Death of a salesman

Posted By on August 19, 2007

I met Shelley Tirk in 2005. I probably got his name from Daffy Dan or Brad Bell, proud alumni of Shelley’s Melody Lane school of record sales. Shelley lived in Lyndhurst. He invited me over to talk; he’d be glad to help me out with my project, he said. We spent about three hours together. I never forgot it. I really liked him.

Shelley died, awake, at home, on Aug. 16. He was in his 70s. The cause was cancer. Shelley told me he had cancer when we met; I saw him one more time after that, at the launch party of my book, “Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories,” where Shelley is quoted — at length. His stories were long but not boring; you didn’t want them to end.

I never saw him in anything but good spirits. He was a mensch, a sweetie – and, as Daffy Dan told me at the funeral Aug. 19, a salesman who “touched thousands.” He was one of a dying breed, a record guy. A hustler with a heart.

Shelley mangled clichés, the rabbi said at the service at the Cleveland Heights funeral home where all East Side Jews seem to be memorialized. “There were too many cooks and not enough Indians” was one of Shelley’s mangles.

Shelley bought Melody Lane in 1965; the Lakewood establishment remains the oldest continually operating record store in Ohio, according to the rabbi. It’s where Lakewood kids used to go for the latest sounds.

Wonder how long Melody Lane will last? Let’s hope it perseveres like Shelley did; he beat back cancer for a long, long time. The rabbi said Shelley first encountered it in 1993.

Shelley was a nice man; he was gracious to me and, apparently, wonderful to his kids. His son, Ryan, choked up when he told the hundreds gathered to honor Shelley that he never heard his father saying he hated anything and that no matter how much he traveled, Shelley never felt distant to his family.

The rabbi said Shelley was selling to the end. Only recently, Shelley told him about a great buy. “This month’s special is a two-CD Pavarotti album – at a fantastic price!”

Shelley was such a deal.


3 Responses to “Death of a salesman”

  1. Peanuts says:

    Yeah, Carlo, he was the real deal. Like I said when I signed the book at the Plain Dealer site,
    the twice a year get togethers at the Calla Club in Garfield Hts. were like the musical version of the movie “Tin Men.”

    Everyone sits around and tells stories about the old days of retail in music or the concerts or God knows where some of those conversations went.

    Your book helped keep all the memories alive, so you should get some of the credit……….

    see you somewhere

  2. Carlo, yours is a beautiful send off. Nice job handling what sounds like a gentle soul. You make me wish I met him. You can do my epitaph if I beat you out.

  3. Ryan Tirk says:

    Carlo, thank you so much for the touching tribute to my father, Shelly Tirk. He truly was an amazing person, and I owe everything I am to him. Of all the things written and said about my Dad since his passing, yours remains the one most touching to our family. And thank you, too Peanuts. You’re one of the first people I met in the Cleveland record scene. From your days at the REAL Scene and my days as a 9 year old kid helping out Brad Bell behind the counter.

    Ryan Tirk

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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: