Dischord Records
Read a few more tributes to Skip, below.
RIP to the mighty Skip Groff of Yesterday and Today records. A remarkable guy I am proud to have worked for and to have called a friend. pic.twitter.com/9isclNsvsD
— Jim Spellman (@jimspellmanTV) February 19, 2019
— Andrew Beaujon (@abeaujon) February 20, 2019
In 1982 we posted in Thrillseeker, our DC punk & more zine, a photo from a U. of Md yearbook that included Skip Groff, a then WMUC Dj who later worked for other stations, startedYesterday & Today Records, & produce early Dischord label efforts. Skip’s smiling 2nd from right. RIP pic.twitter.com/qsXHXXJiOk
— Steve Kiviat (@SteveKiviat) February 20, 2019