[JPL] Morton J. Savada, 85, Seller of 78-R.P.M. Records, Dies

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Wed Feb 20 10:42:55 EST 2008


February 20, 2008

Morton J. Savada, 85, Seller of 78-R.P.M. Records, Dies

Morton J. Savada, who lined the narrow aisles of his store in Midtown
Manhattan with nearly a quarter of a million 78-r.p.m. records, offering
devotees of King Oliver, Ma Rainey, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman the chance
to hear the original sound of nondigital discography, died at his home in
Harrison, N.Y., on Feb. 11. He was 85.

The cause was complications of lung cancer, his son Elias said.

For more than 30 years, starting in the mid-¹70s, Mr. Savada¹s second-floor
store, Records Revisited, at 34 West 33rd Street, was a haven for die-hard
collectors of those rather fragile records, which were popular in the first
half of the last century. By the 1950s, the mostly 10-inch disks, with one
short tune to a side, had been largely supplanted by 45- and 33 1/3-r.p.m.
records; and now, of course, LPs have been pushed aside by compact discs.

The signs marking sections of Mr. Savada¹s store included Jazz, Big Band,
Latin, Country, Broadway, Vocals, Instrumental, Spoken Word (including
comedy) and Rarities. The shelves were 12 feet high, and the aisles were
barely as wide as the shoulders of a shopper. Each of the records remained
in a paper sleeve, often the original.

³It was packed tight, so you didn¹t turn around fast in those aisles, and
there was always the great smell of old paper ‹ the sleeves,² one regular
customer, Rich Conaty, said on Tuesday. Mr. Conaty is the host of ³The Big
Broadcast² on WFUV, the Fordham University public radio station, on which he
plays four hours of records from the 1920s and ¹30s on Sunday evenings. ³At
least in New York,² Mr. Conaty said, ³Morty was the go-to guy if you wanted
just about any 78 you could think of.²

There was no computer in Mr. Savada¹s store; every album was listed on a
3-by-5-inch card. There was also no credit-card device.

³If somebody called looking to buy a record, Morty would take the record off
the shelf, put it in a little cabinet and wait for the check to come in the
mail,² Mr. Conaty said.

But Mr. Savada would not sell the last copy of a recording; he regarded his
collection as an archive and would lend copies to CD producers or for use in
movie sound tracks. In fact, for many years, the store (it moved to the
third floor of the same 33rd Street building three years ago) was a meeting
place for Record Research, a group of about a dozen collectors that tries to
fill in the gaps of recording history. In the early days, many albums did
not list all the performers. The researchers would analyze the records,
sometimes after inviting the performers to help them, and update the

Born in Manhattan on Jan. 7, 1923, Morton Savada was the son of Elias and
Gertrude Barnett Savada. He graduated from Cornell with a degree in
electrical engineering in 1944, then served two years in the Army Signal

Besides his son Elias, of Bethesda, Md., Mr. Savada is survived by his wife
of 61 years, the former Lila Perless; another son, Alan, of Washington; a
daughter, Nancy Marx of Old Brookville, N.Y.; and three grandchildren.

>From the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, Mr. Savada was president of his
family¹s apparel manufacturing company, which was in the building where he
later opened his record store, a return to his childhood passion.

³He was a collector since he was a kid,² Elias Savada said of his father. ³I
assume he made some profit from the record store, but he did it for the fun.
When we were kids and ŒName That Tune¹ came on TV, we always said he should
have been a contestant. Play two or three notes and almost always he could
figure out the song.²

The store, a one-man operation, closed two years ago when Mr. Savada¹s
health declined. The approximately 60 tons of 78s that remain in the
collection are to be donated to a university, his son said.

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