"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. On the first day God said, "Let there be Light:" and there was Light. On the second day God said, "Let there be Elvis, Chuck Berry and The Beatles." And that was good. Then he inserted Little Richard, James Brown and Otis Redding. And that was real good. Oh yeah...on the third day he was feeling unruly and threw-in The Rolling Stones."
If only there had been a Rock N' Soul Bible giving us a heads-up of legends evolving upon the musical landscape. Yet there actually was
, but not in biblical manuscript form. There were several key industry publications with vast proclamations but outside of their daily hype of who's the next up-and-coming artist, subsequently the next often discussed topic was the wide-range of colorful characters who sat at the helm of the star maker machinery. I'm speaking of the power-broker record executives who moved mountains by making a single phone call. Some of these industry leaders might have images worthy of Mount Rushmore status. With that being said, let us review the Top Record Executives of The Rock N' Soul era.
Jim Stewart President and co-founder of STAX Records was a former banker and country fiddler who opened a recording studio and small record label in an old movie house in South Memphis. Following the vacuum left behind of Rockabilly music by Sam Phillips' 1950's reign of Sun Records, Stewart's STAX Records put the great Memphis Sound back on the map with it's all-original funky sound. As a long time friend and mentor of Jim Stewart, his easy-going style influenced me and many others who had contact with this model executive. Jim Stewart could walk on water.
Barry Gordy's Motown Records created innumerable music legends with his Detroit based record label. As a direct competitor to the STAX sound, Motown was known for it's polished homogenized sound that produced radio friendly records. Yet, Gordy ruled his roost with iron-fisted control which resulted in controversial issues coming from long-time artist. Years later Motown relocated to Los Angeles where it continues to exist today.
Clive Davis had a background as a music lawyer when he took control of the mighty Columbia Records. The New York based label was instrumental in producing musical giants until he was blown-out at Columbia over the misuse of corporate funds. Davis soon landed at Arista Records where he regained major chart control by establishing countless numbers of superstars.
Jerry Wexler was a music journalist turned record producer when he became a partner at Atlantic Records with company founder Ahmet Ertegun. Jerry Wexler was the key person involved in Atlantic's distribution deal with STAX Records in which both companies benefited greatly. Wexler won producer of the year twice and remarkably kept an equal watch over the promotion and marketing department at the label. Jerry Wexler was unrelenting in pushing his agenda and uniquely gifted in convincing others by his powers of persuasion.
Ahmet Ertegun founder and chairman of Atlantic Records expanded his small New York based Jazz and Rhythm and Blues label into a dominant force in global pop music. Ahmet Ertegun had the rare magnetic personality to fit-in perfectly with the international diplomatic set as he was with an up-and-coming heavy metal band. Ertegun could out-talk any politician, out-dress any stylish fashion designer, out-bullshit any hypester, plus he could out-drink them all in the process. Most recently, Ertegun passed away in December of 2006 due to the results of an unfortunate accident. May the great forefathers of Rock N' Soul Music bless his eternal soul.
Please visit the web link below for a glimpse of Ahmet Ertegun's long and brilliant career.