Sally White: The Original Shazam

Sally White’s first customers followed her from Klein’s.

Over the years, she added more — many more — thanks to adoring word-of-mouth recommendations.

The customers are fewer now. That’s what happens when you own a “record store,” and most folks get their music through cyberspace.

But plenty of people still discover Sally’s Place (it’s on the less-fancy stretch of Main Street, just past Elm Street). Once they find it, they love it. And they love her even more.

Sally's Place, on the 2nd floor at 190 Main Street.

Sally’s Place, on the 2nd floor at 190 Main Street.

Claire Bangser is a huge fan. A lifelong Westporter and 2005 Staples High School grad, she first met Sally at age 14, while writing an article for the school paper about “Westport’s best kept secret.”

They connected immediately. Sally has that effect on whoever walks through her door.

“Her stories resonate with me,” Claire says. “I’m inspired by how much she gives to everyone around her, with absolutely no ego. She reminds me to stay humble.”

But while most fans simply extol Sally — her generosity, her welcoming shop, her encyclopedic knowledge of all things musical — Claire has done more.

She made a video about this quiet Westport legend. It’s called “Back to the Basics.”

Sally White video

Claire had always been an artist. She got into film just last year — traveling on a National Geographic Young Explorers grant to Turkey and the South Caucasus — but she has nailed her 1st-ever video portrait. It’s filled with a little history, a little background jazz music, and a lot of love.

“Sally is the original Shazam,” says Claire, referring to the owner’s astonishing ability to hear 2 bars hummed off-key to the most obscure song, then come up with the title, artist and label. Three days later, the CD is waiting for you. If you decide you don’t want it — hey, no problem.

“I want more people to know about Sally,” Claire says. “The music industry may be moving online, but Sally most certainly is not. She’s a rare gem in a town (and country) that is slowly being overtaken by large chains. She’s a true expert when it comes to music.”

Sally White, in a typical pose: answering a customer's question by phone.

Sally White, in a typical pose: answering a customer’s question by phone.

Claire wishes she could have included more of Sally’s wonderful stories in the video. But she hopes it whets people’s appetites to hear those tales themselves.

Thanks to Claire’s video, you don’t have to actually go to Sally’s Place to experience her wonderfulness.

But you should.

A decoration on the wall says, "Just for the record: Sally I love you."

A decoration on the wall says, “Just for the record: Sally I love you.”

Mount the few steps. You’ll hear great music. You’ll learn a lot. You may even see a devoted fan, like Keith Richards.

Most importantly, you’ll find an amazing woman — a throwback to the days when Main Street was filled with Sally Whites.

And when no one needed a reason to make a video, paying homage to a hometown heroine.

(To watch Claire Bangser’s video, click here.)

18 responses to “Sally White: The Original Shazam

  1. Thanks so much, Dan and Claire. Sally IS the “real Westport.”

  2. Give Sally our love! Please tell her we now live in Jerusalem and think of her often.

    xmiles, B&H

  3. Fabulous video – hope you continue to make more.

  4. Sally is a Westport treasure. And I am forever grateful to her for recommending The Remains to me back in the fall of 1966 at Klein’s.

  5. Wow, what a wonderful way to start the day! Thank you, Claire Bangser, for putting a spotlight on Sally.

  6. Sally is the Best !!!

  7. Claire–I really enjoyed the video.

  8. this woman has a knack for shooting and editing. nice job.

  9. I have such great memories of purchasing music from Sally both at Klein’s and Sally’s Place. Like Claire I was a 2005 grad of Staple’s. I had a very strange taste in music and used to go see Sally weekly, at first getting albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, and finally CD’s. I would walk in and Sally would know that I was coming in for the new Frank Zappa release, or Captain Beefheart, or whatever. She joked about my age and yet, buying Zappa, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, and others, while also ordering Edgard Varese, Stravinsky, Anton Webern, an opera, Tuvan Throat Singers, Thelonius Monk or more. Sally knew I was such a Frank Zappa fanatic that one day I went in the store and she had several professional photographs from a Zappa concert, and she gave me those photos. I loved music, and Sally knew music inside out. If I were still in Westport, I would be in Sally’s Place all the time, and if she moved down here to Tampa, FL I would be her first customer. Great to see this story of Sally. Miss you and your knowledge Sally.

  10. Claire…you are the next generation of the heart of Westport.

  11. Sally is still there???? She sold me my first LP at Klein’s when I was 11 or 12 – Let it Bleed – the back cover said it should be played very loud. Long since replaced by CD and itunes – but wish I still had the vinyl. Sally was the best person in town – ever!. I am sure she still is.

  12. I would LOVE a copy of the vid on DVD! I worked for Sal at Klein’s & had the time of my life. I still visit her at least once per year from Florida. I love her dearly. Let me know if I can make a “donation” in order to get a DVD copy. Well done!!!

    • Thanks for the great feedback! I would be happy to send you a copy of the video on DVD, Randy. Send me an email at cjbangser [at] gmail [dot] com and we can sort out the details. Happy to do this for anyone else interested as well.

  13. BTW many of Sal’s former employees have maintained great friendships over the years, and if you ever wanted to expand the vid with “testimonials” from those who worked so closely over the years, I’d be happy to help you make the connection(s).

  14. Estelle T. Margolis

    Thanks, Dan, for bringing Sally to us today. She sold me the first Beetles records I brought home for my little kids. Sally is a town treasure. Music (and art) are what feed our souls. We could not live a complete life without them!
    We should have a medal for people like Sally and celebrate her wonderful contribution to all of us. THANK YOU, SALLY, WE LOVE YOU!

  15. Thanks Dan and Claire. Great tribute to a wonderful person. My mother would have loved this piece.

  16. She was the best part of Klein’s back in the day and if you’ve never been to her store, just drop in and ask her a question. Amazing lady. Thanks for all 40 years, Sally.

  17. Whether at Klein’s or that very special Place of her own, Sally was Miss Music of Westport, especially Miss Jazz, maybe of the whole world. My sons, in their 50s now, still ask for and remember the trips to Sally’s, and the music talk. She was never to busy to share her experiences and her flawless taste. Where else could I go and discuss Horace Silver
    , a musician I was honored to play with in the mid-late 1940s, and one whose life and career we shared. We love you, Sally.