Ahmet

Clive was a lawyer.  Mo was an accountant.  But Ahmet was always a music lover.

Ahmet didn’t get into the business by accident.  He NEEDED to be in it, he needed to get CLOSER!  Because he was infected, and the only way he could be cured was to sign acts, write songs, produce records, be involved, IMMERSED in music.

Ahmet was no different from you and me.  It wasn’t about the money, he needed to own the disc and go to the club, he needed to revel in the notes.  Yes, he was a man of taste, and eventually wealth, but money was never his prime motivation, rather it was the SOUND!

I believe I first came across Ahmet when I started to wonder what that credit was, you know, the songwriter who was named "Nugetre".  What kind of name was Nugetre?  Where did they find such a person?  Certainly no one with such a strange name could write a hit song, he should be off in a foreign land, smoking unfiltered cigarettes.  But then I found out that Nugetre was a pseudonym, that those songs were really written by one Ahmet ERTEGUN!

How did you pronounce Ertegun?  Was it just like it was spelled, or did I need some kind of decoding box.  Kind of like reggae.  I remember reading about the island sound in "Time" in a library carrel at Middlebury.  Was it gae like in "gay", as in the euphemism for homosexual?  Or was it gae like in "gie", you know, like Reggie in the Archie comic books.  I needed to get it right.  Especially if I wanted to be an insider.  I couldn’t commit a faux pas.  I needed to be COOL!

But no one I knew had any contact with this impresario.  And there was no Internet.  It was just a name on the records.

And what records they were!

I was too young to be around at the time of Atlantic’s inception.  When I came across those Atlantic LPs, the company name was already established in my mental lexicon.  No different from Columbia or Capitol, a MAJOR BRAND!

This was when logos still appeared on the front cover, before the acts took control and they were banished to the back side.  I’d sit and look at that Young Rascals album, with the modern logo, as "I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Any More" poured out of the one speaker "stereo" in my bedroom.

But then there was the day my sister Wendy wanted to buy a single at Barker’s, on the Post Road in Westport.  She couldn’t exactly pronounce the name, it came out something like ‘Arathea".  But this hit disc, it too was on Atlantic, the 45 featuring a red and black logo, which the company ultimately embraced for all their product, but not until years later.

And what was Atco?  Was this a whole different company?  Why did they need two companies?  Was Atco the discount version?  And, if so, why did this stepchild feature Cream?

I’d study the covers, the liner notes.  I wasn’t surprised that Led Zeppelin came out on Atlantic, with the red, white and green label, since the company had ALL the hip English bands.  But I finally realized who Ahmet Ertegun was when he wooed the Rolling Stones.

The Beatles had broken up.  The Stones had always lived in their shadow.  But, with "Beggars Banquet" and "Let It Bleed", which featured not only "You Can’t Always Get What You Want", but the ETHEREAL "Gimmie Shelter", the Stones had truly staked their own claim, they were no longer single makers, they MATTERED, and they were OUT OF THEIR CONTRACT!  And the negotiations for a new label were all over my bible, my newfound addiction, the folded magazine "Rolling Stone".  Yes, this debonair TURK, who wore suits, who looked OUT OF PLACE, rumor had it he was going to sign the Stones.  And he did.  Even though supposedly he offered less money.  You see, Mick needed to be on Atlantic.

And once the band switched to Atlantic, via their own vanity label, they had their true breakthrough record, "Sticky Fingers", with the anthem "Brown Sugar".  Yes, the weekend didn’t really begin until you’d had a few beers and the needle dropped into the groove and you threw your hands up at the appropriate moment and went WHEW!  God, how did we all know to do this?  I guess it was INSTINCT!

And then Ahmet Ertegun  was a fixture.  Always on the scene.

But I didn’t have personal contact until 1989, when the phone rang, and his assistant said he wanted to talk to me.

This was the one guy who mattered.  This was the one guy my MOTHER knew about, having read the profile in "The New Yorker", coming away impressed with the details of Ahmet and Mica’s life.

And not like a sophisticate, not like an urbanite, but a true record man, Ahmet got on the phone and told me that Alannah Myles record I’d written about, the one I said had stalled, it was going to NUMBER ONE!

And "Black Velvet" did.

It was like I’d been visited by a God.  An all powerful seer.  It’s not a moment I’ll ever forget.  But it was trumped by an interaction at a LifeBeat event at the old Marineland, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in the late nineties.  Daniel Glass had invited me.  But I found myself hanging with the Atlantic folk, Val Azzoli, Ron Shapiro…  And seated at the round table, in the open air, was the legend and a lady friend.  The newbies were ignoring him, like he was their grandfather and they’d felt obligated to bring him along, but didn’t want anything to do with him.

With such an opening, I plunked my ass right down next to him.  And started to speak.

I’ve learned to temper it a bit recently.  Because royalty can’t handle irreverence, can’t handle someone playing on their level.  But this was almost a decade back, when I had to be me all the time, and within moments of sitting down, I was hassling Ahmet.

Oh, I was giving him good-natured shit.  Ribbing him.  But Ahmet rose to the occasion.

After I accused him of ripping off his dentist to start the label, of weaseling his way into the business, Ahmet said that that wasn’t true, that if only I were interested, he’d tell me the REAL story.  And upon declaring that OF COURSE I was interested in the true history of Atlantic Records, Ahmet set out to detail it, incident by incident, year by year.  It was like listening to a living encyclopedia.  But I could interact, I could ask questions.

And Ahmet wasn’t talking down to me.  It was like we were in it together.

And after about half an hour or so, some of the newbies left their conversations about the evanescent crap they were releasing and gathered ’round and started to listen in.

The label was working Duncan Sheik.  Which Ahmet pronounced "SHAKE".  Ahmet said the new music was crap.  That Mr. Sheik had been booked at this venue in Paris, owned by his old friend, and that he was almost embarrassed to have him playing there.

You see this guy would book whomever Ahmet told him to.  This guy TRUSTED Ahmet.  So when Ahmet told him to book Sonny & Cher, this guy did.  But, then there was a frantic phone call from overseas.  You see they were WHITE!  Everybody Ahmet had recommended previously had been BLACK!  He couldn’t have a white act at his club!

But Ahmet convinced him.  And the act delivered.

And suddenly it was me and Ahmet against the newbies.  We were in it together, with the kind of camaraderie you’ve got with your best friend, your drinking buddy, the guy you grew up with.

But finally, after about an hour, Ahmet’s lady friend implored him to leave.

Ahmet stood up.  Said goodbye.  And started to walk off.

But after going five or six steps, Ahmet turned around.  And walked back to where I was sitting.  And took his cane and rapped it on my chair, and looked me in the eye and smiled.  And then took off again.

I never talked to Ahmet thereafter.  I might have seen him at an event, but I was afraid to go up and say hi, for fear he wouldn’t recall me.  I wanted to remember that magic moment.  When we were brothers.

And I always thought it was so sad that Nesuhi predeceased him.  How Ahmet must be lonely.  How he’d outlived so many of the buddies he used to run with.

But now Ahmet’s joined them at the table.  No doubt wearing a dapper suit.  He might not be playing in the band, but you KNOW he put it together.

And it’s hard to stop.  I can take solace in the fact that due to modern recording equipment, his legacy, those RECORDS, will live on.  But I want to leave you with one of his famous quotes.  Something you should never forget.  That’s not about beats, or genres, but boils it down to the sheer essence.

Yes, Ahmet used to say that a hit record was something you heard on the radio at midnight, while lying in bed in your pajamas, that made you jump up, put on your clothes and run to the all night record shop to buy.

That’s the passion.  That’s what makes us all like Ahmet.  We’ve heard those records.  We’ve needed to own them.  We’ve needed to listen to them again and again.

Our fearless leader is gone.

But his memory, his ethic, it lives on.

37 Responses to Ahmet »»


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  1. Pingback by Goals + Girls Blog » RIP – Ahmet Ertegün | 2006/12/20 at 21:38:51

    […] astisement of the grave, and protect him from the chastisement of the Fire. POSTSCRIPT: A great story of Bob Lefsetz’s first meeting with Ahmet. His reverence is […]

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  3. Comment by Mike Greene | 2006/12/21 at 16:59:50

    Nice Bob… did you know Nesuhi was one of the first Presidents of NARAS? He was my first visit after I became President in the late 80’s, Ahmet was my second and Mo third. The front pew, reserved for the founding aristocracy of music is almost deserted, with no worthy bench talent I fear!

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  5. Comment by Phil Walden, Jr. | 2006/12/21 at 17:00:09

    I went to his I guess 75th birthday party with my dad. Joe Smith told a story about someone asking Ahmet how to be successful in the music biz and Ahmet said put your head down and hope you bump into a genius.

    Otis pronounced his name "Omelette."

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  7. Comment by Larry LeBlanc | 2006/12/21 at 17:00:25

    Bob: I loved your tribute to Ahmet. I grew up on Atlantic. Everything on the label early on was quality. I bought singles by Ray Charles the Drifters, the Coasters, and Ben E. King. The first album I brought home was on Atlantic…Bobby Darin’s "That’s All." I continued to seek out Atlantic music for years later including that by the Young Rascals, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett, etc.

    A high moment for me as a journalist was being hired to write the liner notes in 1984 of the Aretha Franklin retrospective "Thirty Greatest Hits." I talked to Jerry Wexler–a big thrill– but Ahmet wasn’t available.

    This fall, about six weeks before his passing, I finally met Ahmet while at Atlantic headquarters in New York. I noticed him about to get onto an elevator. I then bolted out of Atlantic’s waiting room and stopped the elevator. It was only a brief meeting but I was able to tell him that I became a music journalist because of him and Jerry and other record men like Jerry Moss & Herb Alpert, Bert Berns, George Goldner, the Bihari brothers, and Don Robey. Ahmet was very, very gracious. But I expected that.

    While Ahmet and Jerry certainly relished having hits in the heyday of Atlantic that wasn’t the foundation of the label. The foundation was their passion about discovering great artists and making great music. The hits followed. Today’s music men spend too much time chasing down hits (and often failing miserably) and little time in trying to discover really great talent.

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  9. Comment by Stephen-Craig Aristei | 2006/12/21 at 17:00:50

    Dear Bob,
    Ahmet Ertegun – R I P !

    I knew all about him. He was my one of my "Gods"…I read every article I could find on him……When I was 15 years old, I saved up a year’s worth of "paper route" money to buy subscriptions to Billboard and Cashbox magazines. I read them and committed all that "hype" and "tripe" to memory….music was my religion.

    Years later, my friend from New York, Jon Simonds, who had been in business with Steve Paul and The Blues Project, (and later became my partner in a management company) told me stories about his and his friend’s many encounters with the man, so I kind of always felt like I knew him….a little.

    As a professional manager (songplugger) at Warner Bros. Music, I was always sending him songs that I thought could be, should be and many became "big hits", but most of the time I would get a random "note/comment" back from him…but usually I would hear his thoughts about what I had sent him from others….Like Jerry Wexler would tell one of my bosses to tell me to stop sending songs to Ahmet and send them to him instead………!

    No, I never met him in person, but he took an Alan O’Day Song ("Every Man Wants Another Man’s Woman" – A song that I believed was a "hit" – yet no producer would agree) and recorded it with Clarence Reid, had it released as a single on Atlantic Records and it hit the singles charts! – (produced by Ahmet & Jerry Wexler) – The fact that Jerry Wexler had called me an arrogant shit and threw me out of his office when I played him the same song two weeks earlier always seemed strange…. But, this was the record biz – and I felt totally vindicate ! I remember my boss Ed Silvers walking down to my office to tell me that he had just spoken to Ahmet, and Ahmet asked him to tell me that he was recording "….the song that he had gotten from the kid at warners bros music with two first names (Stephen-Craig) ! Maybe I was jaded, but having songs I placed played on the radio and becoming hits rarely did anything for me….I just kind of expected it…..But when Ahmet Ertegun recorded a song that I gave him, or Tom Dowd, or Roy Halee, or David Rubinson, Bob Marcucci, or Lou Reisner, or Clive recorded a song that I had given them….Holy Fuck, that made it all worthwhile…That was what it was all about for me.

    A year or so later, and about 8 months after Billy Joel’s "Turnstiles" album had been released, Ahmet took my phone call one afternoon while I was in NY, sitting at a table at the Tavern On The Green with Elizabeth Joel (at that time the wife and manager of Billy Joel).

    I had decided that Billy Joel was going to be a big star and and realized that CBS records was not doing anything to break him as an artist and concluded that I should "steal" him from CBS records and in the process of moving him to a new label, Warner Bros. Music would get his music publishing. Like a "big shot", I asked for a telephone to be brought to the table, and called Atlantic Records and asked for Ahmet, like I did it every day…(boy, was Elizabeth Joel impressed…..but not half as much as I was when Ahmet actually got on the line with me!)

