When The Music Died

Sally’s Place — the last record store in Westport — closed 2 years ago. It marked the end of an era, for devoted fans like Keith Richards and all the rest of us regular Joes.

Once upon a time, record stores were stacked up here like 45s on a spindle.* Sally bought her beloved store after she left Klein’s. At one point, there were not 1 but 2 Sam Goody’ses within shouting distance of each other on the Post Road, a musical version of today’s nail spas or banks.**

The Record Hunter occupied space next to Remarkable Book Shop — the now-forlorn corner of Main Street abandoned by Talbots. Jay  Flaxman oversaw that store, allowing teenagers like me to hang out, discover Richie Havens and Phil Ochs, and very occasionally even buy something.

Long before my time there was Melody House. A Main Street fixture, it apparently featured “listening booths” that were quite the rage in the doo-wop days.

Jean Rabin

Jean Rabin

Overlooked in most memories is Record & Tape of Westport. Clunkily named, and a bit removed from downtown — located in Compo Shopping Center, where either Planet Pizza or the Verizon store is today — this was simply one more spot to buy (duh) records and tapes.

But it too was a great place, and a labor of love. Owner Jean Rabin presided joyfully over its narrow aisles. She knew each customer’s likes, and enjoyed recommending (in her gentle Southern accent) new artists based on those preferences. If you didn’t like something, she gave a full refund — no questions asked.

It must have been hard, running an independent record store in a town filled with others (and a couple of chains), but she never complained. She loved music, she loved the diverse group of customers who shopped there, and she loved Westport.

Though she lived in Trumbull, she spent time here even after closing her shop. This past summer, I saw her at Compo. We talked about many things — including music.

Jean Rabin died last week. She was 79 years old.

Years from now, I can’t imagine anyone writing such a fond remembrance of Pandora, Spotify or iTunes.

(Visitation is tomorrow [Thursday, October 8], 6-8 p.m. at Spear-Miller Funeral Home, 39 S. Benson Road, Fairfield. A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, at  Greens Farms Congregational Church. Donations may be made in Jean’s honor to the American Heart Association or Susan G. Komen for the Cure.)

*Kids: Ask your parents.

** Clever reference: One of the stores is actually, today, Patriot Bank.

17 responses to “When The Music Died

  1. Thomas Kretsch

    She was a sweet lady and it was a wonderful place with a fine collection of music. I remember a guy who worked there with a beard who was a good guy and knowledgeable with music. The music hasn’t died as Don Mclean said but a very big part of it has with the disappearance of record stores.

    • Deb Rosenfeld

      I think the guy with the beard was Eric Schulhof. Superb guitarist with a very deep knowledge of music.

      • Flav Freedman

        I remember him too. My Father used to bring me here all the time. He purchased many of his classical music recordings from there. They were always very knowledgeable.

  2. David Schaffer

    Don’t forget Barker’s, they sold records there too. That is where I bought my first ever 45s. But R&T was a good place, RIP Jean.

  3. Sad to read this news. Jean managed both Sam Goody’s, the one where Patriot is now and the original location in what is now Qdoba. When Jean first moved her, she rented an accessory apartment from my mom, too. Like you Dan we’d see and talk to Jean and her husband Monte.

  4. One quick memory. Jean would be open on Christmas Eve (regardless of store) and invite customers in to say hello and enjoy a bit of an adult beverage (in the spirit of the season). As noted she was always welcoming and warm to all.

  5. So agree with Thomas that a big part of the good music died when vinyl became obsolete although there are some really good alternative young artists (hard to find) who don’t get the spotlight as they should and would have back in the day. You could go into a shop such as Jean’s and get guidance to good music that wasn’t in the top 100. RIP — Jean.

    I mean – Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan vs Lady Gaga, or Nikki whomever wearing a pope costume to the music awards one year and — what’s up with that?? Auto tuned. Aretha needed no auto tune and can still belt it out in her late 60’s. My gym playlist doesn’t go much past 1982 sorry to say with a few exceptions. Call me old but… Also, so sad to hear from this post that the legendary pink corner of Main is still deserted. Hope something wonderful comes in soon as that corner deserves another legend. That corner with it’s memories is as etched in my mind as Compo and the old Y on the other corner of Main.

