Sally Bartle, of Cape May, enjoyed several bars in her hometown and became friends with the bands who played there.

Bartle family photo

Many people have a favorite song. Sally Bartle had a theme song.

Almost anytime she walked into her favorite bar, the Rusty Nail in Cape May, the band would break into “Mustang Sally,” the Wilson Pickett classic.

At least that’s how her stepson, Bob Bartle, of Lower Township, hears it. But the truth is that even at 62, Bob couldn’t keep up with the nightlife schedule of his stepmother, who lived in Cape May and died last month at 93.

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“She tried to get us to go out with her, but I’d tell her, ‘Sally, you go out too late. We’re in bed by 10,’” Bob says. “She’d say, ‘Well, I don’t go out until 11 — because the party doesn’t start happening until 11.’”

And she went out often enough that “she knew all the bands,” Bob says.

Jim Raymond saw Mustang Sally’s grand entrances to the Rusty Nail and other local spots for years — and he accompanied lots of them on his guitar. He and his wife, Sindi, lead the Sindi Raymond Band, and they would start right into Sally’s song when she came in.

Jim also noticed the hours Mustang Sally kept.

“She’d always come in toward end of the second set,” he says. “That’s usually when the kids come out and the older people go home.”

Still, when he learned Monday how old this fan of his band actually was, he was shocked.

“I thought she was in her late 70s, maybe early 80s,” said Raymond, whose band mainly plays in Wildwood now. “But she acted younger than we do. She acted like she never had a bad day in her life.”

That attitude is why it wasn’t much of a struggle, wasn’t just a polite obligation, for the Bartle family to stay close with Sally for decades after her husband, Andy Bartle, died in 1983. Andy was Bob’s father and Mark Bartle’s grandfather, and Sally became Andy’s second wife in 1970.

“When I was growing up, she was always at our house,” says Mark, now 33. “And I’d go to her place on weekends. She took me out for breakfast ... then’d we’d go to the beach.”

That relationship has continued into another generation of Bartles — Mark knows Sally loved his two little girls, Kamryn, 4, and Brooklyn, 1.

“She never missed a birthday, never missed a party with the kids,” he says.

So he always knew Sally had a daylight life, too. He says she was known around Cape May as the “cat lady” — because she regularly went out to feed strays. She was also proud of being the oldest member of the Cape May Garden Club, and she loved tending her own garden, Mark adds.

Even as a kid, her step-grandson knew Mustang Sally “was always a party animal,” Mark says, laughing. But until he was old enough to hit the bars himself, “I didn’t know about (her) going out at 10:30 or 11 (p.m.), and staying out until 1 o’clock.”  

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