    I asked him if he would be interested in signing Billy Joel if he were free from CBS….to which he immediately answered "Yes, where do I sign?" I asked him to repeat what he had just said, with Elizabeth’s ear up close to the phone receiver, and he did…..and that started a year long process to get Billy off the label, that ultimately resulted in lighting a fire under Walter Yetnikoff and the entire CBS staff….by time "The Stranger" album was released, our "coup" had failed, but Billy was on his way to the super stardom "status" he enjoys today.

    Ahmet is truly one of the "Last of the Greats" and one of the true "fathers of our industry"…his accomplishments have not only changed music, but formed the tastes of America…from Sonny & Cher to ther Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, The Iron Butterfly (All Green & Stone acts), to all the R&B, Jazz and Rock acts that you have mentioned and many many others that we have unfortunately forgotten, that all added to his legend and his contribution…his presence will be missed….From the kid with two first names, RIP !

    PS – Tom Dowd always refered to Ahmet as "The Old Man"…..like…."The Old Man wants me to do this Terry Reid record and then he wants me to mix the Yes album, but somehow I have to fit Eric Clapton in……"! I wonder what the "Old Man" will have Tom do now that they are in the same place.

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  11. Comment by Al Marks | 2006/12/21 at 17:01:13

    When I worked for Max Silverman (Waxie Maxie the legendary Washington DC record retailer) Ahmet Ertegun was a regular visitor to the offices…Max Silverman had befriended him and his brother Neshui when they lived in DC due to their father being a diplomat. They used to hang out at his store on 7th street and listen to records and just be part of the scene according to Max… Apparently they asked him to be part of the startup of Atlantic Records and I am really not sure why he wasn’t but their friendship continued until Max’s death in the mid 80s… Ahmet made sure that Waxie Maxies had 300 copies of every single they released shipped directly to Max in his office and would visit the warehouse offices regularly… He would come into the warehouse which is where I met him and speak to us about music, bands, signings, radio and generally made you feel like you mattered and were not just some warehouse junkie… Back in those days 1970-1972 all of us in the warehouse were in bands and were chomping at the bit to give him tapes, but none of us had the nerve because we were so impressed that he took the time to speak to us we were afraid he would be pissed we used him… One day during one of his visits he came up to me and asked me for my band’s tape as Max had told him we were good… I nearly pissed my pants but gave it to him… He took it and went into Max’s office and actually listened to it, came back into the warehouse and gave me Jerry Greenberg’s number, told me to call him and set up a meeting… We called him and actually went to NY to meet with him about signing to Atlantic (but that is another story)… I will never forget the kindness he showed me… He was a very special man… I have met many famous people in my career but he will always stand out as someone I consider myself extremely fortunate to have crossed paths with…

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  13. Comment by Greg Wells | 2006/12/21 at 17:01:30

    When I was 24, I had the good fortune to play jazz piano for a record being produced by Ahmet. Ertegun. The artist was Steve Kowalczyk… We were in the big room at Ocean Way, live off the floor with Lee Sklar on bass, late great Carlos Vega on drums, Joe Porcaro on vibes, Lee Thornburg on trumpet, Brian Malouf engineering… It was the BEST. Ahmet ran the session with a cool and humble confidence. I’ll never forget hearing that incredible voice coming down the talkback mic in my headphones between each take. He let me bum cigarettes from him…. I remember he wore monogrammed slippers in the studio…and at the end of the day he was simply the coolest human being alive. As you wrote, Bob, he never once had the air of talking down to anyone. A record exec with respect for everyone whose ship was driven by the love of great music. Evidently, it’s not the kind of thing you can pass on, you either get that or you don’t, but may we all be inspired by this man’s life and love of music.

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  15. Comment by Martin Heath | 2006/12/21 at 17:01:48

    Dear bob, I had the great pleasure to meet ahmet this summer. He played me the paulo nutini record and described all the arrangements he wanted. He never lost his joy for music and it was clear that it was music and the idea of it that motivated him to the end. They are born and not made.

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  17. Comment by Jackie Curbishley | 2006/12/21 at 17:02:09

    Dear Bob,

    Ahmet told me this story.

    In the early days of The Who, when they were still managed by the irascible Stamp & Lambert, Kit Lambert and Ahmet were having a loud argument. Kit became very peeved with Ahmet and stormed out of his office, only to return a few seconds later, throw open the door and shout at Ahmet "Do you know why there is so much anti-semitism in the world?" "No," said an astonished Ahmet. "Because Turks don’t travel!" yelled Kit.

    Slamming the door, he went on his way, leaving Ahmet collapsed laughing.

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  19. Comment by Talley Griffith | 2006/12/21 at 17:02:31

    I met Ahmet oddly enough, in a roundabout way. It was through a relative of mine who worked as an engineer for him for many years. I was invited to attend a function in D.C. unrelated to the industry. And when the hostess informed me of who the elderly gentleman was in the front of the room – my heart skipped a beat.

    I remember seeing him in pictures with Led Zeppelin. On the airplane, this well-dressed man with all these rockers. Out of place? Only until he opens his mouth. Then he was accidentally more hip than anyone else was on purpose.

    We discussed politics (and the diplomatic corps life as my own cousin was a U.S. Ambassador of some note). We discussed "people", and most of all – we discussed music. Not the music industry, but REAL music. And he filled me with treasures and advice I will NEVER forget.

    He told me to never hesitate to call him if I had a question, or needed anything. So I didn’t hesitate, and he always had time to chat and to offer advice on this or that. But when talking with Ahmet, NOTHING was irrelevant…nothing (and nobody) was small or common. He had a way of making everything seem like it was coming from the mouth of Moses himself!

    With so much success, you had to take it that way too. When I asked him once, "What is the difference between a song that makes a hit and a song that becomes a legend", he laughed with a trademark shuffle staccato chuckle and said: "Ah Taah-leey (his pronunciation of my name), the difference is not how it sells, but how it FEELS". He said a legendary classic song will forever make you remember where you were when you heard it and will make you re-live it forever. I never forgot it.

    I sent him flowers and a note when I heard he had fallen into this coma. I figured that like everything else in his life, it was just a speed bump and he’d be back up and going soon. Had I know the last time we spoke on the phone would be the last time ever…I would have said something more profound than what I had said. He wanted to hear my new instrumental I’d composed…and had been scolding me for not finishing it sooner. I promised him I’d get it to him soon. I never did.

    Bob, you hit the nail on the head, and totally defined Ahmet when you said you felt like: "drinking buddies, or the guy you grew up with". THAT was Ahmet’s true talent…it wasn’t just his genius with music, but his genius with PEOPLE that made him so successful. When he spoke to you – you were the only one who mattered. You were suddenly as important as any other A-lister or Executive. Ahmet was a people person, and considered you a person first, and everything else second. THAT was his real talent…managining relationships and leading PEOPLE. He understood people, and in return…they respected him.

    A void has indeed been left – not just in music – but in the prototype of what an executive should be. We have lost a role model, a torch-bearer for treating others with respect and dignity, and most of all…we have lost a friend.

    R.I.P. Ahmet…and thanks for the memories, the guidance, and the music.

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  21. Comment by David Rubinson | 2006/12/21 at 17:02:46

    Ahmet was one of the last of the giants.
    Jerry and Mo and Jac are left- and who else ?

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  23. Comment by Mark McKenna | 2006/12/21 at 17:03:04

    Yeah, you never forget when you’ve shared time with one of the progenitors. The one thing I will never forget about Ahmet was that he never displayed any high and mighty bullshit whenever I met him or was around him. Same with Arif. He had nothing to prove and was too interested in what he was doing to cop an attitude. He was in the mix, on the street, always.

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  25. Comment by Barbara Wesotski | 2006/12/21 at 17:03:22

    It’s true – right to the end Ahmet had to be around the music. My first record company gig was at Atlantic Records in 1988 and I would see him sitting at his desk overlooking the 21 Club on the 2nd floor at 75 Rock (I asked around the office why we’re on the lowest floors in such a fabulous building and was told that Ahmet was wary of terrorism – a bizarre concept to me at the time but incredibly far-sighted now). The week I started we all received the memo that Atlantic would be holding a 40th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden and we were each invited with a friend, could buy two more discounted tickets, and the Felt Forum would be open to employees all day with free food and drink, in addition to attending the concert of a lifetime. After that I noticed Ahmet at shows I went to all over the city for years and years. I was in awe of him. I introduced myself once and he was gracious but, like you, I never had the guts to go up to him again. I was in awe of his legacy, of the incredible hall of gold records leading to his office, of the legacy of artists – just being at Led Zeppelin’s label blew my mind… It is fitting that he went out at a Rolling Stones concert, doing what he loved. It is also appropriate that he won’t be around to watch
    the R&R Hall of Fame (which originated from the Atlantic offices right around that time also) spiral downward.

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  27. Comment by Michael Laskow | 2006/12/21 at 17:03:41

    My first job in the music business was as the lowest form of life at Criteria Studios in Miami in 1974. Clapton was finishing "461 Ocean Blvd.", the Bee Gees were there doing their "comeback album" with "Jive Talkin’" on it, and the Eagles were there working on "One Of These Nights." It was a heady time. I was nineteen years old, living my dream, and understood that it was a privilege to be around, and learn from people like Tommy Dowd, Arif Mardin, Bill Szymcyzk, Karl Richardson and Don Gehman on a daily basis.

    A few months into my job, Ahmet discovered a band called, ‘Mama’s Pride’ when his limo got a flat tire in St. Louis, and he entered he Rusty Springs Saloon to use a pay phone. He signed the band the next day, and brought them to Criteria. I was asked to be the assistant to the assistant engineer on the record.

    Ahmet and a lady with poofy blonde hair and a tight yellow sweater were sitting in the back of the control room in the airplane seats along the wall trimmed with bright orange shag carpet. At some point, I grabbed a very heavy reel of 2 inch tape and made my way across the space between Ahmet and his guest and the back of the engineer’s chair. The tape hit my knee, fell from my grip, and landed squarely on the sweater lady’s left foot.

    I heard a snap, and watched her foot balloon into something that resembled a football with a shoe on it. Without missing a beat, Ahmet leaped from is seat, wagged his finger in my trembling face, and yelled, "You’re not going to last very long in THIS business!"

    Needless to say, I saw my dream and my life pass before my eyes. It was all I could do to not burst in to tears. Tommy Dowd followed me into the musty smelling air lock between the control room and the studio. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "It was an honest mistake, just an accident. You won’t lose your job, he’s just upset."

    A few months after I started TAXI in 1992, Arif was being honored at a dinner at the Beverly Hilton. I went. When the sea of well-wishers parted, I saw Arif and Ahmet sitting together at a dinner round. I walked over, shook their hands, and recounted the story of the sweater lady’s broken foot. Arif chuckled, and Ahmet asked, "So, you’re still working in the music business?"

    I answered in the affirmative, and he replied with his trademark wink, smile, and a tilt of his head, "Well, I guess I was wrong about that too."

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  29. Comment by Bhaskar Menon | 2006/12/21 at 17:04:03

    Dear Mr Lefsetz:

    You do not know me, and I have not had the pleasure of meeting you though I do occasionally read your work. Ahmet and Nesuhi were close friends of mine. The world is gravely deprived by their passing.

    Your touching tribute to Ahmet captures the essence of a man who brought the magnificence of so much marvelous music and so many exciting performers to an entire generation. And yet, Ahmet and Nesuhi were the most magnificent of their era.

    Best,
    Bhaskar Menon

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  31. Comment by Jill Sobule | 2006/12/22 at 09:58:40

    Bob, the first time I met Ahmet, he took my hand and kissed it and said (in a sort of perverted voice) "I kissed a Girl". It was one of the best moments in my life.

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  33. Comment by Jeff Laufer | 2006/12/22 at 09:58:58

    My entrance in the record business was doing promotion for Atlantic Records in Los Angeles. My first meeting with Ahmet was one I will never forget. I think he was taken by my physical stature and my knowledge of the history of Atlantic.

    The record business doesn’t have executives like that anymore. As much as I admire other record company heads they can’t "shine Ahmet’s shoes." The only person that spoke with such clarity was my rabbi!

    A few years ago I was in NYC and while taking the elevator to the Atlantic office on a cool fall day, it was just Ahmet and me. Talk about awkward, I just had to say something more then just "hello." As you know I always have something to say about everything. So I asked him who he was rooting for in the World Series; the Yankees or Mets (it was the year they were both in the series). His reply was, "I don’t really care who wins, but have you heard the new track from Jewel?"

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  35. Comment by Dick LaPalm | 2006/12/22 at 09:59:34

    He was brilliant; he was gracious; he was gifted; he was intuitive; he was kind. He was a Jazz and Blues aficionado. He had impeccable taste; he had style; he had class. He was elegant; he was streetwise; he was aware; he was raunchy; he was giving. He had integrity; he had charisma; he had foresight; he had grace. He was shrewd; he was vibrant; he was loving; he was thoughtful; he was fearless; he was fair. He hung with Dizzy, Sassy, Bird, and Trane; Jagger, Clapton, Aretha, and Brother Ray. He was urbane; he was charming; he was suave; he was witty; he was loyal. He was fluent in five languages. He was sharp; he was a visionary; he was ethical; he was passionate; he was singular; he was genuine. He was, unquestionably, the greatest record executive ever. He set the standards by which we all learned and measured ourselves. He was Ahmet Ertegun. How truly blessed we are to have had him among us. I’ll miss him terribly. Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace.

