Sep 192013

Sam Goody

The music fan of the 1970s didn’t have the plethora of resources that we enjoy today. Sure, the popular records of the time were sold at most department stores. But what if your tastes were a little more eclectic? Unless you had a decent independent record store nearby, your best bet was to head to your local Sam Goody, a mecca of sorts for the New York music aficionado.

The story starts with a man named Sam Gutowitz, a man who originally sold toys and novelties from his small retail store in Manhattan. In the late 30s, Sam noticed an increased demand for phonograph records (78s at the time) from his customers and started stocking a few popular titles. He quickly surmised that selling music was more profitable than his other stock. He closed up shop and opened his first music store on 49th Street, which he called Sam Goody. By 1955, this single location was responsible for 7% of all music sold in the nation, and Sam was welcoming some 4,000 customers a day into his store.

Sam Goody didn’t just stock the most popular stuff like other retailers. The store prided themselves in offering not only one of the most extensive record inventories around, but also a very knowledgeable sales staff. They stocked the largest labels and the smallest, including an impressive selection of foreign imports. And while most stores only carried a small selection of 45s, usually just the top hits of the year, one could browse hundreds, if not thousands of 45 singles at Sam Goody.

By the early 70s, there was nearly 20 Sam Goody locations scattered around the east coast, many of which were placed in shopping malls. Then, in 1978, Sam sold the entire chain to the American Can Company. The iconic record store changed hands many times in the years that followed and gradually lost all of the charm of the original. Although the company expanded to hundreds of stores, most didn’t have the floor space to handle the extensive inventory of their predecessors, instead relying on the generic selection of popular music, which further alienated their loyal customer base. By the time the 90s arrived, Sam Goody was a mere shell of its former self, just another overpriced peddler of pop music.

For those who only know Sam Goody from its later incarnations, it might seem silly to fondly remember such an entity, but if you were buying music in the 70s, it’s hard not to wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days of Sam Goody, where one could browse their aisles for hours, finding countless musical gems along the way.

Do you have fond memories of shopping at Sam Goody back in the day? We’d love to hear from all you former customers and employees. Help us relive those glory days in our comments section below, as we pay tribute to what was once a respectable and thoroughly enjoyable music store.

  4 Responses to “Sam Goody”

  1. Goody’s was always a rip-off with sporadic selections and sky-high prices. I always shopped at J & R Music World, downtown Manhattan. They blew Sam Goody out of the water in every aspect. Even Tower Records was cheaper, and they too, charged top dollar.

  2. I recall Sam Goody’s getting in a lot of trouble for selling bootleg 8-track tapes of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. I believe some of the chain’s top executives were eventually indicted for this. One of the witnesses who testified at the trial was Paul Simon. That’s funny, I don’t see his name anywhere on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album!!

  3. I worked in one of those early stores – the first one located outside of the NY area. They did not have 20+ stores until they purchased Franklin Music of Philadelphia. I prefer to remember the information from the first part of the article. The store where I worked was truly amazing at the time for the size and breadth of the collection. There was simply nothing like it within hundreds of miles. Sorry, but Raymond is remembering the years after Sam (and his son Howard) no longer owned and ran the business.

  4. My first visit to New York was in August 1972 and I was suprized to find LP’s at about half the price I could buy them in Europe at that time!So at Sam Goody’s Manhattan store I felt like a kid in a candystore and brought 10 LP’s home..! I still keep them as a nice memory of those “wonder”years 😉

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