Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Jerry Wexler Memorial Event

On an exceptional trip to New York City over the past weekend, I traveled there to attend the memorial of a former music industry colleague, the legendary Jerry Wexler. His name is symbolic with many music industry icons covering the musical alphabet starting from A to Z. I was delighted to attend the occasion and profoundly honored by the invitation. The event was co-sponsored by Atlantic Records and Rolling Stone Magazine while being coordinated by Wexler's son & daughter, Paul and Lisa Wexler.

As I ventured across country from Seattle to attend, there was much going on in the city to keep one occupied during this last weekend in October of 09. Plus not to mention, the weather there at the time was exceptional. My single purpose was to attend the Wexler Memorial but there were also other major activities in the city taking place simultaneously. First, there was the World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. Then there was the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert at Madison Square Gardens. Next there was The New York Marathon, a huge event I might add. And of course please don't forget, it was also Halloween weekend. These factors are what produce the vibrant pulse of the city and yield it's energetic charm. In this current cycle of a poor economy, the business climate of entertainment, commerce and fashion were all in full swing.

With expectations being high for The Jerry Wexler Memorial, attendants came to the event from many different locations. Here are some highlights of this landmark occasion courtesy of THE PHOTOLOG.

The Jerry Wexler Memorial was held at the prestigious Director Guild Theater in the heart of Manhattan. Despite the familiar drawbacks of attending a traditional memorial, there was an uplifting spirit and positive vibe in the air.

As you entered into the lobby of the building there was a beautiful oil painting of Jerry Wexler displayed for viewing. As I stared at the picture and drifted away for a moment, I was filled with memories of this remarkable man.

Jerry's son Paul Wexler was the emcee of the grand occasion. His sister Lisa's band named, "Big Sister" performed several songs also. Both Lisa and Paul performed admirably.

A video of Wexler's achievements was shown to the audience displaying archive photographs dating back to his childhood with his parents and family and young adult years. There were also photos from his years while serving in the Armed Forces combined with significant early career pictures at Atlantic with Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Pictured above is a shot from the 60's of the signing of Wilson Pickett (seated) at the Atlantic offices. Standing (L-R) is Nesuhi Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Henry Allen, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Greenberg.

Unable to attend the memorial, Jerry Greenberg is seen here delivering a personal video message commemorating Wexler's brilliant career. Wexler hired Greenberg in 1967 while the two worked closely for many years.

Mark Meyerson was an A&R executive at Atlantic while serving as Jerry Wexler's assistant in the late 60's through the middle 70's. Meyerson delivered a marvelous speech and credited Wexler for his career start.

As the individual speakers completed their stories including a powerful delivery by Wexler's official biographer David Ritz, there were also written notes from Steve Cropper and Zelma Redding reflecting their memories of Wexler. Next, the lights went down and the performers took the stage. Standing on far left is Bonnie Raitt while Allen Toussaint is seated at the piano.

Song crafter Joe South delivers his hit song, "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" while drummer Anton Fig and band leader Jon Tiven provide support (bassist Jerry Jermont in background).

On the right here is William Bell as his powerful voice sends chills through the audience while famed Memphis keyboardist Spooner Oldham (left) and Muscle Sholes guitar legend Jimmy Johnson (center) provide the rhythm. There was also an outstanding vocal performance by Lou Ann Barton plus a show stopping song and story by Betty Lavette that highlighted the memorial.

After the memorial concert two former STAX Records colleagues William Bell and Phillip Rauls reunite and share stories.

Legendary drummer Benard Purdee, former Atlantic Artist Relations Coordinator Barbara Harris and noted bassist Jerry Jermott are all smiles.

Memorial speaker and now 20th Century Fox's Senior VP of Legal Affairs, Mark Meyerson (L) along with former Atlantic A&R executive, Jim Delehant (C) and former Atlantic promotion executive Phillip Rauls catch-up on old times at the Directors Guild Theater.

Long time associates Jon Tiven and Phillip Rauls chat backstage and reminisce about the good old days dating back to The Rock Writers Convention. Tiven organized the band for the Jerry Wexler Memorial event and is also an accomplished producer with multiple credits.

The memorial ended with old friends exchanging hugs and kisses and wondering what might be the next occasion that brings all parties together. Those thoughts might be foreign to some but such is the case with many who were attending this occasion. I know personally that my time spent with Jerry Wexler is a highlight of my career - and also grand moments in my life. Case being, for years I'd brag about the dolphin that was displayed above my fireplace and the fact that it was caught while fishing aboard Jerry's boat named, "The Big A" as in, 'The Big Atlantic.' That small claim to fame was the beginning to many a late night story about Wex. There were many of those stories being exchanged at this memorial. And rightly so. Let's hope that at some point in time there will be a Jerry Wexler video documentary for all of us to embrace.

