Everyone loves Sally White. But I’ve loved her longer than most.
Sally is the long-time and very legendary owner of Sally’s Place, the closet-sized, jam-packed, homey and way cool record store, located on the 2nd floor of a little shopping center at the un-chain, non-women’s-clothing-boutique end of Main Street.
I first met Sally when she managed Klein’s record department. (Newcomers: Klein’s was a department store at the site of the current Banana Republic.) Long before it folded, Klein’s torpedoed its record department. Sally was sent packing, but instead of wallowing in bitterness she took Klein’s lemons, and made Sally’s Place lemonade.
Sally came late to jazz, but she took to it with almost religious zeal. Her shop — not easy to find, but unforgettable once you found it — became a mecca for jazz aficionados throughout the Northeast. She’s also a blues expert, and more than once I’ve seen her deep in discussion with Keith Richards about obscure bluesmen. Most times he listens. She talks.
Sally’s encyclopedic knowledge includes show tunes, easy listening and ’60s rock. She remembers nearly every customer, and quickly learns their favorites — but is never shy about suggesting an artist or even genre outside their comfort zone.
In a store crammed with CDs and vinyl, she knows exactly where to find whatever you want to buy — or she wants you to try.
Now a confession: I have not been inside Sally’s wonderful Place in years. Like too many folks, my music collections consists entirely of bits and bytes. I have thousands of songs on iTunes. I listen to Pandora on my computer and iPhone. My enormous CD collection is collecting dust, and I took my turntable to the dump back in the Reagan administration.
I know, though, that if I walked up those steps to Sally’s Place — and, thanks to writing this post, I realize I probably should — she will greet me not with a quizzical look, or as a long-lost customer. She will smile broadly, hug me, call me “Danny,” and point me in the direction of music only she knows I’ve missed, but will love.
(Sally White will be honored by the Westport Arts Center on Thursday, Dec. 10, with a special holiday jazz party. The 7 p.m. event includes the rhythm section of Adam Nussbaum, Rob Aries and Brian Torff, plus guest artists. It’s sold out — but if you want further information, call 203-222-7070.)