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  37. Comment by Tres3star | 2006/12/22 at 10:00:48

    I got the pleasure of meeting Ahmet in the Atlantic records building in New York. My band and I were there to see our a&r guy, Nic Casenelli . Atlantic had just signed us and decided to re-release our first record "Carousel". Nic informed us that Ahmet wanted to meet us, and to come to his office a.s.a.p. We were more than thrilled and excitedly we rode the elevator to his wonderful office. Upon entering I was floored. Black and white autograph pictures, books, drum sticks, etc etc. It was so much better and cooler than the Rock and roll hall of Fame. It was rock and roll history everywhere. Aretha, Otis, Ringo, Page and Plant. They were all there and they all had sent or given or autographed something personal to this man clad in a three piece suit standing before me. Upon sitting down we all shot the shit for a while. Where had we been touring, how was the road? Stuff like that. Then Ahmet said " I really like your record." "Thanks," we replied thinking that was the end of it. Ahmet then went into a half hour dialogue about which songs he preferred, what grooves he liked, which ones were the hits. HE HAD ACTUALLY LISTENED TO OUR RECORD!!!! Not like some of the others downstairs, who give you the OLE bait and switch. WE were blown away. This was why he was so great. He loved the music. That’s what mattered.

    As our time with Ahmet was ending, he was talking about the importance of touring and staying on the road. He told about, as he called them "a little band he signed back in the day, did we know them? Cream." We confirmed that "yes" we most definitely knew them. He continued, this band Cream they toured so hard and…….then he stopped mid sentence and stared me directly in the eyes for well over a minute. The room was in complete silence, no one said a word. I didn’t know if we was testing me or in thought, but he kept his eyes locked on mine until finally out of respect I lowered my eyes to the ground for a second. he then continued……..and that’s what really broke them." Phew! I was so freaked out, but honored that I’d had a moment with Ahmet. I’ll never forget it. He was the real deal and I’ll sure miss him.

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  39. Comment by Michael Laskow | 2006/12/22 at 10:01:05

    Check this out!! I found the very console that I walked behind when I dropped the tape on Ahmet’s friend’s foot! I called the guy who owns it, and offered to buy it, but Jeep Harned’s (the console designer) wife bought it two days ago, and she’s donating it to the R&R Hall of Fame Museum. Check out the credits attached to this incredible console. Only guys like us can truly appreciate its history.

    http://www.vintageconsoles.com/mci.htm

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  41. Comment by Michael Wijnen | 2006/12/22 at 10:01:27

    I am reading your column every day here in Paris, France where I worked for Warner Music for about twelve years as MD.

    I was very lucky to become friends with Ahmet- he came often to Paris and I was in NY on a regular basis. Ahmet was equally kind to Robert Plant and Phil Collins as he was to my children. He was certainly one of the most generous persons I ever met. Together with Mica, they were such an amazing couple.

    Last time I saw him in his Atlantic office this summer, he was talking to Kid Rock on the phone about his wedding with Pamela Anderson.

    One day, one of my children asked Ahmet if he had always been bald. Ahmet said yes, I became bald at a very young age. Then he turned to me and said: "In the late sixities me and a girlfriend, we flew up to San Fransisco to see this band. As we were a few hours early, my girlfriend went shopping and I went to the barber. I became bald already then, but the barber insisted on giving me a little wig…With my wig on, I went to the show- I did not see my girlfriend, but she had a backstage pass, so I would see her afterwards anyway. When the show was over, I went backstage, bumped into my girlgriend who was already hanging out with the band. Then she yelled "Ahmet, what did you do to your hair!!" and she took my wig off… That’s why I did not sign Jefferson Airplane". One of the great stories of such a wonderful man who will truly be missed.

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  43. Comment by Bob Brennan | 2006/12/22 at 10:01:46

    Ahmet’s rare musical instincts, his personable nature and his rare humility for someone of his stature were all pivotal to Cream’s success and Atlantic’s resulting transformation from a primarily black music label to the most respected rock label in history. He’d seen Clapton by accident, pre-Cream, when he was in England in early 1966 to watch his artist Wilson Pickett perform. Ahmet was blown away by the blues licks coming from the fingers of the "kid with the angelic face" and Eric stayed on his radar. When Cream formed later that year, Ahmet sensed high prospects for a unique English blues trio, fronted by this white whiz kid.

    When Cream made its first trip to the States in April of 1967 to record at Atlantic Studios and showed up at its doorstep with stacks of Marshall amps twelve feet high, Ahmet and Dowd were confounded. How would a label that had recorded jazz for decades through little Fender amps adjust to something like this? And who was this bassist, Jack, who wanted to sing these strange "psychedelic" songs? This was supposed to be a blues trio fronted by Eric, wasn’t it?

    But fate had supplied the answer and only Ahmet, among the execs of his day, could see it. A kid about Cream’s age had coincidentally stopped by that same week, looking for opportunities at the label he’d come to respect so highly. Ahmet knew the kid because he had played on an album by an obscure black folk artist named Casey Anderson four years earlier. The kid had since been making a name for himself as a session player and arranger amidst the Dylan-inspired folk boom thirty blocks south in Greenwich Village, and had just come off his first recordings as a producer for one of the first "folk-rock" bands to emerge from that scene, the Youngbloods. "Get Together" would not be a top 5 hit until its re-release in 1969, but there was a buzz about the new sound from New York and the producer who’d helped shape it.

    Ahmet had the instincts, not to mention that rare humility, to sense that this New York kid had his finger on the pulse of what was happening at that moment and to ask him if he had any ideas about what to do with an English "power trio" like this. Ahmet and Dowd then brought him over to hear a blues Cream had just laid down called "Lawdy Mama". The kid heard something in his head and asked Ahmet, and the band, if he could take the blues track home with him and put his own song over the track and come back the next day with something different. It was a rather bold request to make of a band he had just met – a very proud band to boot.

    But Cream trusted Ahmet, for the same reasons everyone else did for 50 years, and they agreed to give him a crack at it.

    The kid was Felix Pappalardi, later to become the bassist and producer of Mountain, and the modified song he returned with was "Strange Brew". Suddenly, everything made sense. Cream was thrust into high Gear as the Summer Of Love was beckoning. Just as suddenly, traditional blues and psychedelia were no longer at odds. Rather, they would synergize into something the whole world would be blown away by. The door for Jack’s song ideas was now thrust open and through it that same month came, among others, "Sunshine Of Your Love". Ahmet had no doubt sensed a turning point was upon them, although he hadn’t yet realized that another ex-Yardbird, Jimmy Page, would follow in Eric’s footsteps with his own band, Led Zeppelin.

    At a time when bands were assigned staff producers by major labels as a matter of course, only at Ahmet’s hand could something magical like this have happened. The rest, of course, is history.

    PS – When Cream’s reunion concert at MSG was announced last fall, I called Ahmet’s office and asked his secretary if might be possible for Felix’s surviving sister to attend, compliments of Atlantic. She replied that any remaining comp tickets were scarce, if available at all, but she would mention it to him. Less than an hour later, she called back. She was holding two tickets for her, compliments of Ahmet himself.

    Ahmet was one in a million and America owes him a debt of gratitude for one of its most golden eras of music.

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  45. Comment by Steve Waxman | 2006/12/22 at 10:02:03

    I started working at Warner in 1992. In those days, Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker were still at Warner Bros. and Jac Holzman (the founder of Elektra) was running Discovery Records. Once a year a few of us would head down to the U.S. for a national sales convention and there was always an opportunity to bend the ear of one of these industry giants or sit in on some of their own war stories.

    As the years moved forward though, many of the original mavericks moved on or were moved out as the industry evolved. I remember one convention when all of the people that molded music as I knew it stood on the stage at one time taking their bows. A year later, only Ahmet remained.

    Whenever an artist got signed to Atlantic Records one of their biggest thrills was being brought up to Ahmet’s office where he would regale them with stories of signing the Rolling Stones, hanging out with Led Zeppelin or recording Aretha Franklin. My one and only meeting with Ahmet took place in an elevator. It was about ten years ago. We were at a Warner convention in Washington. It was 1 a.m. and we were coming back to the hotel from seeing a band I have long forgotten. We got in the elevator and before the door closed we could see Ahmet shuffling towards us with a couple of pretty young friends. Never one to be shy, I was quick to introduce myself to him after the doors closed.

    "Nice to meet you kid," he said in a gruff voice that has stuck to me to this day. I asked him his thoughts on how the industry was changing and he launched into a personal diatribe. "It’s the fucking bean counters that are ruining the business," he griped. "They’re telling us what we can and can’t sign. The fucking bean counters are screwing it up."

    Our floor came up and the doors opened. As we walked out I turned to say it was nice to have met you. It was the one and only meeting with Ahmet, but it sure was memorable.

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  47. Comment by Andrew Essex | 2006/12/22 at 10:02:33

    Anyone interested in Ahmet must read the great two-part George Trow profile that ran in the New Yorker in the 70s. It’s one of the greatest magazine profiles ever, and evokes the time in an especially vivid, heartbreaking way. It’s also wonderful for the cameo but a young macher named David Geffen who Ahmet disdainfully treats like a real-life Sammy Glick.

    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/articles/061218fr_archive08?page=1

    About 4 years ago I had the occasion to interview Ahmet for Details. It was a delight, but one odd bit stays with me. I asked him, of all the great artists he’d worked with over the years, who impressed him the most. The answer: Phil Collins!

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  49. Comment by Kai Lofthus | 2006/12/22 at 10:03:07

    Atco was launched in 1955 when Herb Abramson (Atlantic co-founder and Ahmet’s guiding angel in the music industry) returned from the army. Atlantic had changed, in the sense that Jerry Wexler replaced him as president and Nesuhi had come in as a partner – as well as that Herb’s marriage was in turmoil and on the brink of divorce. On the heels of this, Atco became Herb’s own playground within Atlantic. As to how Cream became part of Atco and not Atlantic, I don’t know. Could simply be a matter of sharing workload.

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  51. Comment by Jac Holzman | 2006/12/22 at 10:03:24

    Really good stuff in your piece on Ahmet. Rather like a wake where the reminiscences flow from his chorus of friends and admirers. As much as I know about Ahmet (and he totally terrified me at the beginning of what became a friendship of real mutual respect) there are stories I had forgotten. Here’s one.

    Ahmet and Mica took me and my ladyfriend, Ellen Sander (rock critic for the Saturday Review and the NYTimes in the 60’s and early 70’s), for dinner on Ellen’s birthday. As Ellen recounted the story in her excellent book, Trips, Steve Stills, to whom Ahmet was very close, had actually left the group. Atlantic had invested a huge sum in advances and production costs. Ahmet was quite irritated with them. "That group is gone." Ahmet told us unhappily. "The only way they’ll get back together again is for the other three to go to Stills and ask him to come back, but they’ll never do it. They’re too proud and they’re too hurt." Ahmet was really and uncharacteristically upset.

    Ellen suggested they replace Stills with another bass player, mentioning, half in jest, that Paul McCartney was free (the Beatles had recently broken up). Ellen thought it’d make Ahmet laugh. Instead, his eyes lit up and he turned to Ellen, saying "That’s a tremendous idea. Tremendous!" He lowered his voice. "I wonder how much Apple Corps Records would give me for the other three?"

    He is so indelible and we will be feasting on an inheritance of great music and delicious memories for years to come.

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  53. Comment by Celine Joshua | 2006/12/22 at 10:03:50

    Great piece on Mr. Ertegun…I only wish I had my own story to tell. I usually run downstairs and get my Ahmet stories from John Beug.

    Up until recently anyone from WMG could email Mr. Ertegun since his name and email addy was in our global directory. If only I would have had the guts (as well) to email him each time I heard a great story and wished I knew the guy. No doubt reading the stories below he would have responded to a Thank you note, after all look at how many of his bands we work with today at Rhino.

    Our global directory still of course has Mo Ostin and Jac Holzman in there. I actually had a chance recently to talk to Jac about the new Elektra boxed set. Our conversation lasted about 5 minutes and much like some of the responses you received regarding first encounters with Mr. Ertegun I couldn’t believe this legend gave me time and day. I didn’t want the conversation to end.

    Legends…wow. I think I’ll go downstairs and bug Beug right now.

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  55. Comment by Kevin Williamson | 2006/12/22 at 10:04:06

    After working at Atlantic for 13 yrs. I could share plenty of great stories about Ahmet, but one always stands out to me. It was the Holiday season in ’94. I had left work on a Thurs. afternoon to run and buy my assistant an X-Mas present. When I arrived home to my humble apartment I was shocked to see that I had been robbed. My place was a wreck and anything of value had been taken.