  6. An ongoing music resource in this vein is Bob Lefsetz’s newsletter/blog http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/

    He’s a Fairfield-to-LA transplanted music industry pro from that era who writes about the music and times that Sally, Jean and others lived.

    His daily newsletter is a must-read of music fans of a certain age. – Chris Woods

  7. I remember Sally well from the days she ran the record dept at kleins all the way up to recent years… a wonderful lady who always had a smile and remembered me even if I d been away for years and no one knew more about music especially jazz… a first class lady the likes of which are rarely seen today. Once I wanted an out of print record… Sally went home and taped her copy for me.. for free of course.. a Westport legend……

  8. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    Hey there, all you guys and gals down at the sweet shoppe: As suggested by my posts to Woog’s Wonderland here, I came of age in Westport in the 1950s. (Staples ’53) I remember the Remarkable Book Store but there was a record store in Westport at that time, and I don’t recall it being in the same building as RBS. I don’t think It was The Record Hunter, because the man and woman who ran it — her name was Hope — were in their forties even then, which suggests Dan Flaxman would have been a teenager at the time, as I was. It was in this shop that I purchase my first LP — a Columbia recording that featured “EIne Kleine Nachtmusik.” I also purchased a stereo record player. It was a beautiful, tabletop device finished in wood and had speakers on both sides of the device. Anybody here recall the name of that record shop?

  9. Julie Buoy Whamond

    Jean Rabin was one of my favorite people when I was in high school. I would spend a lot of time in her store alone or with my dad. We wouid spend hours thumbing through the same racks we had thumbed through the week before just to spend time in our favorite store in town. She knew us, knew our names and always found what we were looking for. If she couldn’t she’d look some more and call us when she did. Jules I found that Cure album you wanted or you have to come in and pick up the new R.E.M. I can still see the store and the layout in my mind and I loved pulling up to the storefront in my “71 convertible bug (still got it and it still runs like a dream) and seeing Jean at the door to greet me. I was devastated when she closed, but we kept in touch and sent cards to each other at the holidays. That feeling of devastation has returned knowing that she is gone. Rest in Peace Jean. You will be missed.

  10. Westport Hardware had a listening booth too, on the lower level in back facing Harder-Parking. You could play 78s or 45s before buying. Even a kid was allowed to do it!

  11. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    From J. Wandres again: I opened up a long-abandoned memory cell in my head. I think the last name of the couple who ran the un-named music shop was Poor (that’s not a joke). She may have been Paige Poor. Him? Dunno.

  12. I worked for Jean at Sam Goody and would help out during holidays at Record and Tape. She was a very sweet soul and a gifted manager. Jean appreciated the people who worked for her and she knew how to manage different personalities to field a great team. We had a classical expert, jazz expert, and the fastest growing audio sales in the Goody chain Jean was deservedly a star with Sam for her results. Most important, she managed her customers so they kept coming back, which is how her stores succeeded and persisted in good times and bad.

    I didn’t realize just how gifted of a manager she was back then, when I was a kid. But I can appreciate her magic now. Thank you Jean….and condolences to Monte, also a sweet soul.

  13. I used to shop there all the time when I worked at CVS in the 80’s. She was a sweetheart. I remember her reserving new releases for me. I really enjoyed that place. Nothing is the same anymore.

  14. bought my first record from Mrs. Neary at Neary’s Electric (same side of Main as Dorain’s and Greenbergs) in 1947. John Ohanian had started me on trumpet, and i walked into the store and asked for a trumpet record. she couldn’t seem to believe that a child my age wantedto buy a record, but she sold me a 78 of Harry James playing Ciribiribin. when my dad, Roger Neidlinger, passed away in Florida, i gave many albums of 78s to the Salvation Army, all of which he had purchased at Neary’s.
    the first LP i ever bought was from Tyler Long, a somewhat successful opera
    singer, who had his store on the same side of Main as Walt’s (Mobil) Gas Station and Klein’s, almost to the Y. the LP was a record of the Dvorak ‘cello concerto, played by my teacher, Gregor Piatigorsky, with the Philadelphia Orchestra. i still have it, and it sounds way better than the CD reissue !
    don’t know what became of Mr. Long, but he sold me a lot of good sides.
    the long playing record was invented by William Bachman (of Southport)