Tag Archives: Sally White

Tributes Pour In For Sally White

Sally White was not an internet person. She much preferred interacting with people, face to face.

But when the longtime, much-loved owner of Sally’s Place — and before that, manager of Klein’s record department, and Melody House worker — died of cancer yesterday at 88, every online platform was filled with memories.

Generations of Fairfield County men and women (and teenagers) were Sally’s customers — and friends. She influenced literally tens of thousands of us. She opened our ears — and our minds and souls — to all kinds of music.

And she opened her heart to us.

Everyone has a Sally White story. Here are 2 of  my favorites. The first is from Drew McKeon. A Staples High School class of 2000 graduate, he’s spent the past several years touring the world with fellow Westporter Michael Bolton. Sally is a big reason why.

So sad to say goodbye to my old friend, Sally White. I’ll never forget the hours spent sitting one on one, listening to her stories of seeing the greats live (Sinatra, Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coltrane, Dylan, Buddy Rich, Miles), and how much our town had changed since she came to Main Street in 1954.

The wonderful Sally White

She sold me the first jazz albums I ever bought (“Kind of Blue”, “Speak No Evil,” “The Real McCoy,” Jarrett Trio “Live at the Blue Note”), and shook her head every time I came in for the latest Zorn Tzadik release.

I bought my first copy of “Purple Rain” there, and Tom Waits’ “Mule Variations,” and “Bright Size Life,” as well as every album Bill Frisell, Alison Krauss and Belá Fleck released from 1995-2014. I got Nirvana “Unplugged” there too.

She told me the same story about the guy offering to buy her Sinatra poster for $1000 (even though she had 2!) every time I came in, and regaled me with childhood tales about a shy and gentle Horace Silver.

She felt so guilty about declining invites to my high school shows that she gave me a gig playing standards with a quartet outside the shop during the Memorial Day parade.

I cringed every time she cut open a CD so haphazardly, the X-acto knife lunging in towards her abdomen. I’d tell her not to rip the cellophane just so I could obsess over the Winter&Winter packaging. “Hey, they don’t call it Sally’s for nothing — my store, my rules!”

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another browses behind her.

She sold me “Innervisions” and Maceo’s “Life on Planet Groove” and “Babylon By Bus,” and gave me “Appalachia Waltz” for my 15th birthday. She stuffed 2 copies of Downbeat in my bag with every purchase, and tuned in to every episode of the WWPT radio show I hosted with Ted Thompson. My obsessive love for Joni and Edgar Meyer was born and fostered at 190 Main Street.

I, like so many other local musicians, am so thankful to have had Sally recognize and encourage my unquenchable thirst for music of all styles at a young age. I always thought it was so cool that I got my first Miles record from the same badass lady that a young Scofield did, a couple decades before. (I got a shitload of Sco records from her, too.)

Perhaps more than anything, I’ll always remember skimming through her prized postcard collection from the great Adam Nussbaum. He, years prior, was one of “Sally’s Kids” too.

At the time, I couldn’t fathom ever actually going to places like Malta, Cairo or Shanghai — let alone, getting paid to play drums there. But I knew I wanted to more than anything, and she assured me I would “be out there soon enough.”

I hope Blue Eyes is singing one for my gal Sal tonight!

——————————————

And this, from Jim Motavalli. He graduated from Staples in 1970 — 30 years before Drew McKeon — but he too will remember Sally White forever.

With 2partners, I started a record store in Fairfield, circa 1975. It was called Trident, because there were 3 partners — one of whom was my twin brother. The 2 of us had just graduated from the University of Connecticut, where we took not one business course.

We had a plan — we would pioneer the sale of used records in Connecticut — but beyond that we didn’t have a clue how to set up and stock a store. Fortunately, we had a friend, Sally White, then running the record haven at the downtown Westport department store Klein’s. Far from stocking just the hits, Sally made sure that the store was bulging with jazz — including albums from players who lived in the area: Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan (and, later, McCoy Tyner and Max Roach).

We called her, and she came over to talk business. Despite the fact we were planning to compete with her, Sally held forth all evening on all aspects of dealing with suppliers, getting credit, buying a cash register, handling returns, and was endlessly helpful.

I was thought of this episode on learning that Sally White died this week. She had closed her store, Sally’s Place (which succeeded her long stint at Klein’s) in 2013 — a victim of the digital revolution. I’m sure not being able to greet her many friends took something out of her — she’d sold records for 57 years!