    My stereo, camera, tv, etc. etc. OUCH!! What great timing. It just so happened that Jason Flom and Ahmet were flying in that day to showcase a band at the Whisky, and wanted me to attend the show. I talked my brother into coming over to watch the place while I was gone (due to the fact that my window had been broken out and anyone could just stroll in without me there). I ran out the door and made it to the show on time and sat with Jason and Ahmet watching the show totally depressed at losing everything I owned of value at the time. I told Jason the story between songs and tried to put it out of my mind. After the show we split up to talk to a few people in the room before I gave Jason a lift back to his hotel. I said bye to Ahmet a short time after that and arrived at the Peninsula at 1 am.

    Still very depressed I pulled up to the Hotel, and before I could say good night Jason told me not to worry about my loss because Ahmet was personally writing me a check to cover everything that had been stolen….. Talk about a lump in the throat… I could go on and on about the great things I have learned from Ahmet, but that tells you a lot about him as a person. I have been blessed to know him and will miss him…

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  57. Comment by Desmond Child | 2006/12/28 at 17:09:32

    Subject: The first and last time I saw Ahmet Ertegun by Desmond Child

    I first met Ahmet Ertegun was at Jerry Wexler’s house on Miami Beach in 1968. You see I was a "player" even then!
    Well not quite… I was fifteen and used to go over to my friend Lisa Wexler’s house to play records in her room. Lisa had all the test pressings her dad would give her of all the Atlantic artists before they came out. She was a "snowbird" who came down from New York with her family on holidays. I’d stay over for dinner all the time and there at Jerry’s generous and informal table was Ahmet Ertegun, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd. Mr. Dowd would give me rides back to the projects in Miami where I really lived. I didn’t know how important these men were until much later but I would sit for hours and listen to them talk about Vietnam, racial politics, artists, music and the music business. I was bitten and Lisa had a hard time dragging me away.

    The last time I saw Ahmet was at Clive’s Grammy party a few years ago at the Beverly Hills Hotel and I went up to him and reminded him that I was that kid that used to hang around Jerry’s. He shook my hand and sweetly acted like he remembered me from back then. Then he asked me if I’d write him a song for his artist Tarkan. I certainly did.

    Desmond Child
    New York City
    12/21/06

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  59. Comment by Karen Gordon | 2006/12/28 at 17:10:00

    Subject: My Ahmet Story

    Hey!

    Even I have an Ahmet Ertegun story!

    When I was a kid growing up in Winnipeg.. I used to dream of working in the music business..This was way before women were being hired for more than secretaries for the most part and I was never the secretary type.. When I was old enough to take the bus downtown by myself, I used to go to this big big magazine store at Portage and Main called Dominion News and leaf through Billboard magazine.. So even going to high school I knew who all the major players were.

    When I was in my late teens I took a couple of trip to Los Angeles because I knew it was either New York or L.A. and I had a third cousin in L.A. who was willing to let me come stay. By this point I was already working at a radio station–on air as a teen volunteer.. and I had discovered that you could, if you were diligent enough, land some really good interviews. I had been angling for an interview with a specific artist and had done a good enough job that I ended up at the Beverly Hills Hotel waiting in the lobby for the tour manager to come talk to me to figure out if I was for real.

    This was really tough. I mean, there I am, a kid, sitting in what I thought was about the coolest clothes I had on, hoping I looked like a rock journalist, but really understanding that I was way out of my league in every way–I mean I’m from WINNIPEG.. I think I was 16 at the time .. and I’ve blustered my way this far and don’t want to blow it.. .

    SO I’m sitting there half in terror and half feeling proud of having gotten so far and Ahmet Ertegun walks out of what my memory tells me is the restaurant. Now, I know EXACTLY who this is because I’ve been reading Billboard and he looks exactly like his photos–as neat and elegant as you might imagine.

    And he’s now walking in my direction.. He keeps coming towards me and I think he’s making eye contact…am I crazy? Nope.. He keeps walking to wards me and smiling .. And I’m madly trying to figure out what to do. I mean, I still had acne for heaven’s sake and he’s A LEGEND!. I know I am NOT cool and I also know that the thing I want to do most in the world is work for a record company!

    And he’s still walking towards me!!! He gets right up to me.. and is about to say something but as he gets close enough to actually see me, reality sets in…. He stops.. makes a formal little half bow and says.. I’m so sorry. I thought I recognized you, but I am mistaken.. and he smiles really graciously, holds the moment long enough so that its a proper human kind of exchange–turns and walks away.

    I remember sitting there absolutely frozen.. with some inane song lyric going through my head..
    I couldn’t believe it. I just watched him walk away with a real sinking feeling. I knew I had nothing to say to him that would have done me any good anyway.. But still… could I have turned the moment into something better?

    Somehow or other I did manage to persuade the tour manager that I was for real.. I did get into the bungalow.. I did in fact, get tickets to the concert. The interview never did come together, but I had pushed it all as far as I could anyway at the time.. In the bungalow I met a girl who briefly became a friend.. and life went on..

    I never forgot that moment of inspiration…. TO a 16 or 17 year old from Winnipeg to have gotten so close to this incredible mythical figure… and to experience him as this almost old world, utterly gracious man was really something…

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  61. Comment by Tom Scarilo | 2006/12/28 at 17:10:17

     I”d always seen pictures in Rolling Stone and other music mags during my teens of this bald Turkish guy with the strange name, who founded and ran Atlantic, but I didn’t know much more about him. Then, around late 1992 or so, while working at my first job in public accounting, I bought a remaindered book at Barnes and Noble, called "Music Man", by Dorothy Wade, about Ahmet and Atlantic. It turned out to be maybe the best $3 I ever spent in my life. Here was the story of this guy who was extremely passionate about music (as I was, having gone thru that phase that everyone seems to go thru when you’re impressionable and in your teens, starting around 1985 for me, where I was discovering everything from Beatles to Cream to Zappa to Zeppelin to Floyd to you name it), and since I wasn’t having much fun in public accounting, I decided that I might as well try to make a living doing something I liked. I figured I could try to get an accounting job working in the music business, preferably at Atlantic since it was this guy’s company, and I assumed record companies needed accountants somewhere in the mix (ha ha). After bailing on public accounting, I landed a job at BMG, where I was for a few years learning something about the business, but I’d always had my sights set on Atlantic, if only to be a part of such a storied company (I used to refer to it as the "House of Zeppelin" to my friends, and it seemed like a lot of my favorite stuff had that swirl logo). In late-98, my chance came up, and I jumped at it, where I lasted for 5+ years until WMG was sold and I was cut.

    During my time at Atlantic in NY, I met the man a couple of times, and you could sense you were in the presence of greatness. He had The Aura about him. The encounter I’ll remember, though, was in October of 2003, and had nothing to do with music. During the World Series that year, I split the office a little early to catch the train home and watch the game, and I got into the 27th floor elevator, only to have it stop on 26 and have Mr. Ertegun get in (I always used to address him properly, when I met him). He said hi, and asked me how I was, and I said I was headed home to watch the ballgame, and I was really hoping the Yankees would win the Series (they didn’t). Ahmet replied that baseball was good, but he was more interested in the World Cup and preferred soccer a bit more. What an understatement – this coming from the guy who also founded and owned the Cosmos and brought Pele to New York! I had to admit it was charming how he didn’t presume I knew that and was just relating this as a sports enthusiast.

    He also signed my copy of his beautiful-beyond-belief book "What’d I Say", with the inscription "To a True Music Man", and it’s probably one of my most prized possessions – even my parents were impressed and finally understood what was going on in my head when I was listening to all those LP’s starting back around 1985. It was a privilege to work at Atlantic while he was there, simple as that.

    Tom Scarillo
    Island Def Jam/UMG Finance
    Universal City, CA

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  63. Comment by Stephen Budd | 2006/12/28 at 17:10:35

     Probably too late to be of interest to you, but I met Ahmet a couple of times……… Once at Clive Davis’ Grammy party in 2002 and again at MIDEM the following year. I saw him across the room at Clive’s sitting with a very beautiful young woman engrossed in conversation, in retrospect it was probably an Atlantic artist that I didn’t recognize. Emboldened by Clive’s cocktails, I waited for an appropriate moment and dived in and introduced myself. I was expecting only a few seconds at very best, and really I just wanted to say to myself that I had met this true great of the business. However, within about 30 seconds it became apparent that he was trying to engage me in conversation and far from trying to be polite and get rid of me, was asking me questions and saying ‘oh you are from England, how’s the football going there?’… To my amazement he talked knowledgeably about soccer – and particularly my team Arsenal who were riding high at that moment – with a deep and intimate knowledge. I of course was bursting to ask him about Aretha, the Stones and Zep, but just then Clive’s intro for the evening kicked in and we were cut short. The following January in Cannes at MIDEM I saw him in the lobby at the Carlton where he was being honored and amidst all the hullabaloo he stopped, looked at me, smiled and with a gleam in his eye and said "Arsenal not doing so well right now are they?", "better than the Cosmos" I replied, having recently discovered that he personally founded the globally famous, but now sadly defunct New York soccer team in the 70’s that featured Pele amongst its superstar players. "Yes, a lot better than the Cosmos." he replied. Surprisingly, I never did get a job offer from him. What a man.

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  65. Comment by Scott Matthews | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:00

     Are we still on Ahmet? God, I hope so. Why not finish the whole year with him…there’s nobody more important, insightful or just plain fun to talk about.

    I only bumped into him in social settings. He was always ‘relaxed’ – that lovely half smile with the eyes kinda rolling back. The cane, the babes…One cool cat.

    One of the most meaningful conversations (for me) was sometime back in the 80’s. After I was done kissing the ring and showering him with cheese by letting him know that I knew NOBODY had better taste than he, I eventually brought up the subject of how a pioneer that not only wrote and produced but (in my humble) single-handedly contributed more than anyone by instinctually knowing the real deal from the duff, could allow some of the later signings at his label? In my head I’m hearing Dusty in Memphis’ ‘No Easy Way Down’ with Gerry Goffins’ lyrics painfully stating that once you’ve reached the highest of highs, try as you may, there’s no easy way down. I’m talking to the guy that always spoke of how you have to FEEL it! I knew he felt Ray and Aretha. Was he feeling Foreigner?
    He LOVED this topic and (of course) knew exactly what I was talking about, thus relaxing me quite a lot. All of the sudden his smile was huge and our eyes were locked in a stare. He took a while before saying a word, kept working that smile (timing is everything) and leaned over and spoke quietly, "I listen with both ears." He sat back and nodded while I hit the deck…it was so profound and perfect. So Ahmet.

    I got it. One of his ears represented his own taste and feel while the other ear was strictly used for what he felt the world would buy. He was feeling it deeply. Both ears equally important.

    I’m not saying he didn’t stay current and passionate – he did. But I bet when he went home at 4 AM, he looked at his bank statement from ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’ while he cranked up ‘Greenback Dollar’ by Ray.

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  67. Comment by Danny Fields | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:16

     It was the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building in Cleveland on Labor Day Weekend 1995, and a Major Occasion. Lisa Robinson and I were standing in the grand lobby, and Ahmet walked by with Earl McGrath, possibly his best friend in the world(along with the late Noreen Woods, who had been his AND Jerry’s secretary when I worked for Atlantic in the early 70’s). Ahmet said, "Someone is giving us a VIP tour of the whole building, come along." So of course we came along.

    We had a most knowledgeable guide, and were contemplating a wall of images by Billy Name, the great photographer (and literally resident) of Warhol’s factory. And there was a big picture of the Velvet Underground, whom Ahmet had signed to Atlantic in about 1969, for two albums–which turned out to be "Loaded" and "Live At Max’s," the tape of which I brought up to Atlantic straight from Brigid Berlin’s tiny, cheap cassette machine. She had recorded that night in the summer of 1970 when Lou Reed quit the group after the show–this is all backstory. (The Velvets would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the coming winter of ’96, which was not a secret by the end of the previous summer.)

    Anyhow, looking at the picture of the Velvets, I pointed to our darling Sterling Morrison, the VU’s bassist, who had died a few weeks earlier of cancer–at the time of his death he was a professor of English at UTexasAustin. Not knowing who in our little crowd knew what, I said, "Poor Sterling, he just died you know, how sad he won’t be there at the induction ceremony; I spoke to his wife yesterday and she will accept the honor in his memory."

    It would have been inconceivable to think that Ahmet, 25 years after signing the Velvets, and then dropping them after Lou left, would have known anything whatsoever about Sterling.

    At that moment, I swear to whatever god you like, Lou Reed was standing there among us, in the Hall of Fame Museum, as if he’d come down from the ceiling, or out of an invisible panel in the wall. Bear in mind, our little VIP tour group consisted of me, Lisa, Earl, Ahmet and the guide. And so I said, "Omigod, here’s Lou himself!! What an amazing vortex of synchronicity this is!" And it certainly was, you all gotta agree on that.

    Ahmet extended his arms to Lou, palms up, and walked over to him. He hugged Lou, and said, "I am so sorry about the loss of your friend." He didn’t say he’d just heard about it; just that he was sorry to know that Sterling was gone. Then he took both of Lou’s hands in his own, and squeezed them, and they separated. Lou had no way of knowing that I had spoken of Sterling’s passing just a few moments earlier. I guess he was in the ceiling or behind the wall when I made my little speech, which I’d done in order to pre-empt any faux pas from anyone in our tiny crowd…just in case, and as if.

