Ahmet Ertegun  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Wiki Commons

Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ahmet Ertegün (Template:OldStyleDate – December 14, 2006) was the Turkish founder and president of Atlantic Records. He was also a writer of classic blues, pop songs, and served as Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum. Ertegun has been described as "one of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry." He also co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team of the North American Soccer League.



Born in Istanbul to a Muslim family, Ahmet and his family, including elder brother Nesuhi, moved to Washington, D.C. in 1935, with their father, Münir Ertegün, who served as the first Ambassador of the then-young Republic of Turkey to the United States of America.

Ahmet's older brother Nesuhi introduced him to jazz music, taking him to see the Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway orchestras in London at the age of nine. At the age of fourteen his mother bought him a record-cutting machine which he used to compose and add lyrics to instrumental records. The brothers also frequented Milt Gabler’s Commodore Record Store, assembled a large collection of over 15,000 jazz and blues 78s, and became acquainted with musicians such as Ellington, Lena Horne and Jelly Roll Morton. Ahmet and 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 1944 Munir Ertegün died, and in 1946 President Truman ordered the battleship USS Missouri to return the deceased to Turkey as a demonstration of friendship between US and Turkey. This act also served as a show of support to counter the Soviet Union's potential political demands on Turkey.

Ahmet graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis in 1944. At the time of his father’s death he was taking graduate courses in Medieval philosophy at Georgetown University. Soon after, the family returned to Turkey. Ahmet and Nesuhi stayed in the United States. While Nesuhi moved to Los Angeles, Ahmet stayed in Washington and decided to get into the record business as a temporary measure to help him through college.

Early career

In 1946, Ahmet Ertegün became friends with Herb Abramson, a dental student and A&R man for National Records, and they decided to start a new independent record label for gospel, jazz and R&B music. Financed by family dentist Dr. Vahdi Sabit, they formed Atlantic Records in September 1947 in New York City, and the first recording sessions took place that November.

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 Ertegün on board as partners, and with hit artists including Ruth Brown, Joe Turner, The Clovers, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ray Charles.

Many independent record executives, like the Erteguns, were from immigrant backgrounds, including the Bihari brothers and the Chess brothers. The Ertegun brothers brought a jazz sensibility (and many jazz artists) into R&B, successfully combining blues and jazz styles from around the country. Atlantic helped challenge the primacy of the major labels of the time by discovering, developing and nurturing new talent. It became the premier rhythm and blues label in a few short years, and set new standards in producing high quality recordings. In 1957, Atlantic was among the first labels to record in stereo.

Ahmet himself wrote a number of classic blues songs, including "Chains of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen", under the pseudonym A. Nugetre (Ertegün backwards). The songs were given expression first by Big Joe Turner and continued in B.B. King's repertoire. He 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 1961, he married émigrée Romanian aristocrat Ioana Maria Banu, known as Mica Ertegun, who became a prominent interior designer.

Later career

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.

The Ertegün brothers and Wexler sold the Atlantic label to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967 for $17 million in stock. Four years later, the brothers took some of the money and co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team of the North American Soccer League. They were instrumental in bringing in soccer legends like Pelé, Carlos Alberto and Franz Beckenbauer to the club. They transformed the Cosmos into a "dream team". Their love for soccer was the reason that the Cosmos were born.

When Atlantic became part of the Kinney conglomerate in 1969, and later part of Time Warner, Atlantic Records continued with Ahmet Ertegun at the helm, though less directly involved as a producer. He continued to produce some rock acts, such as Dr. John and The Honeydrippers. He also used his considerable personal skills in negotiations with major stars, such as when The Rolling Stones were shopping for a record company to distribute their independent Rolling Stones Records label. Ahmet personally conducted the negotiations with Mick Jagger, successfully completing the deal between The Stones and Atlantic, when other labels had actually offered the band more money.

In 1987, Ahmet was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, of which he himself was a founder. In the late 1980s with the support of Bonnie Raitt and others, he provided $1.5 million to help establish The Rhythm and Blues Foundation to award money to underpaid blues artists. The Foundation's establishment arose from a lengthy battle by Ruth Brown and other Atlantic artists to obtain unpaid past royalties from the company; other record companies later also contributed. Among early recipients of payments were John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Ruth Brown and the Staple Singers.

Ahmet Ertegun received an honorary doctorate in music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1991, and was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements in 1993. At the tenth annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Dinner in 1995, it was announced that the museum's main exhibition hall would be named after Ertegün.

The United States Library of Congress honored Ahmet as a Living Legend in 2000. With brother Nesuhi, he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2005, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented Ahmet with the first "President's Merit Award Salute To Industry Icons". He was also a recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

Ahmet approved the recording and release of "Music of the Whirling Dervishes" featuring ayin singer Kâni Karaca and ney player Akagündüz Kutbay on his Atlantic label.

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.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ahmet Ertegun" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools