Reno's - 64 Oxford Street

Four floors of gear, always on "sale". Jim was ever present, casting his business eye over potential customers. I think Jim saw us all as potential customers!        


I had not played in a band in the Manchester area for over 10 years but finally my Kent based band started to work further north - gigging in Manchester one weekend.

I was eager to show this band of "southerners" what a real music shop was like and we ended up in Reno's.

Jim must have been really getting on by then - but he still managed to sell us gear we hadn't come into the shop to buy". Nothing had changed!

Also fond memories of an "incident" some years prior to this. We were playing at St Bernadettes and someone said "Jim Reno is here". We thought it odd but after the second spot Jim came up and said how much he nejoyed the group, adding it was a pity he had to repossess the Vox Continental. At least he waited till the end of the night.

Paul Mlynarz (webmaster) Life 'n' Soul (Kent)

I heard a story about Jim Reno. In his later years he had a bad heart attack from which he recovered and sold one of two Stradivarius violins he owned and gave the money to Withington Hospital.

Jim Reno was a very 'down to earth' bloke. I remember speaking to Jack Howarth (deceased) of Harker & Howarths in Bolton about a trade presentation that he and Jim had attended.

It was a demonstration of the latest keyboard from Yamaha or Korg, anyway the product was being put through its paces with all the spiel by some sales dummy from London, took ages to get through all its facilities and potential and finally it came to the part where the presenter asked if there were any questions from the floor on this latest wonderful answer to the keyboard player's dreams......first up was Jim who said......'I'm very impressed with your machine son but tell me.....can I sell the bloody thing?'

Paul Shaw

Remember a drummer coming in and asking for sticks with his name on. I asked "Who are you" and Denis Greenwood was nudging me telling me it was Buddy Rich.

Also sold Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys a fuzz box before a show at the Odeon.  Went on a couple of gigs with The Barron Knights to "look after" a Triumph 100 watt PA amp they hired after theirs had broke down.

William Danson

I also worked at Reno's. We sold loads of gear - from Fender, Marshall amps, Vox organs, Gibson guitars, Les Pauls, to violins and drums. I worked hard, carrying all that Marshall and Vox stuff up 4 floors.

I was promised commision when I sold the gear. I did about 1200 quids worth and never got any commission - but that's what happened in the 60s.  I made loads of cuppas of tea for me and Jim Reno and staff. I should now be well off but it was the 60s.

Brian Whysker - 13/2/09

Although I was a keyboard player, we uesd to call in all the music shops. I particularly remember the Burns guitar with tarnished gold pickups they always tried to sell any beginners, and the immortal phrase 'Bring your father down on Saturday and he can sign the agggggggreement'.

Martin Tetlow - 4/7/09

I played with a local Wythenshawe group, 'The Cannonballs' and we had a fine lead guitarist called Vinnie Barber. The best group in the area was 'The Skyliners' and Vinny and I went up to see Mike McConnell in his flat above a shop on Minsterley Parade.  He had just bought a white Strat. In those days it look months of waiting for an order to arrive from America and Mike didn't want to wait. 

However, Jim Reno did a deal with Mike so the money was paid and Jim took him to Manchester Docks in Salford. The guitar was handed over by someone on the ship and Jim took Mike home with his new guitar. I don't believe that this was a one-off!

Alan Jackson - 3/4/10

My father bought my first Conn Cavalier tenor sax from Jim in 1936, followed by my clarinet, then Selmer alto in 1937. My clarinet tutor was Chick Purcell, who ran a Sunday orchestral group of up to 40 musicians, and I, with my brother Edwin, who played trumpet with Bill Cotton, attended regularly.

I survived the war as a pilot, went to live and raise a family in Rhodesia, now live in Australia, still have my alto and clarinet, and have played regularly throughout my 88 years. 

Dick Lever - 27/9/10

I worked for Jim Reno around the 1970s. When anyone came for a job he would ask "what do you do?" When you said "I'm a musician," Jim would say "so you're unemployed then ... wages £21.00 plus commission ... never earned any! I was always in debt ... but learned how to brew, and polish instruments; the boiler would now be a health hazard.

I used to do some gardening at Jim's house in Sale. He had an underhouse garage, with the original Morris van still sign written with Renos. Also some of the remnants of the "Reno" drum factory.

The silver cloud was down there too - complete wreck! I recall that he once or twice had the silver lady stolen off the roller, he just shoved an old rag in there. Very eccentric was Jim.