    Lisa and I were speechless at what had just happened. She and I knew Lou quite well, and we stood there in silence with him and told Earl and Ahmet we’d catch up in a minute.

    "What a gentleman!" said Lou. "What an amazing man! Can you believe he knew about Sterling’s death, and hugged me and said he was sorry to hear about it? Who else in the world would know such a thing, who would remember it, who would put his arms around me and tell me he was sorry for my loss? Wow, there’s no one like Ahmet. No one."

    Lisa and I signaled our agreement with Lou, and gave him our own hugs before going off to catch up with the tour group. "Yeah," I said, "what a remarkable gentleman he is indeed."

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  69. Comment by Tim Price | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:32

     I met Ahmet when i was in a boy -band… this was 94-95….when boybands wern’t cool. Ahmet asked if we wanted to sign with atlantic records and be what he called a "singing group ala the Stylistics or all-4-one" . The other members of my boy band all nodded and became excited… i myself on the other hand thought that it would be the death of my career…. i quickly blurted before thinking " I DO NOT WANT TO BE ANYTHING LIKE ALL -4 -ONE. I WANT TO WRITE THE SONGS I SING. I WANT TO REACH PEOPLE WITH REAL MUSIC!!!! ". I will never never forget the look on his face, hearing a seventeen year old wannabe teen heart throb tell him that he wanted to make "real music". Ahmet than quickly responded " if thats what you want.. than your gonna need REAL hits. And i dont hear any REAL hits. "

    over the subsequent months….ahmet visted us and listened to our material. the advice he gave me on how to connect musically has been the center truth to everything i as a producer /songwriter have and will accomplish. Ahmet didn’t wind up signing us.

    i have had many mentors in my career, some willing, most unknowing. Ahmet’s time and advice, well that is a whole other experiance

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  71. Comment by Dan Nash | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:56

    I was an engineer at the old Atlantic Studios at 60th and BWAY. I worked closely with Ahmet on quite a few projects. Those of you out there who have known me for more than a tickle, know all my favorite Ahmet stories… the ones that will bring to you tears of joy and a cramp in your side from laughter. You also know that I can’t repeat them in print..!

    Everyone who ever met the man remembers the experience; his was not a precense that went unnoticed. He was always impeccably dressed and had a sly, wry, and oh so dry look in his eyes that I have rarely seen in my life. He told me all kinds of things at all hours of the night… offered up one-line axioms about good vs. great, or the motivations of specific people in specific circumstances, or what to say when you really hate something but don’t wish to offend anyone. He taught me about inner style and reading situations. And though you could tell when he was less than pleased, he was never unkind.

    But what I will forever miss about Ahmet was that he never made me feel like a putz, or just some fixture in the room. He never pulled rank, and he was always genuinely open to my opinion. He was a class act, a true icon, a legend. But, as he said to me on several occaisions: "Me… I’m just one of the boys…"

    You can only imagine what prompted him to say that…

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  73. Pingback by RustedRobot » Blog Archive » More On Ahmet | 2007/04/20 at 06:43:41

    […] yone Do? A Time Of Love…..A Time Of Hate » More On Ahmet Terrific little story from Lefsetz about Ahmet Ertegun, legendary founder of At […]


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  1. Pingback by Goals + Girls Blog » RIP – Ahmet Ertegün | 2006/12/20 at 21:38:51

    […] astisement of the grave, and protect him from the chastisement of the Fire. POSTSCRIPT: A great story of Bob Lefsetz’s first meeting with Ahmet. His reverence is […]

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    1. Comment by Mike Greene | 2006/12/21 at 16:59:50

      Nice Bob… did you know Nesuhi was one of the first Presidents of NARAS? He was my first visit after I became President in the late 80’s, Ahmet was my second and Mo third. The front pew, reserved for the founding aristocracy of music is almost deserted, with no worthy bench talent I fear!

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      1. Comment by Phil Walden, Jr. | 2006/12/21 at 17:00:09

        I went to his I guess 75th birthday party with my dad. Joe Smith told a story about someone asking Ahmet how to be successful in the music biz and Ahmet said put your head down and hope you bump into a genius.

        Otis pronounced his name "Omelette."

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        1. Comment by Larry LeBlanc | 2006/12/21 at 17:00:25

          Bob: I loved your tribute to Ahmet. I grew up on Atlantic. Everything on the label early on was quality. I bought singles by Ray Charles the Drifters, the Coasters, and Ben E. King. The first album I brought home was on Atlantic…Bobby Darin’s "That’s All." I continued to seek out Atlantic music for years later including that by the Young Rascals, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett, etc.

          A high moment for me as a journalist was being hired to write the liner notes in 1984 of the Aretha Franklin retrospective "Thirty Greatest Hits." I talked to Jerry Wexler–a big thrill– but Ahmet wasn’t available.

          This fall, about six weeks before his passing, I finally met Ahmet while at Atlantic headquarters in New York. I noticed him about to get onto an elevator. I then bolted out of Atlantic’s waiting room and stopped the elevator. It was only a brief meeting but I was able to tell him that I became a music journalist because of him and Jerry and other record men like Jerry Moss & Herb Alpert, Bert Berns, George Goldner, the Bihari brothers, and Don Robey. Ahmet was very, very gracious. But I expected that.

          While Ahmet and Jerry certainly relished having hits in the heyday of Atlantic that wasn’t the foundation of the label. The foundation was their passion about discovering great artists and making great music. The hits followed. Today’s music men spend too much time chasing down hits (and often failing miserably) and little time in trying to discover really great talent.

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          1. Comment by Stephen-Craig Aristei | 2006/12/21 at 17:00:50

            Dear Bob,
            Ahmet Ertegun – R I P !

            I knew all about him. He was my one of my "Gods"…I read every article I could find on him……When I was 15 years old, I saved up a year’s worth of "paper route" money to buy subscriptions to Billboard and Cashbox magazines. I read them and committed all that "hype" and "tripe" to memory….music was my religion.

            Years later, my friend from New York, Jon Simonds, who had been in business with Steve Paul and The Blues Project, (and later became my partner in a management company) told me stories about his and his friend’s many encounters with the man, so I kind of always felt like I knew him….a little.

            As a professional manager (songplugger) at Warner Bros. Music, I was always sending him songs that I thought could be, should be and many became "big hits", but most of the time I would get a random "note/comment" back from him…but usually I would hear his thoughts about what I had sent him from others….Like Jerry Wexler would tell one of my bosses to tell me to stop sending songs to Ahmet and send them to him instead………!

            No, I never met him in person, but he took an Alan O’Day Song ("Every Man Wants Another Man’s Woman" – A song that I believed was a "hit" – yet no producer would agree) and recorded it with Clarence Reid, had it released as a single on Atlantic Records and it hit the singles charts! – (produced by Ahmet & Jerry Wexler) – The fact that Jerry Wexler had called me an arrogant shit and threw me out of his office when I played him the same song two weeks earlier always seemed strange…. But, this was the record biz – and I felt totally vindicate ! I remember my boss Ed Silvers walking down to my office to tell me that he had just spoken to Ahmet, and Ahmet asked him to tell me that he was recording "….the song that he had gotten from the kid at warners bros music with two first names (Stephen-Craig) ! Maybe I was jaded, but having songs I placed played on the radio and becoming hits rarely did anything for me….I just kind of expected it…..But when Ahmet Ertegun recorded a song that I gave him, or Tom Dowd, or Roy Halee, or David Rubinson, Bob Marcucci, or Lou Reisner, or Clive recorded a song that I had given them….Holy Fuck, that made it all worthwhile…That was what it was all about for me.

            A year or so later, and about 8 months after Billy Joel’s "Turnstiles" album had been released, Ahmet took my phone call one afternoon while I was in NY, sitting at a table at the Tavern On The Green with Elizabeth Joel (at that time the wife and manager of Billy Joel).

            I had decided that Billy Joel was going to be a big star and and realized that CBS records was not doing anything to break him as an artist and concluded that I should "steal" him from CBS records and in the process of moving him to a new label, Warner Bros. Music would get his music publishing. Like a "big shot", I asked for a telephone to be brought to the table, and called Atlantic Records and asked for Ahmet, like I did it every day…(boy, was Elizabeth Joel impressed…..but not half as much as I was when Ahmet actually got on the line with me!)

            I asked him if he would be interested in signing Billy Joel if he were free from CBS….to which he immediately answered "Yes, where do I sign?" I asked him to repeat what he had just said, with Elizabeth’s ear up close to the phone receiver, and he did…..and that started a year long process to get Billy off the label, that ultimately resulted in lighting a fire under Walter Yetnikoff and the entire CBS staff….by time "The Stranger" album was released, our "coup" had failed, but Billy was on his way to the super stardom "status" he enjoys today.

            Ahmet is truly one of the "Last of the Greats" and one of the true "fathers of our industry"…his accomplishments have not only changed music, but formed the tastes of America…from Sonny & Cher to ther Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, The Iron Butterfly (All Green & Stone acts), to all the R&B, Jazz and Rock acts that you have mentioned and many many others that we have unfortunately forgotten, that all added to his legend and his contribution…his presence will be missed….From the kid with two first names, RIP !

            PS – Tom Dowd always refered to Ahmet as "The Old Man"…..like…."The Old Man wants me to do this Terry Reid record and then he wants me to mix the Yes album, but somehow I have to fit Eric Clapton in……"! I wonder what the "Old Man" will have Tom do now that they are in the same place.

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            1. Comment by Al Marks | 2006/12/21 at 17:01:13

              When I worked for Max Silverman (Waxie Maxie the legendary Washington DC record retailer) Ahmet Ertegun was a regular visitor to the offices…Max Silverman had befriended him and his brother Neshui when they lived in DC due to their father being a diplomat. They used to hang out at his store on 7th street and listen to records and just be part of the scene according to Max… Apparently they asked him to be part of the startup of Atlantic Records and I am really not sure why he wasn’t but their friendship continued until Max’s death in the mid 80s… Ahmet made sure that Waxie Maxies had 300 copies of every single they released shipped directly to Max in his office and would visit the warehouse offices regularly… He would come into the warehouse which is where I met him and speak to us about music, bands, signings, radio and generally made you feel like you mattered and were not just some warehouse junkie… Back in those days 1970-1972 all of us in the warehouse were in bands and were chomping at the bit to give him tapes, but none of us had the nerve because we were so impressed that he took the time to speak to us we were afraid he would be pissed we used him… One day during one of his visits he came up to me and asked me for my band’s tape as Max had told him we were good… I nearly pissed my pants but gave it to him… He took it and went into Max’s office and actually listened to it, came back into the warehouse and gave me Jerry Greenberg’s number, told me to call him and set up a meeting… We called him and actually went to NY to meet with him about signing to Atlantic (but that is another story)… I will never forget the kindness he showed me… He was a very special man… I have met many famous people in my career but he will always stand out as someone I consider myself extremely fortunate to have crossed paths with…

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              1. Comment by Greg Wells | 2006/12/21 at 17:01:30

                When I was 24, I had the good fortune to play jazz piano for a record being produced by Ahmet. Ertegun. The artist was Steve Kowalczyk… We were in the big room at Ocean Way, live off the floor with Lee Sklar on bass, late great Carlos Vega on drums, Joe Porcaro on vibes, Lee Thornburg on trumpet, Brian Malouf engineering… It was the BEST. Ahmet ran the session with a cool and humble confidence. I’ll never forget hearing that incredible voice coming down the talkback mic in my headphones between each take. He let me bum cigarettes from him…. I remember he wore monogrammed slippers in the studio…and at the end of the day he was simply the coolest human being alive. As you wrote, Bob, he never once had the air of talking down to anyone. A record exec with respect for everyone whose ship was driven by the love of great music. Evidently, it’s not the kind of thing you can pass on, you either get that or you don’t, but may we all be inspired by this man’s life and love of music.

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                1. Comment by Martin Heath | 2006/12/21 at 17:01:48

                  Dear bob, I had the great pleasure to meet ahmet this summer. He played me the paulo nutini record and described all the arrangements he wanted. He never lost his joy for music and it was clear that it was music and the idea of it that motivated him to the end. They are born and not made.

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                  1. Comment by Jackie Curbishley | 2006/12/21 at 17:02:09

                    Dear Bob,

                    Ahmet told me this story.

                    In the early days of The Who, when they were still managed by the irascible Stamp & Lambert, Kit Lambert and Ahmet were having a loud argument. Kit became very peeved with Ahmet and stormed out of his office, only to return a few seconds later, throw open the door and shout at Ahmet "Do you know why there is so much anti-semitism in the world?" "No," said an astonished Ahmet. "Because Turks don’t travel!" yelled Kit.

                    Slamming the door, he went on his way, leaving Ahmet collapsed laughing.