After describing the recent revival of vinyl, Jim concludes:

Goodbye Sam Goody’s, Goodbye Tower Records. It’s not likely I’ll mourn the passing of these corporate superstores.

But I will shed a tear not so much for Sally’s Place, but for Sally herself. A real mensch.

(Click here to read Jim Motavalli’s full story, on his music blog Territorial Imperatives.)

Remembering Sally White

Sally White — who influenced, inspired, amazed and befriended generations of local musicians, music lovers and music wannabes — died this morning at Autumn Lake Healthcare in Norwalk.

For 57 years — first at Melody House on Main Street; then running the music department at Klein’s, a few doors away, and finally as the owner of Sally’s Place — she was one of Westport’s most beloved figures. 

In July of 2013, I posted the story below. It drew 57 glowing comments. Her passing will elicit many more.

There is no word yet on services. Whenever and wherever Sally White is laid to rest, I’m sure there will be plenty of great music.

————————————————————————-

Sally White has been selling music on Main Street since 1956.

Sometime this summer, her song will finally end.

The beloved owner of Sally’s Place — the record/CD store where Keith Richards and Mary Travers shopped (and schmoozed) with Sally, and any other music lovers who wandered up the steps at 190 Main Street — is closing down.

She’s not sure when (probably later this summer). And she has no idea what she’ll do with the hundreds of posters, autographed photos and musical tchotchkes that line the way (maybe sell them?).

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

She does know, though, that she’ll leave a business she’s loved from her 1st day at Melody House, a few doors away, 57 years ago.

She also knows why she’s closing. The internet dragged too many customers away. The stagnant economy dragged business down further.

Sally’s Place has a niche in Westport that will never be replaced. I walked in this afternoon at the same time as another customer. She wanted a vinyl copy of “Rubber Soul.” Sally promised it would be in by Saturday.

When Melody House closed in the late ’50s, Stanley Klein offered her a job in his department store’s record section. Raising 2 sons alone, she said she could work only 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also told him how much she needed to be paid. He hired her on the spot.

She worked there for more than 20 years. Her gentle nature, loving presence and encyclopedic knowledge of music influenced generations of Westporters — myself included.

Sally's Place is at 190 Main Street -- on the right, just past Avery Place.

Sally’s Place is at 190 Main Street — on the right, just past Avery Place.

When Klein’s record department closed in 1985, she decided to open her own store. Her brother-in-law wrote a business plan. She showed it to the president of Westport Bank & Trust.

He gave it right back. “We don’t need it,” he said. He trusted her word.

She offered her house as collateral. He refused. He was happy to back Sally’s Place without it.

It’s been an “amazing” 27 years, Sally says. “The bank, the record companies, my landlord — everyone has been fantastic.”

Especially her customers. “They make me feel special,” says Sally. “But I’m just doing what I love.”

Another customer this afternoon asked Sally for a turntable needle. She handed him a phone number. “This is the Needle Doctor,” she said. “He has everything.”

Sally’s musical roots run deep. She’s seen Frank Sinatra on stage. Also Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were close friends. So are many customers who never played a note. All are bound by a love of music — and the treasure that is Sally.

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another one browses in back.

Sally doing what she loves: interacting with a customer. Another browses in back.

“I’ve been working since I was 14,” Sally says. “I’ve been a part of this town for a long time. This is my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”

She’s survived as long as she has on special orders. Bluegrass compilations, rap, the “Roar of the Greasepaint” soundtrack — all are hand-written, in old-school logbooks. People find her from around the country.

She does not charge for mailing. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” she says.

As if on cue, a customer requested “old Polish-American polka music” for a wedding. She mentioned a composer. “S-t-u-r-r,” Sally spelled. “Right!” the woman said.

There is plenty of new vinyl -- and CDs, and random stuff, and musical knowledge -- at Sally's Place.

There is plenty of new vinyl — and CDs, random stuff, and musical knowledge — at Sally’s Place.

She does not stock Lady Gaga. “You can get that at Walmart for 10 bucks,” she says.

You can get it online, too — along with virtually everything Sally sells. Which is why she has written this message (by hand):

After 27 years of business I have decided to retire. The economy and internet sales have made it impossible for me to continue.

I thank you for your support, and hope you wish me well in retirement. I’ll miss you.

“Quick and easy,” she says. “I don’t need the schmaltz.”

But we need to say “thank you” to Sally White. Please hit “Comments” to share  your memories, or offer praise.

And then — whether you’re a longtime admirer, a former customer who faded away, or someone who always meant to stop by but never did — go see Sally.

