(Jan. 10, 1917-Aug. 15, 2008)

1987 Inductee Alabama Music Hall of Fame (John Herbert Orr Pioneer Award)

Legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler earned the affectionate and respectful title “The Godfather of Muscle Shoals Music” through his shrewd, savvy music-industry instincts and his influential involvement and longstanding commitment to the Muscle Shoals recording industry.

Although born in the Bronx and based in the heart of New York City, Wexler would eventually adopt the Southern music mecca of Muscle Shoals as his second professional home. For close to three decades, this sophisticated, Northern-bred urban record producer and label company executive relied on the studios, players, songwriters and engineers in a rural region of northwest Alabama as some of his most trusted collaborators. In return, Wexler was embraced by the Muscle Shoals music community as a friend, patron, mentor and musical guru.

a life in rhythm and blues jerry wexlerIn his earlier career as a journalist for Billboard, Wexler coined the term “Rhythm and Blues” to replace “Race Music” on the magazine’s black charts. Through his early work with Atlantic, Wexler and his partner – company founder Ahmet Ertegun – helped launch and develop the careers of Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, the Drifters, Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Big Joe Turner among the label’s long and distinguished roster of “rhythm-and-blues” acts.

In 1966, Atlantic distributed Percy Sledge’s Southern soul masterpiece “When a Man Loves a Woman,” a song recorded in the Muscle Shoals area and produced by Quin Ivy at his Norala Studios in Sheffield. Once the Sledge single became a No. 1 pop sensation all over the world, Wexler – who was hoping to find a recording base for Atlantic in the Deep South – began sending more and more of the label’s artists to Muscle Shoals to record.

“Muscle Shoals changed my life,” Wexler remarked in a 2001 interview. “Those bad funky white boys taught me how records really ought to be made.”

Wexler first arrived in Muscle Shoals with the Wicked Wilson Pickett in 1966, bringing the fiery soul singer back to his Alabama roots for a series of historic sessions at Rick Hall’s FAME Recording Studios. Those sessions generated Pickett’s biggest pop and R&B hits, the timeless party favorites “Land of a Thousand Dances,” “Mustang Sally” and “Funky Broadway.”

jerry wexler and willie nelsonPerhaps most famously, Wexler brought soul singer Aretha Franklin to FAME in 1967 for a historic session that would produce her first million-selling No. 1 single, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)” and its equally astonishing flip side, “Do Right Woman (Do Right Man).” Working under Wexler’s visionary direction, Franklin recorded the subsequent hits “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” “The Weight” and “The House That Jack Built” with different combinations of Muscle Shoals, Memphis and New York musicians at Atlantic’s New York studios.

In 1969, Wexler returned to the area to help the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section establish its own enterprise, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield. Wexler’s projects at Muscle Shoals Sound range from Dire Straits (the album Communique), George Michael (an early solo version of “Careless Whisper”) and Willie Nelson (the album Phases and Stages and the hit single “Bloody Mary Morning”) to Bob Dylan (the albums Slow Train Coming and Saved and the Grammy-winning single “Gotta Serve Somebody”), Tony Joe White (the album The Train I’m On) and Muscle Shoals singer-songwriter Donnie Fritts (the album Prone to Lean).

Wexler continued to record music in Muscle Shoals for Atlantic, Warner Brothers and other labels off and on through 1993, when he produced the Etta James album The Right Time at Muscle Shoals Sound. He returned to the Shoals for the last time in 1999, participating in a symposium on Muscle Shoals music at the University of North Alabama and sharing the stage with fellow music legends Sam Phillips, Buddy Killen and Rick Hall.

Wexler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. His autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music (co-written with David Ritz), was published in 1993. A 2000 documentary film called Immaculate Funk explored Wexler’s life, career and lasting musical influence.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


Jerry Wexler (record executive and producer; born January 10, 1917, died August 15, 2008)

jerry wexlerBefore the advent of rock and roll, the term producer wasn’t even part of the recording-industry vocabulary. “No one really knew how to make a record when I started,” Jerry Wexler has said. “You simply went into the studio, turned on the mike and said play.” However, with the proliferation of independent record labels in the 1950s came a new breed of hands-on music-industry entrepreneurs. Among the most influential and important of these was Wexler at Atlantic Records.

His entree into the music business came at Billboard magazine, where he worked as a reporter and helped change the name of the black-music charts from “Race Records” to “Rhythm & Blues.” He joined Atlantic founders Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun in 1953 and began producing the company’s major rhythm & blues artists at all-night recording sessions that, in hindsight, were historic in their scope and impact on popular music. Wexler’s efforts at Atlantic helped bring black music to the masses - and in so doing built a significant and lasting bridge between the races.

In the Sixties, Wexler helped nurse soul music to a position of prominence by linking such singers as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett with Southern house bands in Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Wexler has worked across the decade with artists ranging from LaVern Baker, Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke and the Drifters to Dr. John, Dire Straits, Dusty Springfield, Delaney and Bonnie, and Bob Dylan. He passed away on August 15, 2008.

Text and photo source: http://rockhall.com/inductees/jerry-wexler/


More info:

Discogs Discograhpy http://www.discogs.com/artist/Jerry+Wexler

Jerry Wexler: A Record Man Remembered by Ashley Khan August 15, 2008 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93625915

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Wexler

Jerry Wexler The Man Behind Rhythm and Blues by Ronald Sklar http://www.popentertainment.com/wexler.htm

Musician Guide.Com biography http://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608000740/Jerry-Wexler.html


Listen/Purchase

Atlantic Rhythm & Blues: Vol. 6(1966-69)

iTunes: Jerry Wexler

Amazon: Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music and Atlantic Rhythm & Blues: Vol. 6(1966-69)

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