How about back in the forties when the black popular music of the day appeared in the Race Music charts? There was a journalist writing for Billboard magazine who decided to rebrand the category, and labelled it Rhythm & Blues.

That was Jerry Wexler.

Or a bit later in 1953 when the sons of a Turkish diplomat who operated a small independent record label in downtown Manhattan, faced with the imminent departure of the third partner for the US Army needed a new partner.

Who did Ahmet and Neshui Ertegun turn to?

Jerry Wexler.

Or perhaps we could go to the aftermath of that invitation, as Atlantic Records morphed the newly labelled rhythm-and-blues into mainstream rock’n’roll, starting with Big Joe Turner's Shake, Rattle and Roll in 1954. That came just before Atlantic's deal with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, resulting in a string of hits by the Coasters, including Yakety YakCharlie BrownAlong Came Jones and Poison Ivy

Who produced them?

You guessed it. Jerry Wexler.

And that’s just looking at a couple of obvious starting points without leaving the fifties. Over the next couple of decades Atlantic, with Wexler as a significant factor, has been a significant force in rhythm and blues, soul, jazz and rock. 

Working with the likes of Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, Bob Dylan and Dire Straits over a career lasting nearly half a century, Wexler left an indelible mark on the music of the late 20th century. In 1987, he was one of the first non-performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 


B© Ian Hughes 2012