PS An after thought!!! Renos had the longest retirement sale of all time. Anyone remember just how long?

Peter Hamnett - 25/10/10

Chick Purcell is my grandad - what a lovely man he was.

Donna Sullivan - 2/11/10

I used to go in Reno's every Saturday afternoon when I was a teenager ... talk about Aladdins Cave !! I went in to sell my October 1963 Strat to him and he turned on the Scots canniness." Aye , you see, they don't want these now, it's all Les Pauls " He gave me £30 ... if I had gone in to buy it the day after it would have been "Aye, these are all the rage nowadays son ". Happy naive days.

Paul Adshead - 3/3/11

Opposite the Palace Theatre? Long time ago - Bought my first 'proper' guitar from there (as opposed to a home-made one my dad made me)- Rosetti 'Lucky 7'. 12 guineas paid for entirely from saved sixpences- I took the lot in a jamjar and poured them onto the glass counter! Had been ogling this guitar for about 2 years, we used to do family panto visits to the Palace. Renos shop front was straight out of a film script.

PS the guitar was a bitch to play -strings about an inch above the fretboard, loose though!! I believe Paul Mccartney owned one early on.  Happy days....

Steve Povall - 28/11/11

Did you ever venture on to the upper floors of Reno's when it was opposite the Palace Theatre? The top floor housed piles of old amps which would be worth a fortune now. I remember some "Elk" brand amps which looked like copies of Fender amps, also a red Vox AC30 which was oval and had two silver balls on top of it - very space-age looking.

On the ground floor was a Framus electric double bass which was there for years. I now own one of those monsters.

Geoff Phillips - 10/12/11

I bought a classical guitar from Renos in the last few weeks of the 15 year retirement sale. The guitar had apparently been played and complemented on its "ootstandin tone" by none other than Jose Feliciano. £110 later it was mine! Not sure Jose has ever been to Manchester.

I recall he used to have a Les Paul goldtop on display there for years and I used to wonder who the hell would want a gold coloured guitar - me please!!

Dave Rapinett - 23/12/11

Hello Donna Sullivan, grand daughter of a grand chap called Chick Purcell - a lovely man and great musician.

I've only now read your little piece as I've had little time to spare with all the hospital visits. Yes, I was a great admirer of Chick, I carried my clarinet with me throughout the war, often inside the aircraft I was flying, and every time I blew I thought of him.

I saw him after demobilisation in 1946, then again in 1951 when I took the family back to UK from Rhodesia. Again when he was in a band on a Union Castle ship in which I took my family for a cruise, and finally visited him at his home when he was almost blind.

PS. I turn 90 in a few months and still enjoy my clari. albeit by myself!

Dick Lever - 28/12/11 

Jim Reno's real name was Jim Sommerville. He had a pre war Accordian Band which gave him the name RENO.

His shop was a museum with racks of dusty accordians stacked high above the eye level illuminated by the ancient gas lights.

Jim also patented a drum kit where the skins were tightened by an internal rim operated by a winding lever system. The ammount of metal inside made for dreadfull accoustics.

His right hand man was Dennis - a Saxphone player from the Big Band days. He (Dennis) also reffered to our style of guitar music as Micky Mouse Music. He drove an ancient Triumph TR1 car.

Chris Bowden - 2/12/11

Renos is the place our bass player bought his infamous maroon Fenton Weill bass. It was dead heavy. No wonder he didn't move around a lot on stage. Happy daze.

Bob Fordham - 21/9/12

I remember as a kid my Mum taking me to look in awe at Reno`s shop window.

Bought my first elec guitar and amp there in 1962. A Rosetti solid 7 and watkins westminster 14 watt. In 64` it was a Burns Jazz and a Vox AC 30.

In mid 67` I swapped to Bass and as I liked Burns guitars, I got a Vista Sonic ( similar to the Bison without those crazy Horns ) No-way would my AC30 take a Bass, so I coughed up a small fortune and got the latest Vox Super foundation with a huge 1 x 18 cab.

Being a `poser` I very soon added a second identical cab which I recall having to be wired in `series` as the amp head had only one 16 ohm speaker output. The Burns vista sonic very soon became a new 1969 Fender Jazz.

I remember Jim and Mrs Reno well and Denis the head salesman. Jim was indeed a very astute Business Man, but displayed a great deal of kindness and understanding in my early purchases when I fell a bit behind with my HP payments from my pocket money.