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                    1. Comment by Talley Griffith | 2006/12/21 at 17:02:31

                      I met Ahmet oddly enough, in a roundabout way. It was through a relative of mine who worked as an engineer for him for many years. I was invited to attend a function in D.C. unrelated to the industry. And when the hostess informed me of who the elderly gentleman was in the front of the room – my heart skipped a beat.

                      I remember seeing him in pictures with Led Zeppelin. On the airplane, this well-dressed man with all these rockers. Out of place? Only until he opens his mouth. Then he was accidentally more hip than anyone else was on purpose.

                      We discussed politics (and the diplomatic corps life as my own cousin was a U.S. Ambassador of some note). We discussed "people", and most of all – we discussed music. Not the music industry, but REAL music. And he filled me with treasures and advice I will NEVER forget.

                      He told me to never hesitate to call him if I had a question, or needed anything. So I didn’t hesitate, and he always had time to chat and to offer advice on this or that. But when talking with Ahmet, NOTHING was irrelevant…nothing (and nobody) was small or common. He had a way of making everything seem like it was coming from the mouth of Moses himself!

                      With so much success, you had to take it that way too. When I asked him once, "What is the difference between a song that makes a hit and a song that becomes a legend", he laughed with a trademark shuffle staccato chuckle and said: "Ah Taah-leey (his pronunciation of my name), the difference is not how it sells, but how it FEELS". He said a legendary classic song will forever make you remember where you were when you heard it and will make you re-live it forever. I never forgot it.

                      I sent him flowers and a note when I heard he had fallen into this coma. I figured that like everything else in his life, it was just a speed bump and he’d be back up and going soon. Had I know the last time we spoke on the phone would be the last time ever…I would have said something more profound than what I had said. He wanted to hear my new instrumental I’d composed…and had been scolding me for not finishing it sooner. I promised him I’d get it to him soon. I never did.

                      Bob, you hit the nail on the head, and totally defined Ahmet when you said you felt like: "drinking buddies, or the guy you grew up with". THAT was Ahmet’s true talent…it wasn’t just his genius with music, but his genius with PEOPLE that made him so successful. When he spoke to you – you were the only one who mattered. You were suddenly as important as any other A-lister or Executive. Ahmet was a people person, and considered you a person first, and everything else second. THAT was his real talent…managining relationships and leading PEOPLE. He understood people, and in return…they respected him.

                      A void has indeed been left – not just in music – but in the prototype of what an executive should be. We have lost a role model, a torch-bearer for treating others with respect and dignity, and most of all…we have lost a friend.

                      R.I.P. Ahmet…and thanks for the memories, the guidance, and the music.

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                      1. Comment by David Rubinson | 2006/12/21 at 17:02:46

                        Ahmet was one of the last of the giants.
                        Jerry and Mo and Jac are left- and who else ?

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                        1. Comment by Mark McKenna | 2006/12/21 at 17:03:04

                          Yeah, you never forget when you’ve shared time with one of the progenitors. The one thing I will never forget about Ahmet was that he never displayed any high and mighty bullshit whenever I met him or was around him. Same with Arif. He had nothing to prove and was too interested in what he was doing to cop an attitude. He was in the mix, on the street, always.

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                          1. Comment by Barbara Wesotski | 2006/12/21 at 17:03:22

                            It’s true – right to the end Ahmet had to be around the music. My first record company gig was at Atlantic Records in 1988 and I would see him sitting at his desk overlooking the 21 Club on the 2nd floor at 75 Rock (I asked around the office why we’re on the lowest floors in such a fabulous building and was told that Ahmet was wary of terrorism – a bizarre concept to me at the time but incredibly far-sighted now). The week I started we all received the memo that Atlantic would be holding a 40th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden and we were each invited with a friend, could buy two more discounted tickets, and the Felt Forum would be open to employees all day with free food and drink, in addition to attending the concert of a lifetime. After that I noticed Ahmet at shows I went to all over the city for years and years. I was in awe of him. I introduced myself once and he was gracious but, like you, I never had the guts to go up to him again. I was in awe of his legacy, of the incredible hall of gold records leading to his office, of the legacy of artists – just being at Led Zeppelin’s label blew my mind… It is fitting that he went out at a Rolling Stones concert, doing what he loved. It is also appropriate that he won’t be around to watch
                            the R&R Hall of Fame (which originated from the Atlantic offices right around that time also) spiral downward.

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                            1. Comment by Michael Laskow | 2006/12/21 at 17:03:41

                              My first job in the music business was as the lowest form of life at Criteria Studios in Miami in 1974. Clapton was finishing "461 Ocean Blvd.", the Bee Gees were there doing their "comeback album" with "Jive Talkin’" on it, and the Eagles were there working on "One Of These Nights." It was a heady time. I was nineteen years old, living my dream, and understood that it was a privilege to be around, and learn from people like Tommy Dowd, Arif Mardin, Bill Szymcyzk, Karl Richardson and Don Gehman on a daily basis.

                              A few months into my job, Ahmet discovered a band called, ‘Mama’s Pride’ when his limo got a flat tire in St. Louis, and he entered he Rusty Springs Saloon to use a pay phone. He signed the band the next day, and brought them to Criteria. I was asked to be the assistant to the assistant engineer on the record.

                              Ahmet and a lady with poofy blonde hair and a tight yellow sweater were sitting in the back of the control room in the airplane seats along the wall trimmed with bright orange shag carpet. At some point, I grabbed a very heavy reel of 2 inch tape and made my way across the space between Ahmet and his guest and the back of the engineer’s chair. The tape hit my knee, fell from my grip, and landed squarely on the sweater lady’s left foot.

                              I heard a snap, and watched her foot balloon into something that resembled a football with a shoe on it. Without missing a beat, Ahmet leaped from is seat, wagged his finger in my trembling face, and yelled, "You’re not going to last very long in THIS business!"

                              Needless to say, I saw my dream and my life pass before my eyes. It was all I could do to not burst in to tears. Tommy Dowd followed me into the musty smelling air lock between the control room and the studio. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "It was an honest mistake, just an accident. You won’t lose your job, he’s just upset."

                              A few months after I started TAXI in 1992, Arif was being honored at a dinner at the Beverly Hilton. I went. When the sea of well-wishers parted, I saw Arif and Ahmet sitting together at a dinner round. I walked over, shook their hands, and recounted the story of the sweater lady’s broken foot. Arif chuckled, and Ahmet asked, "So, you’re still working in the music business?"

                              I answered in the affirmative, and he replied with his trademark wink, smile, and a tilt of his head, "Well, I guess I was wrong about that too."

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                              1. Comment by Bhaskar Menon | 2006/12/21 at 17:04:03

                                Dear Mr Lefsetz:

                                You do not know me, and I have not had the pleasure of meeting you though I do occasionally read your work. Ahmet and Nesuhi were close friends of mine. The world is gravely deprived by their passing.

                                Your touching tribute to Ahmet captures the essence of a man who brought the magnificence of so much marvelous music and so many exciting performers to an entire generation. And yet, Ahmet and Nesuhi were the most magnificent of their era.

                                Best,
                                Bhaskar Menon

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                                1. Comment by Jill Sobule | 2006/12/22 at 09:58:40

                                  Bob, the first time I met Ahmet, he took my hand and kissed it and said (in a sort of perverted voice) "I kissed a Girl". It was one of the best moments in my life.

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                                  1. Comment by Jeff Laufer | 2006/12/22 at 09:58:58

                                    My entrance in the record business was doing promotion for Atlantic Records in Los Angeles. My first meeting with Ahmet was one I will never forget. I think he was taken by my physical stature and my knowledge of the history of Atlantic.

                                    The record business doesn’t have executives like that anymore. As much as I admire other record company heads they can’t "shine Ahmet’s shoes." The only person that spoke with such clarity was my rabbi!

                                    A few years ago I was in NYC and while taking the elevator to the Atlantic office on a cool fall day, it was just Ahmet and me. Talk about awkward, I just had to say something more then just "hello." As you know I always have something to say about everything. So I asked him who he was rooting for in the World Series; the Yankees or Mets (it was the year they were both in the series). His reply was, "I don’t really care who wins, but have you heard the new track from Jewel?"

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                                    1. Comment by Dick LaPalm | 2006/12/22 at 09:59:34

                                      He was brilliant; he was gracious; he was gifted; he was intuitive; he was kind. He was a Jazz and Blues aficionado. He had impeccable taste; he had style; he had class. He was elegant; he was streetwise; he was aware; he was raunchy; he was giving. He had integrity; he had charisma; he had foresight; he had grace. He was shrewd; he was vibrant; he was loving; he was thoughtful; he was fearless; he was fair. He hung with Dizzy, Sassy, Bird, and Trane; Jagger, Clapton, Aretha, and Brother Ray. He was urbane; he was charming; he was suave; he was witty; he was loyal. He was fluent in five languages. He was sharp; he was a visionary; he was ethical; he was passionate; he was singular; he was genuine. He was, unquestionably, the greatest record executive ever. He set the standards by which we all learned and measured ourselves. He was Ahmet Ertegun. How truly blessed we are to have had him among us. I’ll miss him terribly. Rest in peace, dear friend, rest in peace.

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                                      1. Comment by Tres3star | 2006/12/22 at 10:00:48

                                        I got the pleasure of meeting Ahmet in the Atlantic records building in New York. My band and I were there to see our a&r guy, Nic Casenelli . Atlantic had just signed us and decided to re-release our first record "Carousel". Nic informed us that Ahmet wanted to meet us, and to come to his office a.s.a.p. We were more than thrilled and excitedly we rode the elevator to his wonderful office. Upon entering I was floored. Black and white autograph pictures, books, drum sticks, etc etc. It was so much better and cooler than the Rock and roll hall of Fame. It was rock and roll history everywhere. Aretha, Otis, Ringo, Page and Plant. They were all there and they all had sent or given or autographed something personal to this man clad in a three piece suit standing before me. Upon sitting down we all shot the shit for a while. Where had we been touring, how was the road? Stuff like that. Then Ahmet said " I really like your record." "Thanks," we replied thinking that was the end of it. Ahmet then went into a half hour dialogue about which songs he preferred, what grooves he liked, which ones were the hits. HE HAD ACTUALLY LISTENED TO OUR RECORD!!!! Not like some of the others downstairs, who give you the OLE bait and switch. WE were blown away. This was why he was so great. He loved the music. That’s what mattered.

                                        As our time with Ahmet was ending, he was talking about the importance of touring and staying on the road. He told about, as he called them "a little band he signed back in the day, did we know them? Cream." We confirmed that "yes" we most definitely knew them. He continued, this band Cream they toured so hard and…….then he stopped mid sentence and stared me directly in the eyes for well over a minute. The room was in complete silence, no one said a word. I didn’t know if we was testing me or in thought, but he kept his eyes locked on mine until finally out of respect I lowered my eyes to the ground for a second. he then continued……..and that’s what really broke them." Phew! I was so freaked out, but honored that I’d had a moment with Ahmet. I’ll never forget it. He was the real deal and I’ll sure miss him.

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                                        1. Comment by Michael Laskow | 2006/12/22 at 10:01:05

                                          Check this out!! I found the very console that I walked behind when I dropped the tape on Ahmet’s friend’s foot! I called the guy who owns it, and offered to buy it, but Jeep Harned’s (the console designer) wife bought it two days ago, and she’s donating it to the R&R Hall of Fame Museum. Check out the credits attached to this incredible console. Only guys like us can truly appreciate its history.

                                          http://www.vintageconsoles.com/mci.htm

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                                          1. Comment by Michael Wijnen | 2006/12/22 at 10:01:27

                                            I am reading your column every day here in Paris, France where I worked for Warner Music for about twelve years as MD.

                                            I was very lucky to become friends with Ahmet- he came often to Paris and I was in NY on a regular basis. Ahmet was equally kind to Robert Plant and Phil Collins as he was to my children. He was certainly one of the most generous persons I ever met. Together with Mica, they were such an amazing couple.

                                            Last time I saw him in his Atlantic office this summer, he was talking to Kid Rock on the phone about his wedding with Pamela Anderson.

                                            One day, one of my children asked Ahmet if he had always been bald. Ahmet said yes, I became bald at a very young age. Then he turned to me and said: "In the late sixities me and a girlfriend, we flew up to San Fransisco to see this band. As we were a few hours early, my girlfriend went shopping and I went to the barber. I became bald already then, but the barber insisted on giving me a little wig…With my wig on, I went to the show- I did not see my girlfriend, but she had a backstage pass, so I would see her afterwards anyway. When the show was over, I went backstage, bumped into my girlgriend who was already hanging out with the band. Then she yelled "Ahmet, what did you do to your hair!!" and she took my wig off… That’s why I did not sign Jefferson Airplane". One of the great stories of such a wonderful man who will truly be missed.

