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Friday, December 15, 2006

PASSINGS: AHMET ERTEGUN


THE ATLANTIC RECORDS STORY - Ahmet Ertegun was born in 1923 in Turkey, and came to the United States at the age of 11 when his father was appointed the Turkish Ambassador to the United States. Ahmet fell in love with the United States, particularly the music. He and his older brother Nesuhi (born 1918) collected over 15,000 jazz and blues 78s. Ahmet went to St. Johns College to study philosophy, and did post graduate work at Georgetown in Washington, DC. During this period, Ahmet and Nesuhi hired halls and staged concerts by Lester Young, Sidney Bechet and other jazz giants. When Ahmet's father died in 1944, his mother and sister returned to Turkey, and Nesuhi went to California. Ahmet stayed in Washington. and hung around the Waxie Maxie (Max Silverman's) Quality Music Shop to learn as much as he could about the record business. Ahmet had an aspiration to make records.

HISTORY OF ROCK - Ahmet's father Munir choose the surname Ertegun which means "living in a hopeful future." His mother Hayrunisa Rustem was very musical and a terrific dancer. With a beautiful voice she played every instrument by ear. There was a lot of music in the Ertegun household with Hayrunsia buying the popular music of the day. Ahmet's older brother Nesuhi introduced to many different artists and by age of five Ahmet had fallen in love with jazz. At night they would sneak records into their rooms and fall asleep listening to them. At the age of fourteen Ahmet's mother brought him a record-cutting machine. Taking a Cootie Williams instrumental "West End Blues" he wrote lyrics to it. With the instrumental playing on a record player Ahmet turned recording machine and sang the lyrics into the microphone as the record played.

Ahmet and Nesuhi liked to go looking for old records by the great bands. . . As the brothers became friends with Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and Jelly Roll Morton the decided to put on the first integrated concert in Washington D.C. Having trouble finding a venue where they could hold the event they held at the Jewish Community Center, which was the only place that would allow a mixed audience and mixed band. Later they would be allowed to use the National Press Club's auditorium. . .

While going to graduate school Ahmet discovered Quality Radio Repair Shop which besides selling new and used radios and repairing them sold records for 10 cents or three for a quarter. The store was owned by a man named Max Silverman. Eventually Max would phase out the radio repair business and concentrated on the record end. The name of the shop was changed Waxie Maxie. Soon Silverman got out of used end into the new record business. He as began a radio program where independent record owners came to get their records played. Ahmet became friends with him and it was here that he learned the record business. Understanding what people were buying and why.

In 1946 Ahmet became friends with Herb Abramson, a dental student and A&R man for National Records. Deciding to start a label together they talked Max Silverstein into backing them. There was to be two labels Jubilee for Gospel and Quality for jazz and R&B.


HISTORIC SURVEY OF SHAW EAST - The store at 608 Florida Avenue was built in 1923 at a cost of $3,000 for Newman Zarin. It was designed and built by Israel Diamond In 1937, the Waxie Maxie's music shop opened at 1836 7th Street as the Quality Music Shop with such fanfare that police were needed to control the crowd that turned out for a celebration and jam session that ran from 3 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday. It was opened by Max Silverman, a successful jukebox salesman, who had opened the business as an outlet for his used records. Live radio broadcasts fro the storefront featured performances by Sarah Vaughn, Margaret Whiting, and drummer Buddy Rich. Silverman recalled a young patron that "lived at my store" in the 1940s named Ahmet Ertegun, the youngest son of the Turkish Ambassador. In 1947, he founded the famed Atlantic records, and recorded his own composition by the local group coined The Clovers that was an instant success. Waxie Maxie's success eventually led to the company going public in 1970 at $1 a share, and has added 27 stores to the chain since. In 1989, it sold a total of 33 stores for $11.75 million to LIVE Entertainment, Inc. of Los Angeles. The original location was razed to make way for the Metro entrance of the Shaw Howard University Metro station.

MP3 - Herb Abramson was the first president of pioneering jazz/R&B/pop label Atlantic Records. Born November 16, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, Abramson, who was a blues, jazz. and gospel music enthusiast, began collecting records in his teens. Meeting fellow jazz record collectors brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun in Washington, D.C., in the early '40s, he began promoting jazz concerts in New York and neighboring D.C. Abramson would solicit the musicians. D.C. record store owner Max Silverman of Quality Music Store, aka Waxie Maxie, financed the Quality and Jubilee labels with Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun. After no commercial success, Silverman decided not to invest any more money in the venture and the labels folded.
While studying to be a dentist at New York University, Abramson produced records for Al Green's -- not the '70s singer -- National Records between 1944-1947 and cut sides on Billy Eckstine, Joe Turner, and the Ravens. Ahmet Ertegun, determined to get into the record business, talked his dentist, Vahdi Sabit, into investing 100,000 dollars into his startup label, Atlantic Records. Abramson joined him at the label, along with Nesuhi Ertegun. Atlantic hurriedly recorded sides before the American Federation of Musicians' strike came into effect in late 1947.

MORE ON DC'S HIDDEN ROLE IN MUSIC

DC'S MUSIC ROSTER

BAILY, PEARL
BETTS, KETER
RUTH BROWN
CHARLIE BYRD
EVA CASSIDY
CLOVERS
COUNTRY GENTLEMEN
JIMMY DEAN
BO DIDDLEY
TODD DUNCAN
ELLINGTON, DUKE
FLACK ROBERTA
FUGAZI
MARVIN GAYE
FELIX GRANT
GWALTNEY, TOMMY
BILL HARRIS
EMMYLOU HARRIS
BILLIE HOLIDAY IN DC
SHIRLEY HORN
MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT
AL JOLSON
JELLY ROLL MORTON
PUNK IN DC
RODGERS, JIMMY
SOUSA, JOHN PHILLIP
SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
TAYLOR, BILLY
TIBBS, LILLIAN EVANS
TURNER, NAP
BILL WHELAN

3 Comments:

At December 16, 2006 6:18 AM, Anonymous said...

A great loss.
Ahmet Ertegun may well have been the single most influential individual within the music world of the twentieth century. His mark is everywhere, from the styles he presented, the artists he nurtured, to the means used to record them. Ertegen and engineer Tom Dowd revolutionized recording. At a time when the public was astonished by George Martin and the Beatle's use of four track recording, few had any idea that Atlantic had been mastering from eight, sixteen, and twenty four tracks to stereo for almost a decade.

 
At December 16, 2006 11:47 AM, liquified viscera said...

Thanks for this bit of Ertegun history, Sam. I went to high school with Waxie Maxie's grandson David, and while Dave told me that his grandfather was the Max in Waxie Maxie's, he never told me how instrumental Max was in the founding of record labels or the DC music scene generally.

A side note -- on your list of Washington musicians, you should add Danny Gatton. It's nearly criminal to omit him.

 
At March 06, 2007 10:00 AM, Anonymous said...

Add Donal Leace, billed as Washington's favorite folk singer in the early 60s when he played the Cellar Door and Shadows. He's still playing, writing and recording--he's got a great song about Cuba on his latest CD!

 

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