SOURCE: Atlantic Records

August 15, 2008 13:50 ET

Jerry Wexler, Visionary Music Producer, Passes Away at 91

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - August 15, 2008) - Jerry Wexler, one of the prime architects of Atlantic Records -- as a visionary producer as well as a senior executive -- passed away early today at his home in Florida at the age of 91.

A passionate jazz fan and record collector, Jerry Wexler joined Atlantic in 1953, six years after the company's formation. He had previously been a writer at Billboard -- where he coined the term "Rhythm and Blues" for the genre then known as "Race Music." Hired by co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, Wexler entered Atlantic as a partner, remaining as an executive until 1975, when he left his post as Vice Chairman to focus on producing and writing.

Together with Ertegun, Wexler revolutionized R&B music and the music business itself in the '50s and '60s. A true renaissance man, Jerry brought a rare combination of creativity, intelligence, wit, artistic sensibility, and business savvy to the evolution of Atlantic from a small independent label into a major industry force. He understood music and musicians in a way few label executives did, and was able to inspire them to do their best and most original work.

In his early days at Atlantic, Wexler worked alongside Ertegun to produce groundbreaking records by such artists as Ray Charles, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Big Joe Turner, and Ruth Brown. He subsequently produced such soul stars as Aretha Franklin -- whom he personally signed to the label -- Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, King Curtis, Donny Hathaway, and many others. Wexler pioneered Atlantic's move into Southern Soul music and forged the hugely successful partnership with the Memphis-based Stax Records -- the home of Otis Redding -- and the label's rhythm section (comprised primarily of the members of Booker T. & The MG's). He went on to produce landmark records at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and Criteria Studios in Miami.

Along with Ertegun, Wexler was instrumental in signing Led Zeppelin to Atlantic, and he brought in the Allman Brothers by helping their manager, Phil Walden, set up Capricorn Records. Numerous other Atlantic artists benefited from Jerry's guidance and inspiration, and he produced classic records by Dusty Springfield, Esther Phillips, Willie Nelson, Dr. John, and many more. Wexler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

In describing his producing style, Wexler once noted that he was "the guy in the middle who is neither an engineer nor a musician, but an ear to hear what is happening and reshape it... the role becomes one of director. You keep it rolling; you know the choices that must be made. In my analysis, the final determination is that if you can't go out and change the music, you aren't a producer. You are merely presiding at a happening."

The history of Atlantic Records and of the sound of contemporary music would be very different without the impact that Jerry's great ears, uncanny intuition, and true genius had on countless artists and their music. He will be deeply missed by those who knew him and, more importantly, by the millions who -- knowingly or unknowingly -- have heard his phenomenal body of work. He remains inspiration to all of us as we strive to build on Atlantic's legacy in the 21st Century.

Our condolences go out to Jerry's family and friends during this sad and difficult time.

Contact Information