Its for that reason I remained a regular and loyal customer right to the end.

Hadge Weller - 9/2/13

Having worked at the Palace Theatre and Ritz Ballroom for most of the 70's, I was thrilled to see your picture of Reno's and the surrounding shops. The photograph holds so many happy memories for me during those years.

Having been inside and passed Reno's on many occasions,I was always amazed at how many instruments he could actually fit in his wall to wall window displays and just about anything you needed whether it be Brass, Guitars or Drums etc he would have readily available.

The Acropolis Restaurant on the corner was frequently visited after Friday afternoon rehearsals at the Ritz, and to this day the Chicken curry (various strengths) made by the lady owner was arguably one of the best meals around.

The Palace Snack Bar next door was an ideal place for a quick snack,and down a narrow staircase inside was "The Continental" a late night drinking club.

Further along was Lavelle's (could be mistaken with the name after all these years) a popular newsagents and confectioners) I think !!!!
Then probably the most popular pub in the block for many musicians and visiting artistes was The Oxford, for a long period of time hosted by a couple called Stuart and Vicky.

Outside the Oxford on Saturday evenings was a man shouting "pink" and selling the sports newspaper with all the afternoon's Football results etc. (I even think his name was Frank !!!) Also in the area I can recall recall The Golden Gate. (Late night drinking club) Beef an Barley ( had various name changes) Salisbury Pub, Barratt's Music Shop, Thornton's Confectioners, the very popular Fagins Nightclub, The Long Bar and many more.

Having now lived in the States for the last 25 years the photograph was like a jolt to my memory. A very happy one !!!!

Dave Miles - 26/3/13

Like many others, I wandered into Renos in the late 60s and was blown away by the sheer number of guitars lining the walls, none of which I could afford. Still, it wouldn't have mattered as very few were left handed anyway! What I remembered most though was a guy sitting on a stool playing "Greensleeves" on a Rickenbacker. He was demonstrating it for some guy who subsequently bought the guitar for his son - who couldn't play a note! The salesman was Les Brazil and I didn't see him again till some time later when he was playing at the Seven Stars at Heywood with the mighty "Pink Engine".

We got chatting and my band "Tiger Fog" played gigs with his on a couple of occasions and Les and I became good friends.

When our bands folded, we got together and formed a band that became "Chalice" and subsequently moved to Australia. Over 40 years later, we're still playing and are still best friends.

Neil Scott - 14/5/13

I can’t remember quite how I came to work at Reno’s. In 1973,  recall their amp repair guy chatting to me in another music shop and said they were looking for a sales assistant who could do more than just guitars. Anyhow there I was as head brewer up, duster and polisher, fetcher and carrier. Denis Greenwood who is mentioned here was a great person, very experienced musician and a gentle soul too. I recall him telling me about his father in law, one Mr Deare, self publishing a book of poetry. He sent a copy to various writers and reviewers one being George Bernard Shaw. The book was duly returned and written in the front piece was ‘ Dear Mr Deare, Oh Dear Mr Deare” signed GBS.

Mr Reno or perhaps he should be called Mr Somerville was a real character, the Reno name came from the dance band he ran right through the Manchester blitz, Jim Reno and his Silver Sax. I believe they never stoped playing even when the sirens sent everyone to the shelters. He also had a string quartet which toured widely in Europe. His collection of high end violins, violas and the odd cello were well known instrument and from time to time visitors would come just to talk violins with him. He had wanted them to be used by students at the RNCM, I recall Sir Colin Davis coming into the shop with a couple of other people from the college. It all came to nothing as the college could not stump up the insurance premium for the instruments to be used there.

Famous faces stepping into the shop included Rick Wakeman and the rest of Yes, Reno turned to me and said quietly ‘keep an eye on this lot, they look dodgy!’ The comedian Tommy Trinder dropped in when up in Manchester buying a footballer for his club in London. He kept us all in stitches for a couple of hours. My final claim to fame is when the shop door opened and a tall figure in an afghan coat and a cowboy hat walked. He asked about guitar strings and if I played guitar what strings I used. Various brands were talked about and then he chose Earthwood Medium Gauge. At which point my brain kicked in and I said ‘you are Neil Young’ and he said ‘ I guess I am son’ paid for the strings and left the shop. I was there for around 9 months, I never got a penny in the fabled commission from sales but it was a great experience and I look back on my time there with great fondness.

 David Lynch - April 2023


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