More Mo Ostin

Mo, Lenny, and Russ, along with the WB staff were truly responsible for the early success of Prince. But Mo was at the helm. When I told them that we wanted three albums firm when we signed him, Mo gave the green light – no other label would have done that. When I told them that an 18 yr old kid from Minneapolis, who had never recorded an album, was going to also produce his first album and play all the instruments – he was given the green light. No label at the time would have done that. When Prince told WB not to pigeon-hole him as an R&B artist because he wanted to make music for all people – they believed in his vision. No other label at the time would have done that. But Mo was at the helm at WB, and he created that environment. After Prince and I parted ways Mo always made a point of coming up to me to say hello at various events – he didn’t have to do that. And I know for a fact that after Prince and WB parted ways (Prince changed his name to a glyph to get out of the deal among other salty actions) that if he would have called Mo to come back, Mo would have welcomed him with open arms. No hurt feelings. That was Mo Ostin. And I am sure that there will never be anyone like him again in the music business.

Owen Husney


Tony is so right on. There never was a more menchy guy in the business.
I represented Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham when they joined Fleetwood Mac. I told Mo that I didn’t want them to be exclusive to Warner’s for any solo work they would do outside of Fleetwood Mac. Unlike other record companies at the time who insisted on complete exclusivity, Mo understood and gave me the point.

As they say, the rest is history.

Owen Sloane


I knew Mo but not well. He was always easy to be around and down to earth, friendly. Bring you in his office and just hang for a few minutes. How ya doin, how’s the new album? Like that.

To a young kid at the beginning of a career (for however long) that mattered.

A great man In a business that that was kinda jive. He turned Warner Brothers into an artist friendly environment. That’s how I remember Mo.


Tom Johnston


We met Mo Ostin back in 1987 or 88, right after my group Take 6 was signed to Warner Nashville. I remember how music centric and wonderful a person he was to us. This coming from the head of WB in Burbank in regards to an A Cappella, Gospel, Jazz vocal group, signed to the country music division of WB!
That should tell you a lot about him, as well as how the music business at that time was about MUSIC.
He was from a bygone era and will be truly missed!

Claude Mcknight


I remember when Phil Walden moved Capricorn distribution from Atlantic to Warner because Mo and Joe gave him a joint venture partnership as opposed to a straight distribution deal. As close as Phil was to Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler he just couldn’t refuse the deal and Capricorn had their greatest sales and profits at Warner. The entire Warner team was top of the line at that time.

Willie Perkins


Loved reading Tony’s story. Remember it well. I met Mo when I was very young man. My father was friendly with him, had worked with Sinatra and they played golf at El Cabellero CC in Tarzana occasionally. I remember him telling me about Jimi Hendrix and Alice Cooper and I almost fainted. I didn’t know people signed people. He was so humble even then. Later on when we were managing Devo I got to work with Mo, Lenny, and the whole team. It was a dream come true. We were in the studio once and Lenny came to hear some tracks and he told them they were being too conservative. Can you imagine that? He said it sounds like you’re trying to have a hit. Don’t do that. Just do what you love. That’s how Warner Bros. was in those days. Frankly when I worked at the film studio it was a similar vibe.  When I signed Scritti Politti with Elliott Roberts we had huge offers for their American deal. But Mo wanted them and frankly I don’t even remember negotiating. We just made a deal. I had lunch with him and Eric Eisner one day and we were talking about my then very young kids and Mo said as far as school is concerned there’s Harvard Westlake and then there’s everybody else and believe me all three of my kids graduated from Harvard Westlake.  He was the final word on so many things. And such a great dad and man. Michael is a testament to what great values the Ostins represented. And you could write books about Evelyn. She was the gold standard.

Bill Gerber


In early 1999 I was a “wet behind the ears” Toronto-based music lawyer doing one of my first major deals with Mo Ostin at Dreamworks. After the signing ceremony Mo and the team had reservations for lunch at a restaurant in Beverly Hills. Mo and Robbie Robertson invited me to drive back to the office in Robbie’s new BMW. Robbie wanted to show me how the audio worked in his new car. I was freaking out!! What would I ask them? How would I keep up in a conversation with these 2 legends? What could I possibly add to the discussion? Would they just ignore more me and talk amongst themselves?


