I've been to that HMV store on Oxford Street many times, though long, long after the era of listening booths (and in-store smoking). I just checked, & I'm a bit surprised to see that it's still there; perhaps the disappearance of their main competitor, Tower Records at Piccadilly Circus, has kept them solvent.
I've never been there, but I used to frequent listening booths in some store in Waco, Texas, and at the University Co-Op in Austin. A music store in Houston had earphones for listening well into the '80s.
The neighborhood record store near where I lived in Indianapolis as a kid had listening booths, but with headphones (and given the quality of headphones in 1958...). I know I did a lot more listening than buying there.
I remember going to Wallichs Music City in Hollywood, CA, which was the first giant music store I knew of. It was located on the north west corner of Sunset & Vine and operated from 1940 to 1978.It was one of the first-known music stores to seal record albums in cellophane and put them in display racks for customers to browse. The store was also the first to have demonstration booths for listening to records. Going there was a big deal when I was in high school.
Our main music store in Wichita Falls (Texas) during the 1950s actually had small rooms big enough for two people or more, and we could check out a 45 record (or several) and go in and play them. I don't remember ever buying one, however. I did buy a record player from them. I haven't thought of them in ages. Thanks for the memories.
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