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                                            1. Comment by Bob Brennan | 2006/12/22 at 10:01:46

                                              Ahmet’s rare musical instincts, his personable nature and his rare humility for someone of his stature were all pivotal to Cream’s success and Atlantic’s resulting transformation from a primarily black music label to the most respected rock label in history. He’d seen Clapton by accident, pre-Cream, when he was in England in early 1966 to watch his artist Wilson Pickett perform. Ahmet was blown away by the blues licks coming from the fingers of the "kid with the angelic face" and Eric stayed on his radar. When Cream formed later that year, Ahmet sensed high prospects for a unique English blues trio, fronted by this white whiz kid.

                                              When Cream made its first trip to the States in April of 1967 to record at Atlantic Studios and showed up at its doorstep with stacks of Marshall amps twelve feet high, Ahmet and Dowd were confounded. How would a label that had recorded jazz for decades through little Fender amps adjust to something like this? And who was this bassist, Jack, who wanted to sing these strange "psychedelic" songs? This was supposed to be a blues trio fronted by Eric, wasn’t it?

                                              But fate had supplied the answer and only Ahmet, among the execs of his day, could see it. A kid about Cream’s age had coincidentally stopped by that same week, looking for opportunities at the label he’d come to respect so highly. Ahmet knew the kid because he had played on an album by an obscure black folk artist named Casey Anderson four years earlier. The kid had since been making a name for himself as a session player and arranger amidst the Dylan-inspired folk boom thirty blocks south in Greenwich Village, and had just come off his first recordings as a producer for one of the first "folk-rock" bands to emerge from that scene, the Youngbloods. "Get Together" would not be a top 5 hit until its re-release in 1969, but there was a buzz about the new sound from New York and the producer who’d helped shape it.

                                              Ahmet had the instincts, not to mention that rare humility, to sense that this New York kid had his finger on the pulse of what was happening at that moment and to ask him if he had any ideas about what to do with an English "power trio" like this. Ahmet and Dowd then brought him over to hear a blues Cream had just laid down called "Lawdy Mama". The kid heard something in his head and asked Ahmet, and the band, if he could take the blues track home with him and put his own song over the track and come back the next day with something different. It was a rather bold request to make of a band he had just met – a very proud band to boot.

                                              But Cream trusted Ahmet, for the same reasons everyone else did for 50 years, and they agreed to give him a crack at it.

                                              The kid was Felix Pappalardi, later to become the bassist and producer of Mountain, and the modified song he returned with was "Strange Brew". Suddenly, everything made sense. Cream was thrust into high Gear as the Summer Of Love was beckoning. Just as suddenly, traditional blues and psychedelia were no longer at odds. Rather, they would synergize into something the whole world would be blown away by. The door for Jack’s song ideas was now thrust open and through it that same month came, among others, "Sunshine Of Your Love". Ahmet had no doubt sensed a turning point was upon them, although he hadn’t yet realized that another ex-Yardbird, Jimmy Page, would follow in Eric’s footsteps with his own band, Led Zeppelin.

                                              At a time when bands were assigned staff producers by major labels as a matter of course, only at Ahmet’s hand could something magical like this have happened. The rest, of course, is history.

                                              PS – When Cream’s reunion concert at MSG was announced last fall, I called Ahmet’s office and asked his secretary if might be possible for Felix’s surviving sister to attend, compliments of Atlantic. She replied that any remaining comp tickets were scarce, if available at all, but she would mention it to him. Less than an hour later, she called back. She was holding two tickets for her, compliments of Ahmet himself.

                                              Ahmet was one in a million and America owes him a debt of gratitude for one of its most golden eras of music.

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                                              1. Comment by Steve Waxman | 2006/12/22 at 10:02:03

                                                I started working at Warner in 1992. In those days, Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker were still at Warner Bros. and Jac Holzman (the founder of Elektra) was running Discovery Records. Once a year a few of us would head down to the U.S. for a national sales convention and there was always an opportunity to bend the ear of one of these industry giants or sit in on some of their own war stories.

                                                As the years moved forward though, many of the original mavericks moved on or were moved out as the industry evolved. I remember one convention when all of the people that molded music as I knew it stood on the stage at one time taking their bows. A year later, only Ahmet remained.

                                                Whenever an artist got signed to Atlantic Records one of their biggest thrills was being brought up to Ahmet’s office where he would regale them with stories of signing the Rolling Stones, hanging out with Led Zeppelin or recording Aretha Franklin. My one and only meeting with Ahmet took place in an elevator. It was about ten years ago. We were at a Warner convention in Washington. It was 1 a.m. and we were coming back to the hotel from seeing a band I have long forgotten. We got in the elevator and before the door closed we could see Ahmet shuffling towards us with a couple of pretty young friends. Never one to be shy, I was quick to introduce myself to him after the doors closed.

                                                "Nice to meet you kid," he said in a gruff voice that has stuck to me to this day. I asked him his thoughts on how the industry was changing and he launched into a personal diatribe. "It’s the fucking bean counters that are ruining the business," he griped. "They’re telling us what we can and can’t sign. The fucking bean counters are screwing it up."

                                                Our floor came up and the doors opened. As we walked out I turned to say it was nice to have met you. It was the one and only meeting with Ahmet, but it sure was memorable.

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                                                1. Comment by Andrew Essex | 2006/12/22 at 10:02:33

                                                  Anyone interested in Ahmet must read the great two-part George Trow profile that ran in the New Yorker in the 70s. It’s one of the greatest magazine profiles ever, and evokes the time in an especially vivid, heartbreaking way. It’s also wonderful for the cameo but a young macher named David Geffen who Ahmet disdainfully treats like a real-life Sammy Glick.

                                                  http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/articles/061218fr_archive08?page=1

                                                  About 4 years ago I had the occasion to interview Ahmet for Details. It was a delight, but one odd bit stays with me. I asked him, of all the great artists he’d worked with over the years, who impressed him the most. The answer: Phil Collins!

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                                                  1. Comment by Kai Lofthus | 2006/12/22 at 10:03:07

                                                    Atco was launched in 1955 when Herb Abramson (Atlantic co-founder and Ahmet’s guiding angel in the music industry) returned from the army. Atlantic had changed, in the sense that Jerry Wexler replaced him as president and Nesuhi had come in as a partner – as well as that Herb’s marriage was in turmoil and on the brink of divorce. On the heels of this, Atco became Herb’s own playground within Atlantic. As to how Cream became part of Atco and not Atlantic, I don’t know. Could simply be a matter of sharing workload.

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                                                    1. Comment by Jac Holzman | 2006/12/22 at 10:03:24

                                                      Really good stuff in your piece on Ahmet. Rather like a wake where the reminiscences flow from his chorus of friends and admirers. As much as I know about Ahmet (and he totally terrified me at the beginning of what became a friendship of real mutual respect) there are stories I had forgotten. Here’s one.

                                                      Ahmet and Mica took me and my ladyfriend, Ellen Sander (rock critic for the Saturday Review and the NYTimes in the 60’s and early 70’s), for dinner on Ellen’s birthday. As Ellen recounted the story in her excellent book, Trips, Steve Stills, to whom Ahmet was very close, had actually left the group. Atlantic had invested a huge sum in advances and production costs. Ahmet was quite irritated with them. "That group is gone." Ahmet told us unhappily. "The only way they’ll get back together again is for the other three to go to Stills and ask him to come back, but they’ll never do it. They’re too proud and they’re too hurt." Ahmet was really and uncharacteristically upset.

                                                      Ellen suggested they replace Stills with another bass player, mentioning, half in jest, that Paul McCartney was free (the Beatles had recently broken up). Ellen thought it’d make Ahmet laugh. Instead, his eyes lit up and he turned to Ellen, saying "That’s a tremendous idea. Tremendous!" He lowered his voice. "I wonder how much Apple Corps Records would give me for the other three?"

                                                      He is so indelible and we will be feasting on an inheritance of great music and delicious memories for years to come.

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                                                      1. Comment by Celine Joshua | 2006/12/22 at 10:03:50

                                                        Great piece on Mr. Ertegun…I only wish I had my own story to tell. I usually run downstairs and get my Ahmet stories from John Beug.

                                                        Up until recently anyone from WMG could email Mr. Ertegun since his name and email addy was in our global directory. If only I would have had the guts (as well) to email him each time I heard a great story and wished I knew the guy. No doubt reading the stories below he would have responded to a Thank you note, after all look at how many of his bands we work with today at Rhino.

                                                        Our global directory still of course has Mo Ostin and Jac Holzman in there. I actually had a chance recently to talk to Jac about the new Elektra boxed set. Our conversation lasted about 5 minutes and much like some of the responses you received regarding first encounters with Mr. Ertegun I couldn’t believe this legend gave me time and day. I didn’t want the conversation to end.

                                                        Legends…wow. I think I’ll go downstairs and bug Beug right now.

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                                                        1. Comment by Kevin Williamson | 2006/12/22 at 10:04:06

                                                          After working at Atlantic for 13 yrs. I could share plenty of great stories about Ahmet, but one always stands out to me. It was the Holiday season in ’94. I had left work on a Thurs. afternoon to run and buy my assistant an X-Mas present. When I arrived home to my humble apartment I was shocked to see that I had been robbed. My place was a wreck and anything of value had been taken.

                                                          My stereo, camera, tv, etc. etc. OUCH!! What great timing. It just so happened that Jason Flom and Ahmet were flying in that day to showcase a band at the Whisky, and wanted me to attend the show. I talked my brother into coming over to watch the place while I was gone (due to the fact that my window had been broken out and anyone could just stroll in without me there). I ran out the door and made it to the show on time and sat with Jason and Ahmet watching the show totally depressed at losing everything I owned of value at the time. I told Jason the story between songs and tried to put it out of my mind. After the show we split up to talk to a few people in the room before I gave Jason a lift back to his hotel. I said bye to Ahmet a short time after that and arrived at the Peninsula at 1 am.

                                                          Still very depressed I pulled up to the Hotel, and before I could say good night Jason told me not to worry about my loss because Ahmet was personally writing me a check to cover everything that had been stolen….. Talk about a lump in the throat… I could go on and on about the great things I have learned from Ahmet, but that tells you a lot about him as a person. I have been blessed to know him and will miss him…

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                                                          1. Comment by Desmond Child | 2006/12/28 at 17:09:32

                                                            Subject: The first and last time I saw Ahmet Ertegun by Desmond Child

                                                            I first met Ahmet Ertegun was at Jerry Wexler’s house on Miami Beach in 1968. You see I was a "player" even then!
                                                            Well not quite… I was fifteen and used to go over to my friend Lisa Wexler’s house to play records in her room. Lisa had all the test pressings her dad would give her of all the Atlantic artists before they came out. She was a "snowbird" who came down from New York with her family on holidays. I’d stay over for dinner all the time and there at Jerry’s generous and informal table was Ahmet Ertegun, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd. Mr. Dowd would give me rides back to the projects in Miami where I really lived. I didn’t know how important these men were until much later but I would sit for hours and listen to them talk about Vietnam, racial politics, artists, music and the music business. I was bitten and Lisa had a hard time dragging me away.

                                                            The last time I saw Ahmet was at Clive’s Grammy party a few years ago at the Beverly Hills Hotel and I went up to him and reminded him that I was that kid that used to hang around Jerry’s. He shook my hand and sweetly acted like he remembered me from back then. Then he asked me if I’d write him a song for his artist Tarkan. I certainly did.

                                                            Desmond Child
                                                            New York City
                                                            12/21/06

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                                                            1. Comment by Karen Gordon | 2006/12/28 at 17:10:00

                                                              Subject: My Ahmet Story

                                                              Hey!

                                                              Even I have an Ahmet Ertegun story!

                                                              When I was a kid growing up in Winnipeg.. I used to dream of working in the music business..This was way before women were being hired for more than secretaries for the most part and I was never the secretary type.. When I was old enough to take the bus downtown by myself, I used to go to this big big magazine store at Portage and Main called Dominion News and leaf through Billboard magazine.. So even going to high school I knew who all the major players were.

                                                              When I was in my late teens I took a couple of trip to Los Angeles because I knew it was either New York or L.A. and I had a third cousin in L.A. who was willing to let me come stay. By this point I was already working at a radio station–on air as a teen volunteer.. and I had discovered that you could, if you were diligent enough, land some really good interviews. I had been angling for an interview with a specific artist and had done a good enough job that I ended up at the Beverly Hills Hotel waiting in the lobby for the tour manager to come talk to me to figure out if I was for real.

                                                              This was really tough. I mean, there I am, a kid, sitting in what I thought was about the coolest clothes I had on, hoping I looked like a rock journalist, but really understanding that I was way out of my league in every way–I mean I’m from WINNIPEG.. I think I was 16 at the time .. and I’ve blustered my way this far and don’t want to blow it.. .

                                                              SO I’m sitting there half in terror and half feeling proud of having gotten so far and Ahmet Ertegun walks out of what my memory tells me is the restaurant. Now, I know EXACTLY who this is because I’ve been reading Billboard and he looks exactly like his photos–as neat and elegant as you might imagine.

                                                              And he’s now walking in my direction.. He keeps coming towards me and I think he’s making eye contact…am I crazy? Nope.. He keeps walking to wards me and smiling .. And I’m madly trying to figure out what to do. I mean, I still had acne for heaven’s sake and he’s A LEGEND!. I know I am NOT cool and I also know that the thing I want to do most in the world is work for a record company!