She’ll be glad to see you.

And her broad, loving smile will make your day.

(Click here to read a previous post about Sally’s Westport Arts Center award.)

Back to the Basics: A Portrait of Sally White from Claire Bangser.

Sally’s Door Still Open

Reports that Sally White would closer her beloved Sally’s Place record store this Sunday were inaccurate.

She’ll be open at least a week more. Maybe 2.

So there’s still time to buy some of her great music stock. Or a tschotske off her wall.

Or simply to say, “Thanks for everything.”

The incomparable Sally White.

The incomparable Sally White.

Saying Goodbye To Sally

In July, “06880” broke the sad news that Sally White would close her beloved Sally’s Place record store.

Current and former residents, music lovers far and wide, and everyone who cared about this warm, wonderful mom-shop owner, reacted with sorrow. They also posted heartfelt remembrances, and heaped praise, on this blog.

That last day is now set. Sally will shut her always-welcoming door this Sunday, September 29.

Her many fans have only a few days left. Go in. Say thanks, and goodbye. Buy one last vinyl or CD.

Sally White deserves it all.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally’s Place To Close; A Westport Era To End

Sally White has been selling music on Main Street since 1956.

Sometime this summer, her song will finally end.

The beloved owner of Sally’s Place — the record/CD store where Keith Richards and Mary Travers shopped (and schmoozed) with Sally, and any other music lovers who wandered up the steps at 190 Main Street — is closing down.

She’s not sure when (probably later this summer). And she has no idea what she’ll do with the hundreds of posters, autographed photos and musical tchotchkes that line the way (maybe sell them?).

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

She does know, though, that she’ll leave a business she’s loved from her 1st day at Melody House, a few doors away, 57 years ago.

She also knows why she’s closing. The internet dragged too many customers away. The stagnant economy dragged business down further.

Sally’s Place has a niche in Westport that will never be replaced. I walked in this afternoon at the same time as another customer. She wanted a vinyl copy of “Rubber Soul.” Sally promised it would be in by Saturday.

When Melody House closed in the late ’50s, Stanley Klein offered her a job in his department store’s record section. Raising 2 sons alone, she said she could work only 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also told him how much she needed to be paid. He hired her on the spot.

She worked there for more than 20 years. Her gentle nature, loving presence and encyclopedic knowledge of music influenced generations of Westporters — myself included.

Sally's Place is at 190 Main Street -- on the right, just past Avery Place.

Sally’s Place is at 190 Main Street — on the right, just past Avery Place.

When Klein’s record department closed in 1985, she decided to open her own store. Her brother-in-law wrote a business plan. She showed it to the president of Westport Bank & Trust.

He gave it right back. “We don’t need it,” he said. He trusted her word.

She offered her house as collateral. He refused. He was happy to back Sally’s Place without it.

It’s been an “amazing” 27 years, Sally says. “The bank, the record companies, my landlord — everyone has been fantastic.”

Especially her customers. “They make me feel special,” says Sally. “But I’m just doing what I love.”

Another customer this afternoon asked Sally for a turntable needle. She handed him a phone number. “This is the Needle Doctor,” she said. “He has everything.”

Sally’s musical roots run deep. She’s seen Frank Sinatra on stage. Also Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were close friends. So are many customers who never played a note. All are bound by a love of music — and the treasure that is Sally.

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another one browses in back.

Sally doing what she loves: interacting with a customer. Another browses in back.

“I’ve been working since I was 14,” Sally says. “I’ve been a part of this town for a long time. This is my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”

She’s survived as long as she has on special orders. Bluegrass compilations, rap, the “Roar of the Greasepaint” soundtrack — all are hand-written, in old-school logbooks. People find her from around the country.

She does not charge for mailing. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” she says.

As if on cue, a customer requested “old Polish-American polka music” for a wedding. She mentioned a composer. “S-t-u-r-r,” Sally spelled. “Right!” the woman said.

There is plenty of new vinyl -- and CDs, and random stuff, and musical knowledge -- at Sally's Place.

There is plenty of new vinyl — and CDs, random stuff, and musical knowledge — at Sally’s Place.

She does not stock Lady Gaga. “You can get that at Walmart for 10 bucks,” she says.

You can get it online, too — along with virtually everything Sally sells. Which is why she has written this message (by hand):

After 27 years of business I have decided to retire. The economy and internet sales have made it impossible for me to continue.

I thank you for your support, and hope you wish me well in retirement. I’ll miss you.

