Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Men Behind The Bluesmen: Ahmet Ertegun

Ahmet Ertegun (Turkish: Ahmet Ertegün) was born on July 31, 1923 and he passed away on December 14, 2006. He was the Turkish American co-founder and executive of Atlantic Records and chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum as well as an inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame. He is described as "one of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry".

According to Wikipedia;

Ahmet and his brother Nesuhi staged concerts by Lester Young, Sidney Bechet and other jazz giants, often at the Jewish Community Center, which was the only place that would allow a mixed audience and mixed band. They also traveled to New Orleans and to Harlem to listen to music and develop a keen awareness of developing musical tastes.

In 1949, after 22 unsuccessful record releases including the first recordings by Professor Longhair, Atlantic had its first major hit with Stick McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee". The company expanded through the 1950s, with Jerry Wexler and, later, Nesuhi Ertegun on board as partners, and with hit artists including Ruth Brown, Joe Turner, The Clovers, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ray Charles.

Ahmet himself wrote a number of classic blues songs, including "Chains of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen", under the pseudonym "A. Nugetre" (Ertegun backwards). The songs were given expression first by Big Joe Turner and continued in B.B. King's repertoire. "Nugetre" also wrote the Ray Charles hit "Mess Around", with lyrics that drew heavily on Pinetop Smith. Ahmet was part of the shouting choral group on Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll", along with Wexler and songwriter Jesse Stone.

In the 1960s, Atlantic, often in partnerships with local labels like Stax Records in Memphis, helped to develop the growth of soul music, with artists such as Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Ahmet heard Led Zeppelin's demo and knew they would be a smash hit after hearing the first few songs. He quickly signed them. He also convinced Crosby, Stills and Nash to allow Neil Young to join them on one of their tours, thereby founding Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Ahmet helped introduce America to blue-eyed soul when he discovered the Rascals at a Westhampton nightclub in 1965 and signed them to Atlantic. They went on to chart 13 top 40 singles in four years and were elected to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

2006 Injury and Death - At the age of 83 on October 29, 2006, Ahmet Ertegun attended a Rolling Stones benefit concert at the Beacon Theatre (New York City) for the Clinton Foundation, which was attended by former US President, Bill Clinton. Prior to the show, Ahmet was in a back stage in a VIP social area that was known on the Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang Tour, as the "Rattlesnake Inn", when he tripped and fell, striking his head on the concrete floor. Ahmet was rushed to the hospital after the fall. (The Rolling Stones performance that evening was captured by Martin Scorsese in the documentary film entitled Shine a Light). Although Ahmet was initially in stable condition, he soon took a turn for the worse. This announcement was made by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page during the band’s induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame. Ahmet slipped into a coma and died later, with his family by his side, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

In Popular Culture - Ahmet Ertegun has been represented several times in popular culture. In Ray, the biopic of Ray Charles, Ahmet Ertegun is portrayed by Curtis Armstrong. In Beyond the Sea, the biopic about Bobby Darin, Ahmet is played by Tayfun Bademsoy. Ahmet Zappa was named after Ertegun, who played an important role in Frank Zappa's early career.

What'd I Say: The Atlantic Story by Ahmet Ertegun (Hardcover - Jun 15, 2001)

Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built ~ Ahmet Ertegun, Bette Midler, Ruth Brown, and Ray Charles (DVD - Jun 12, 2007)

Ahmet Ertegun @Amazon.com

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