No. Both Robbie and Mo were genuinely curious about my music history. My music history??? What band was I in? What was the music like? How many people were in the band? Where did we tour? WTF??


They spent the whole drive drilling me about my old group and putting me at ease. It’s a method I’ve employed ever since when I meet a nervous young artist or manager.


Over time I was able to ask Mo a bunch of questions.


A mensch, a guiding light, a true gentleman that impacted so many.


Chris Taylor


Hi Bob,  Thanks for the great write-up on Mo.  I was lucky enough to be on Warner Bros Records Nashville staff during some of that magic. I met Mo a few times. You could tell in the first two sentences: 1. He was very very smart. 2. He was a good, honorable person.  In all the time I was there, I don’t think I ever heard one bad thing said about Mo from anyone..

You’re so right. If only we had more Mo Ostins.

Reprise is pronounced like “leeds” BTW

Danny Kee


Hi Bob,

Greetings from the other side of the Big Pond. I worked as Head of A&R for Warner Reprise (alongside brother labels Elektra/Asylum and Atlantic) in South Africa for close to 21 years. Every year I would fly to the US to visit the labels and catch up on new music, news etc. My favourite was Warner Reprise at 3300 Warner Boulevard. It was there that I met Mo, and many other legendary record men like Russ, Lenny, Stan and my boss, the late Tom Ruffino. Every time I met Mo he would remember that I was from South Africa and would say something like “Hey you`re doing a great job for us down there” and I, this country bumpkin from Africa, would beam with pride because I truly felt like family. He even congratulated me for releasing an obscure album by Jerry Williams, we were probably the only territory to do so. And the same is true of all the WBR people who worked there in the Seventies thru Nineties. I was taken to gigs, introduced to loads of new and exciting music. Mo made all of this possible because of who he was and how he related to staff & artists. There will never be another Mo, they broke the mould,  I`m proud to have worked for him and WBR.

Benjy Mudie
Warner Reprise, South Africa


Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker.

I remember meeting Mo and Lenny in 1988 in Burbank.

My label Rhythm King had just had the first computerised hit records in the UK with Bomb the Bass and S express at  No 1 and Seymour Stein bought me in to meet them.

We spent two hours taking music, Mo was interested in this new computer music form and Lenny wanted to talk about song structures.

Seymour was pacing around outside, worried as usual!

The next day Mo took me to the lakers game.  He had a permanent seat right next to the goal on the court.

He was famous on TV as the guy who threw the ball back into play.

Neither of these men were corporate.

They were people persons.  Music people.

Curious and open.

They took an interest and bet on people.

And built one of the greatest labels on earth.

Martin Heath.


I absolutely love this! Thank you for writing it!

I was blessed to know Mo. I moved to LA in the 80’s and was close to his son Randy. I spent many weekends at their Malibu beach home and Mo would be in the TV room glued to the basketball game.

One day the door bell rang and in walked George Harrison and Ringo. 

George ended up staying the weekend and couldn’t have been more genuine and kind. There was never a shortage of people popping in and it was always interesting.

I remember telling him early on, how lucky he was to have been born when he was. He truly was the kindest man and you were spot on when you said, “Maybe because he worried about careers more than sales.” That was Mo!

Today he is in heaven with his loved ones and Michael is the last one standing. It must be hard for him.

Thank you again for writing this



I was  working for a not to be named major record label  and was in New York for the post  Grammy party ( you know the big extravaganzas  labels used to throw)

The party was divided by the artists and the few top brass executives – while everybody else stood behind the velvet ropes. An artist friend called me and told me to bail and come to the Warner Bros party- and when I did there was Mo Ostin – the label  President who was just hanging with all the artists and the regular folks- no velvet rope in sight. When I introduced myself to Mo he gave me a huge warm hug and talked to me about my dad – who he knew and loved because they were frat brothers in college. I remember several superstars waiting to talk to him but he  was fully connected to me and didn’t do the typical brush off. This is why Mo was so loved. He was kind and he was real.

Tracy Gershon


The Chairman has left the building….

Jed Weitzman

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