                                                              And he’s still walking towards me!!! He gets right up to me.. and is about to say something but as he gets close enough to actually see me, reality sets in…. He stops.. makes a formal little half bow and says.. I’m so sorry. I thought I recognized you, but I am mistaken.. and he smiles really graciously, holds the moment long enough so that its a proper human kind of exchange–turns and walks away.

                                                              I remember sitting there absolutely frozen.. with some inane song lyric going through my head..
                                                              I couldn’t believe it. I just watched him walk away with a real sinking feeling. I knew I had nothing to say to him that would have done me any good anyway.. But still… could I have turned the moment into something better?

                                                              Somehow or other I did manage to persuade the tour manager that I was for real.. I did get into the bungalow.. I did in fact, get tickets to the concert. The interview never did come together, but I had pushed it all as far as I could anyway at the time.. In the bungalow I met a girl who briefly became a friend.. and life went on..

                                                              I never forgot that moment of inspiration…. TO a 16 or 17 year old from Winnipeg to have gotten so close to this incredible mythical figure… and to experience him as this almost old world, utterly gracious man was really something…

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                                                              1. Comment by Tom Scarilo | 2006/12/28 at 17:10:17

                                                                 I”d always seen pictures in Rolling Stone and other music mags during my teens of this bald Turkish guy with the strange name, who founded and ran Atlantic, but I didn’t know much more about him. Then, around late 1992 or so, while working at my first job in public accounting, I bought a remaindered book at Barnes and Noble, called "Music Man", by Dorothy Wade, about Ahmet and Atlantic. It turned out to be maybe the best $3 I ever spent in my life. Here was the story of this guy who was extremely passionate about music (as I was, having gone thru that phase that everyone seems to go thru when you’re impressionable and in your teens, starting around 1985 for me, where I was discovering everything from Beatles to Cream to Zappa to Zeppelin to Floyd to you name it), and since I wasn’t having much fun in public accounting, I decided that I might as well try to make a living doing something I liked. I figured I could try to get an accounting job working in the music business, preferably at Atlantic since it was this guy’s company, and I assumed record companies needed accountants somewhere in the mix (ha ha). After bailing on public accounting, I landed a job at BMG, where I was for a few years learning something about the business, but I’d always had my sights set on Atlantic, if only to be a part of such a storied company (I used to refer to it as the "House of Zeppelin" to my friends, and it seemed like a lot of my favorite stuff had that swirl logo). In late-98, my chance came up, and I jumped at it, where I lasted for 5+ years until WMG was sold and I was cut.

                                                                During my time at Atlantic in NY, I met the man a couple of times, and you could sense you were in the presence of greatness. He had The Aura about him. The encounter I’ll remember, though, was in October of 2003, and had nothing to do with music. During the World Series that year, I split the office a little early to catch the train home and watch the game, and I got into the 27th floor elevator, only to have it stop on 26 and have Mr. Ertegun get in (I always used to address him properly, when I met him). He said hi, and asked me how I was, and I said I was headed home to watch the ballgame, and I was really hoping the Yankees would win the Series (they didn’t). Ahmet replied that baseball was good, but he was more interested in the World Cup and preferred soccer a bit more. What an understatement – this coming from the guy who also founded and owned the Cosmos and brought Pele to New York! I had to admit it was charming how he didn’t presume I knew that and was just relating this as a sports enthusiast.

                                                                He also signed my copy of his beautiful-beyond-belief book "What’d I Say", with the inscription "To a True Music Man", and it’s probably one of my most prized possessions – even my parents were impressed and finally understood what was going on in my head when I was listening to all those LP’s starting back around 1985. It was a privilege to work at Atlantic while he was there, simple as that.

                                                                Tom Scarillo
                                                                Island Def Jam/UMG Finance
                                                                Universal City, CA

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                                                                1. Comment by Stephen Budd | 2006/12/28 at 17:10:35

                                                                   Probably too late to be of interest to you, but I met Ahmet a couple of times……… Once at Clive Davis’ Grammy party in 2002 and again at MIDEM the following year. I saw him across the room at Clive’s sitting with a very beautiful young woman engrossed in conversation, in retrospect it was probably an Atlantic artist that I didn’t recognize. Emboldened by Clive’s cocktails, I waited for an appropriate moment and dived in and introduced myself. I was expecting only a few seconds at very best, and really I just wanted to say to myself that I had met this true great of the business. However, within about 30 seconds it became apparent that he was trying to engage me in conversation and far from trying to be polite and get rid of me, was asking me questions and saying ‘oh you are from England, how’s the football going there?’… To my amazement he talked knowledgeably about soccer – and particularly my team Arsenal who were riding high at that moment – with a deep and intimate knowledge. I of course was bursting to ask him about Aretha, the Stones and Zep, but just then Clive’s intro for the evening kicked in and we were cut short. The following January in Cannes at MIDEM I saw him in the lobby at the Carlton where he was being honored and amidst all the hullabaloo he stopped, looked at me, smiled and with a gleam in his eye and said "Arsenal not doing so well right now are they?", "better than the Cosmos" I replied, having recently discovered that he personally founded the globally famous, but now sadly defunct New York soccer team in the 70’s that featured Pele amongst its superstar players. "Yes, a lot better than the Cosmos." he replied. Surprisingly, I never did get a job offer from him. What a man.

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                                                                  1. Comment by Scott Matthews | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:00

                                                                     Are we still on Ahmet? God, I hope so. Why not finish the whole year with him…there’s nobody more important, insightful or just plain fun to talk about.

                                                                    I only bumped into him in social settings. He was always ‘relaxed’ – that lovely half smile with the eyes kinda rolling back. The cane, the babes…One cool cat.

                                                                    One of the most meaningful conversations (for me) was sometime back in the 80’s. After I was done kissing the ring and showering him with cheese by letting him know that I knew NOBODY had better taste than he, I eventually brought up the subject of how a pioneer that not only wrote and produced but (in my humble) single-handedly contributed more than anyone by instinctually knowing the real deal from the duff, could allow some of the later signings at his label? In my head I’m hearing Dusty in Memphis’ ‘No Easy Way Down’ with Gerry Goffins’ lyrics painfully stating that once you’ve reached the highest of highs, try as you may, there’s no easy way down. I’m talking to the guy that always spoke of how you have to FEEL it! I knew he felt Ray and Aretha. Was he feeling Foreigner?
                                                                    He LOVED this topic and (of course) knew exactly what I was talking about, thus relaxing me quite a lot. All of the sudden his smile was huge and our eyes were locked in a stare. He took a while before saying a word, kept working that smile (timing is everything) and leaned over and spoke quietly, "I listen with both ears." He sat back and nodded while I hit the deck…it was so profound and perfect. So Ahmet.

                                                                    I got it. One of his ears represented his own taste and feel while the other ear was strictly used for what he felt the world would buy. He was feeling it deeply. Both ears equally important.

                                                                    I’m not saying he didn’t stay current and passionate – he did. But I bet when he went home at 4 AM, he looked at his bank statement from ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’ while he cranked up ‘Greenback Dollar’ by Ray.

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                                                                    1. Comment by Danny Fields | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:16

                                                                       It was the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building in Cleveland on Labor Day Weekend 1995, and a Major Occasion. Lisa Robinson and I were standing in the grand lobby, and Ahmet walked by with Earl McGrath, possibly his best friend in the world(along with the late Noreen Woods, who had been his AND Jerry’s secretary when I worked for Atlantic in the early 70’s). Ahmet said, "Someone is giving us a VIP tour of the whole building, come along." So of course we came along.

                                                                      We had a most knowledgeable guide, and were contemplating a wall of images by Billy Name, the great photographer (and literally resident) of Warhol’s factory. And there was a big picture of the Velvet Underground, whom Ahmet had signed to Atlantic in about 1969, for two albums–which turned out to be "Loaded" and "Live At Max’s," the tape of which I brought up to Atlantic straight from Brigid Berlin’s tiny, cheap cassette machine. She had recorded that night in the summer of 1970 when Lou Reed quit the group after the show–this is all backstory. (The Velvets would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the coming winter of ’96, which was not a secret by the end of the previous summer.)

                                                                      Anyhow, looking at the picture of the Velvets, I pointed to our darling Sterling Morrison, the VU’s bassist, who had died a few weeks earlier of cancer–at the time of his death he was a professor of English at UTexasAustin. Not knowing who in our little crowd knew what, I said, "Poor Sterling, he just died you know, how sad he won’t be there at the induction ceremony; I spoke to his wife yesterday and she will accept the honor in his memory."

                                                                      It would have been inconceivable to think that Ahmet, 25 years after signing the Velvets, and then dropping them after Lou left, would have known anything whatsoever about Sterling.

                                                                      At that moment, I swear to whatever god you like, Lou Reed was standing there among us, in the Hall of Fame Museum, as if he’d come down from the ceiling, or out of an invisible panel in the wall. Bear in mind, our little VIP tour group consisted of me, Lisa, Earl, Ahmet and the guide. And so I said, "Omigod, here’s Lou himself!! What an amazing vortex of synchronicity this is!" And it certainly was, you all gotta agree on that.

                                                                      Ahmet extended his arms to Lou, palms up, and walked over to him. He hugged Lou, and said, "I am so sorry about the loss of your friend." He didn’t say he’d just heard about it; just that he was sorry to know that Sterling was gone. Then he took both of Lou’s hands in his own, and squeezed them, and they separated. Lou had no way of knowing that I had spoken of Sterling’s passing just a few moments earlier. I guess he was in the ceiling or behind the wall when I made my little speech, which I’d done in order to pre-empt any faux pas from anyone in our tiny crowd…just in case, and as if.

                                                                      Lisa and I were speechless at what had just happened. She and I knew Lou quite well, and we stood there in silence with him and told Earl and Ahmet we’d catch up in a minute.

                                                                      "What a gentleman!" said Lou. "What an amazing man! Can you believe he knew about Sterling’s death, and hugged me and said he was sorry to hear about it? Who else in the world would know such a thing, who would remember it, who would put his arms around me and tell me he was sorry for my loss? Wow, there’s no one like Ahmet. No one."

                                                                      Lisa and I signaled our agreement with Lou, and gave him our own hugs before going off to catch up with the tour group. "Yeah," I said, "what a remarkable gentleman he is indeed."

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                                                                      1. Comment by Tim Price | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:32

                                                                         I met Ahmet when i was in a boy -band… this was 94-95….when boybands wern’t cool. Ahmet asked if we wanted to sign with atlantic records and be what he called a "singing group ala the Stylistics or all-4-one" . The other members of my boy band all nodded and became excited… i myself on the other hand thought that it would be the death of my career…. i quickly blurted before thinking " I DO NOT WANT TO BE ANYTHING LIKE ALL -4 -ONE. I WANT TO WRITE THE SONGS I SING. I WANT TO REACH PEOPLE WITH REAL MUSIC!!!! ". I will never never forget the look on his face, hearing a seventeen year old wannabe teen heart throb tell him that he wanted to make "real music". Ahmet than quickly responded " if thats what you want.. than your gonna need REAL hits. And i dont hear any REAL hits. "

                                                                        over the subsequent months….ahmet visted us and listened to our material. the advice he gave me on how to connect musically has been the center truth to everything i as a producer /songwriter have and will accomplish. Ahmet didn’t wind up signing us.

                                                                        i have had many mentors in my career, some willing, most unknowing. Ahmet’s time and advice, well that is a whole other experiance

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                                                                        1. Comment by Dan Nash | 2006/12/28 at 17:11:56

                                                                          I was an engineer at the old Atlantic Studios at 60th and BWAY. I worked closely with Ahmet on quite a few projects. Those of you out there who have known me for more than a tickle, know all my favorite Ahmet stories… the ones that will bring to you tears of joy and a cramp in your side from laughter. You also know that I can’t repeat them in print..!

                                                                          Everyone who ever met the man remembers the experience; his was not a precense that went unnoticed. He was always impeccably dressed and had a sly, wry, and oh so dry look in his eyes that I have rarely seen in my life. He told me all kinds of things at all hours of the night… offered up one-line axioms about good vs. great, or the motivations of specific people in specific circumstances, or what to say when you really hate something but don’t wish to offend anyone. He taught me about inner style and reading situations. And though you could tell when he was less than pleased, he was never unkind.

                                                                          But what I will forever miss about Ahmet was that he never made me feel like a putz, or just some fixture in the room. He never pulled rank, and he was always genuinely open to my opinion. He was a class act, a true icon, a legend. But, as he said to me on several occaisions: "Me… I’m just one of the boys…"

                                                                          You can only imagine what prompted him to say that…

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                                                                          1. Pingback by RustedRobot » Blog Archive » More On Ahmet | 2007/04/20 at 06:43:41

                                                                            […] yone Do? A Time Of Love…..A Time Of Hate » More On Ahmet Terrific little story from Lefsetz about Ahmet Ertegun, legendary founder of At […]

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