“Quick and easy,” she says. “I don’t need the schmaltz.”

But we need to say “thank you” to Sally White. Please hit “Comments” to share  your memories, or offer praise.

And then — whether you’re a longtime admirer, a former customer who faded away, or someone who always meant to stop by but never did — go see Sally.

She’ll be glad to see you.

And her broad, loving smile will make your day.

(Click here to read a previous post about Sally’s Westport Arts Center award.)

Back to the Basics: A Portrait of Sally White from Claire Bangser.

 

Sally White, Superstar

With all the merchant-bashing that goes on in town (and here), it’s nice to hear a different perspective. 

“06880” reader Terri Gatti Schure sent this “open letter” to Sally White — the beloved (and longtime) owner of Sally’s Place.  It’s one of the last independent “record” stores in America — and Sally puts the “mom” in mom-and-pop shops.

Terri writes:

Dear Sally,

You were the topic of conversation at our recent Staples High School 40th reunion earlier this month. Several of us reminisced about you, and the memories were so fond and profoundly deep. We all agreed that your love of music came from the heart.  You had such passion — not just for the music itself, but for what the music created for us emotionally.

The incomparable Sally White

In 1967, the highlight of my Saturdays was going to Klein’s and listening to whatever you had on the “record player.”  You’d guide me through the latest and best artists, albums, top 10.  I could walk in and give you 2 or 3 words in the lyrics, and you knew exactly what song it was.

So it seemed fitting that this past Saturday, while in town to celebrate my Staples reunion, I would stop by with a dear classmate to see you.  Plus, I had these 2 songs I hadn’t been able to find…

Even though I hadn’t seen you in 40 years, you were the same old Sally.

And those 2 songs? One was about not paying the rent – an old R&B tune.  You wrote some notes in your spiral notebook — just like you did 40 years ago — and promised to do some research.  If anyone can find the song, it will be you.

The other song was more of a memory.  I told you that I recalled my mother sitting at the kitchen table in the dark,  in the late ’50s, smoking a cigarette, listening to this haunting song on the radio.  I could only recall that it had something to do with the earth being bitter.

You ran around the counter, grabbed a research book and then a CD, and said, “here it is!”

You took the CD out of the cellophane — not even caring that I might not buy it — and put it in your player.  “’This Bitter Earth’ by Dinah Washington,” you said.

As we listened to the song I was overcome with emotion, lost in the memory of my mother that night.  I looked at you through teary eyes, and of course yours were teary too.  That is what was always so special about you.  We could share a small piece of our heart with you, and you loved us all, because the music made it possible.

It was a pleasure and an honor seeing you again.  I want to thank you for sharing your music with me this past Saturday, as well as all those many, many Saturdays over 40 years ago.

Warmly,

Teri Gatti Schure

Sally’s Very Special Place

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.

The wonderful Sally White

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.)

Honoring Our Artists

Daryl Wein

Daryl Wein

Westport is an arts hotbed.  Not a weekend passes without exhibits, performances and shows.  We attract hgh-powered names; for a small town, we’re a big player.

But 1 of my favorite events is pretty simple.  Each year Westport’s Arts Advisory Committee honors our own.  There are low-key speeches, a slide show, live performances, and heartfelt applause from neighbors and friends.

This year’s 16th annual Arts Awards take place 2 p.m. Sunday (Town Hall).  All Westporters are invited.  You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy it.

Horizon Awards will be presented to 2 rising young artists — both Staples graduates.  Daryl Wein (SHS ’02) is an uber-talented actor/filmmaker.  His documentary “Sex Positive” has won prizes, and been released in 9 countries.  He is an NYU Tisch School and USC Film and Television grad.

Josh Frank (SHS ’00) is a trumpeter, composer and music producer.  He has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera and recorded with the  American Brass Quintet.  He is a Juilliard graduate.

Sally White

Sally White

Champion of the Arts recipients include Howard Aibel (longtime advocate of the arts, as a director, board member and concert sponsor); Suszanne Sherman Propp (singer/songwriter and music teacher extraordinaire), and — a truly inspired choice — Sally White (longtime owner of Sally’s Place, perhaps the last great music store on the planet).

Heritage Awards will be presented posthumously to 3 giants:  Dorothy Bryce (actress); Mel Casson (cartoonist), and Barbara Wilk (artist).

There are many ways to enjoy a Sunday afternoon in Westport.  Honoring our arts heritage — with our own supremely talented artists, musicians and filmmakers — might just be the best.

Dorothy Bryce

Dorothy Bryce