Music History

Music History Biographies

Music History Of The Week

Music History Calendar

Ahmet Ertegun

On 31/07/1923: Ahmet Ertegun was born. He was born in Istanbul, Turkey. In 1935 his family moved to Washington, D.C, when his father Munir became the second Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the United States of America. Munir had been the Ambassador of the Republic to London from 1932 to 1934. Ahmet's mother Hayr√ľnnisa was an accomplished musician who could play keyboard and stringed instruments. She would bought popular records for the family to listen to and bought Ahmet a record-cutting machine. He used the machine to compose and add lyrics to instrumental records. His older brother Neshui took Ahmet when he was nine to see Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway orchestras in London.The two of them would regularly visit Milt Gabler's Commodore Music Shop and would become acquainted with Ellington, Lena Horne and Jelly Roll Morton. The brothers put on concerts with Lester Young, Sidney Bechet and other jazz artists. The concerts would often be at the Jewish Community Center, which was the only place that would allow a mixed ethnicity audience and band.
In 1944 Ahmet graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis. His father died in the same year.
In 1946 President Truman ordered the battleship USS Missouri to transport Munir's body to Turkey as a demonstration of friendship between Turkey and the US. Shortly after the family returned to Turkey, with Ahmet and Neshui deciding to stay in America. Ahmet was studying Medieval philosophy at Georgetown University and decided to enter the record business to support his studies. He became friends with Herb Abramson who was a dental student and an A&R man for National Records. They decided to form their own label for gospel, jazz, and R&B music.
In 1947 they formed Atlantic Records, which would be financed by family dentist Dr. Vahdi Sabit. They made their first recordings that year.
In 1949 they had their first hit with Stick McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee".
They expanded in the fifties, bringing in Jerry Wexler and Neshui Ertegun as partners. They would record with artists such as Ruth Brown, Joe Turner, The Clovers, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Ray Charles. Atlantic became one of the biggest rhythm and blues labels. Their success was down to developing new talent and setting standards in recording, with the help of engineer/producer Tom Dowd. In 1957 Atlantic was one of the first labels to record in stereo and in 1958 introduced 4 track and later 8 track recording.
Ahmet would write some of the songs himself. He would use the pseudonym A. Nugetre (Ertegun backwards). Among his songs include: Pat Boone's "Chains of Love"; Ray Charles's "Mess Around" and "Heartbreaker; The Clover's song's "Ting A Ling", "Middle of the Night" and "Fool, Fool, Fool"; Aretha Franklin's "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)"; "Whatcha Gonna Do" by The Drifters; "Wild, Wild Young Men" by Ruth Brown; "Ti-Ri-Lee" by Big Joe Turner, and "Story of My Love" by LaVern Baker.
In the sixties Atlantic helped develop soul music with artists such as Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.
In 1965 Ahmet would discover and sign The Rascals in a Westhampton nightclub. They would have 13 Top 40 singles and would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 1967 Atlantic was sold to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967 for $17 million in stock. Atlantic became part of the Kinney conglomerate in 1969, and later part of Time Warner. Ahmet would remain head of Atlantic.
In 1968 he signed Led Zeppelin. The band would have great success, being one of the most successful rock bands of all time.
Atlantic held the recordings for Stephen Stills and they soon negotiated the rights to sign Crosby, Stills and Nash. Ahmet would produce Dr. John and The Honeydrippers and was instrumental in signing the Rolling Stones, personally conducted the negotiations with Mick Jagger.
In 1971 the Ertegun brothers used some of the money from the Atlantic sale to co-found the New York Cosmos Association football team and were influential in bringing Pelé, Carlos Alberto, and Franz Beckenbauer to the team.
In 1987, Ertegun was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, of which he himself was a founder. Also in the late eighties he helped found and fund the Rhythm and Blues Foundation to award money to underpaid blues artists.
In 1991 he received an honorary doctorate in music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In 1993 he recieved the Grammy Trustees Award for his lifetime achievements.
In 1999 Ahmet was instrumental in the success of the Society's Earthquake Relief Fund.
In 2000 The United States Library of Congress honored Ertegun as a Living Legend.
In 2003 Ahmet and Nesuhi were inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
In 2005, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented Ertegun 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.
He was chairman of The American Turkish Society.
On October 29, 2006, Ahmet tripped and fell at a Rolling Stones benefit concert at the Beacon Theatre for the Clinton Foundation, injuring his head. Ahmet slipped into a coma and died weeks later on December 14, 2006.
In 2007 Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off show in a tribute to Ertegun at the O2 Arena in London.
In 2008, the Ahmet Ertegun Memorial Scholarship, established by the American Turkish Society, was officially announced and is designated for music students of Turkish descent to study at the Juilliard School.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
If you would like more, come join our Music News and History Facebook Group Community