Jerry Wexler, RIP

Jerry Wexler, one of the pivotal figures in the history of R&B, rock’n’roll and the U.S. music industry, passed away Friday at the age of 91. From Joel Selvin’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle :

Wexler was the last living partner in the landmark record label, Atlantic Records, The label’s founder Ahmet Ertegun, who died at age 83 in 2006, brought Wexler to the Atlantic in 1953, where the two produced records together through the ’50s by artists such as the Drifters, Bobby Darin, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles and others, helping to define the emerging sound of rock ‘n roll.

“My God, the Godfather of R&B creators has stepped behind the curtain and disappeared,” said Solomon Burke in a telephone interview. Wexler always said when asked who was the best performer of his day, “Solomon Burke with a borrowed band”.

Wexler, who would produce important records by Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield, Willie Nelson, Wilson Pickett and others, worked with Ertegun in his first days at Atlantic producing “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean” by Ruth Brown, not only one of the biggest-selling R&B records of the year, but a hit that helped young Atlantic Records survive.

Wexler even gave the music its name. As an editor at trade magazine Billboard, he changed the name of the charts in 1949 from “Race Records” to “Rhythm and Blues.”

“No one really knew how to make a record when I started,” he told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “You simply went into the studio, turned on the mike and said play.