Love you Jerry. More bass please.

A previous posting of the legend of Jerry Wexler can be viewed at The Photolog's archive by clicking Jerry Wexler.

Copyright (c) Phillip Rauls - Rauls Media LLC - All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey man -

Loved the Wexler stuff, but I was especially fascinated by the shots
below - Hwood Field Trip 1975. I now live above Laurel Canyon, just
past the Chateau Marmont clearly visible in the Sunset Blvd shot.
Amazing what 35 years of overbuilding can do. All the perspectives you
captured in the photos are familiar to me, but they look very different

Rob Walker

8:34 AM  
Anonymous ron saul said...


9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to date a photographer in NYC named Carol Friedman. We had a summer house in the Hamptons one year.

Carol was friendly with Jerry. We went out to dinner with him and his wife twice. The second time was at Jerry's house. (he knew how to live!)

As we were leaving his house late in the evening after an amazing meal and great wine, Carol stopped to admire a gold single for Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman" single. Jerry reached up, took it off the wall and gave it to Carol.

What a guy!

Mike Bone

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the chance to meet Jerry on one of my trips to Muscle Shoals and had dinner with him one night while he was there producing a Lou Ann Barton album. I was in heaven asking him about the early days of Atlantic and all the artists that I grew up with and loved...Ray Charles, LaVerne Baker, Frankie Lymon, Drifters, Coasters, etc, etc, the list is endless. Jerry was truly a legend. Now then, Suzanne and I spent a week in Nashille and Memphis about two weeks ago. I had been in both towns during my Capitol career but never was there long enough to see the musical sights. We spend one day in Memphis seeing Sun Records, having lunch at the Rendezvous for ribs, and seeing the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum and strolling Beale Street. I could have stayed there for a Nashville we visited the CMA Hall of Fame and museum, also the Nashville Musicians Hall of Fame (mainly for the sidemen, etc). Also did one night at the Grand Ol Opry with Marty Stuart and hit the Bluebird Cafe one night to see the songwriters perform. And spent some time with George Nunes who lives in Nashville and is GM of Toby Keith's record label Showdog Records. It was a fun trip and I thought of you while in Memphis. That town has a musical history second to one. Keep in touch...and nice job documenting the memorial for Jerry.

Stan The Man

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Paley said...

Thanks Phil for being my eyes and ears at Jerry Wexler's memorial last week. I had wanted to attend, but Paul Wexler, the son, did not let me know about the date, which he had said he would when he originally asked for my help last spring. Oh well...
Stephen Paley

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great.hoped you liked my dvd Best jerry

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Paley said...

So I will save my photos and reminiscences of Jerry Wexler and all of the wonderful artists he introduced me for my book that I am in the process of writing. Thanks Jerry for the life you gave me!

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Midori said...

Even though I have never met Mr. Jerry Wexler, I was honored to attend the memorial.

He touched so many people and everyone gathered to commemorate his life and legacy.

I enjoyed messages from Steve Cropper and Mrs. Otis Redding which Paul Wexler shared with us.

I got tears when Bettye Lavette told her story that Jerry gave $500 personal check to her when she moved to NY to fish for her record deals.

Mark Meyerson's comment about Jerry's teaching him what it takes to be successful, "Passion and Attention to Detail." These words are still stuck in my head.

Thank you, Jerry Wexler for creating beautiful music and sharing with the rest of the world.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, Phil.

The memorial was not only an opportunity to pay tribute to JW, but to participate in an Atlantic family reunion, and share in the nostalgia that are a hallmark of all good family reunions.

Mark Meyerson

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facinating !!!! I was somewhere the other day, and heard "She's so fine,etc" (wasn't that Robert Palmer?) and thought of you and the singer---music is so joyous and glad that you all had such a great time !!!!

And, VA and NJ voted in REP governors--we are happy !!!!


Sharon & John

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came across your lovely blog devoted to the moving tribute to Jerry Wexler- which I was also privileged to attend.There was so much emotion there- and so many people to re-connect with-- for all of us-- so it's not surprising that we didn't manage to bump into one another-if not on some previous sort of parallel trip through the music which we all have loved and devoted so much of our lives to. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & memories. Deborah

9:24 AM  

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