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Ahmet Ertegun and the Story of Atlantic Records

Updated on November 5, 2011

His father a Turkish diplomat in London in 1933. Ahmet and his brother were fond of western music and frequently listened to 78 rpm records of Duke Ellington. One night, they were treated to a live concert of the Duke at the London Palladium. Up until that time, they had only listened to records.

Like some sort of profound enlightening moment, Ahmet, age 10, was shocked by the awesomeness of a live performance. Every instrument was extremely intense when compared to the recording on the 78 (for those who have no clue about this, the 78 record was very thick and heavy and easily broke. It was the mainstay for recorded music until the 33 rpm LP of the 1950s. This LP lasted until the late-1970s when CDs began to arrive). For Ahmet, this was a defining moment (something akin to seeing The Beatles or Elvis debut live-it is something one never forgets) and he knew what he wanted to do.

Time passed and in 1947, he, a musician, and a family dentist, pooled their money, created a three page contract to create Atlantic Records, which was a MAJOR player in rock music starting in the 1950's. Like many new companies, several years passed with mostly just junk as music being produced. Some opera, some poetry, some children records. There was no direction and second thoughts arrived. Then, in 1952, Ray Robinson was signed. Who is that? Try Ray Charles (his middle name). This saved them. Then, their signing Joe Turner, with rock's most famous song, "Shake, Rattle and Roll", a song that inspired four teens in Liverpool to play rock music and mimic: John, Paul, George and Ringo. In the 50's, other black artists were signed but their real success would come in the 1960's with the signing of many of rock's icons:

  • Led Zeppelin
  • Aretha Franklin
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
  • Otis Redding
  • AC\DC
  • Julian Lennon
  • Bad Company
  • ABBA
  • Alice Cooper
  • Bobby Darin
  • The Drifters
  • Hall and Oates

Atlantic is still signing today's top acts. It is amazing how one event- probably quickly forgotten by his parents- impacted and began the dream of a 10 yr. old Turk.


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