Herman Lubinsky

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Herman Lubinsky
Born (1896-08-30)August 30, 1896
Branford, Connecticut, United States
Died March 16, 1974(1974-03-16) (aged 77)
Newark, New Jersey, US
Nationality American
Occupation Music executive, record label owner, radio station owner
Years active 1922–1974
Known for Founder of Savoy Records

Herman Lubinsky (born Hyman Lubinsky, 30 August 1896 – 16 March 1974) was an American radio station and music business executive who founded Savoy Records in New York in 1943.[1][2][3]


He was born in Branford, Connecticut,[4][nb 1] the son of Fannie (née Rosinsky; 1865–1941) and Louis Lubinsky (aka Leuvinsky; 1857–1921), both of whom had emigrated from Russia in 1883.[5][6] By 1915, he worked as an electrical contractor in New Haven,[7] before serving as a radio operator in the US Navy.[8]

In 1922, Lubinsky founded The Radio Shop of Newark, Inc., in Newark, New Jersey,[9] and in 1923 set-up a radio station WRAZ, which first changed its title to WCBX, then, in October 1924, to WNJ. Initially the station operated from the attic of Lubinsky's home, before its studio in Newark opened in 1925. The station became known as "The Voice Of Newark", and presented programmes for immigrants to the New York metropolitan area in Polish, Lithuanian and Italian.[8] In 1929 Lubinsky set-up the Radio Investment Co., but in November 1932 his application to renew the license for WNJ was refused by the Federal Radio Commission because he refused to accept limits on the station's bandwidth.[10] Although Lubinsky fought the action in the courts, the station was taken off the air in March 1933.[8]

Lubinsky then started the United Radio Company, which sold and repaired radios and phonographs, and began selling records. Encouraged by his friend, music business executive Eli Oberstein, he and record producer Ozzie Cadena set up Savoy Records in 1942. The company released jazz recordings made before the "Petrillo Ban" had come into effect, as well other recordings made by musicians attempting to circumvent the ban by recording under pseudonyms.[10] Among the latter was Bonnie Davis, whose recording of "Don't Stop Now" reached no.1 on the R&B chart in 1943.[11] By 1944, the label had begun to release records by leading jazz musicians such as Ben Webster and Lester Young, [12] and over the next few years its roster of musicians expanded to include Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Erroll Garner, Miles Davis, Paul Williams, and Brownie McGhee, among many others.[13]

After opening an office in California in 1948, Savoy continued to have success with such musicians as Johnny Otis, Little Esther Phillips, Cannonball Adderley and Big Maybelle, although after the mid-1950s it began to concentrate increasingly on gospel music, including Clara Ward, The Drinkard Singers, Alex Bradford and Jimmy Cleveland. Lubinsky continued as head of the company until shortly before his death in Newark in 1974.[13]

Character and controversies[edit]

Lubinsky has been described as "an arrogant bully... the quintessential loudmouth, overweight, cigar-smoking record man with little apparent charm";[10] "a colorful character... endowed with a shrewd business sense;"[14] and as "a rather profane cheapskate who had a low opinion of many of the musicians that he recorded", and who "was best known for his desire to cut expenses at all costs."[15] His oldest daughter, Lois Grossberg, later said: "He was paranoid about money. It consumed him like a burning fire. He had a reputation as an ogre in the business. You have no idea of the cheapness."[14]

In the 1950s, singer Little Jimmy Scott recorded for Savoy, but left the label in the early 1960s and recorded an album with Ray Charles for the latter's new label, Tangerine. However, Lubinsky claimed that Scott was under contract to him for his entire lifetime. The record was withdrawn, resulting in Scott retreating from the recording industry until after Lubinsky's death.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sources that give his birthplace as Bradford, Connecticut (which does not exist), or Bradford, England, are in error.


  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3rd ed. (Lubinsky in vol. 5 of 8), Colin Larkin (ed.), London: Muze (1998); OCLC 39837948
  2. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (Lubinsky is in vol. 2 of 2), Barry Dean Kernfeld & Stanley Sadie (eds.), London: Macmillan Publishers
        1st ed. (1988); OCLC 16804283
        1st ed. (in 1 vol.) (1994); OCLC 30516743
        2nd ed. (in 3 vols.) (2002); OCLC 46956628
  3. ^ Uncloudy Days — The Gospel Music Encyclopedia, by Bil Carpenter (born 1965), San Francisco: Backbeat Books (2005); OCLC 60375463
  4. ^ U.S. World War II Draft Registration Card, 1942, for Herman Lubinsky. Retrieved 25 March 2014
  5. ^ 1900 United States Federal Census, Branford, Connecticut, for Himie Leuvinsky. Retrieved 25 March 2014
  6. ^ 1910 United States Federal Census for Hyman Lubinsky
  7. ^ New Haven, Connecticut, City Directory, 1915, p.618
  8. ^ a b c "WNJ - 1450 AM, Newark," New Jersey AM Radio History (blog of Jim George of Toms River). Retrieved 25 March 2014
  9. ^ "Radio Review: Herman Lubinsky", in collaboration with Science and Invention and Radio News via Morning Herald (Gloversville, New York), 24 March 1922, pg. 6, col. 6
  10. ^ a b c Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers, by John Broven, University of Illinois Press (2009), pp.57-59; OCLC 216938277
  11. ^ Top R&B Singles: 1942-1995, by Joel Whitburn, Record Research Inc. (1996), pg. 104; OCLC 35116031
  12. ^ "Savoy Records Discography: 1931-1944", jazzdisco.org. Retrieved 25 March 2014
  13. ^ a b Excerpt from The Savoy Label: A Discography, by Michel Ruppli (born 1934) & Bob Porter, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press (1980); OCLC 5353729
  14. ^ a b Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925–50, by Barbara J. Kukla, Rutgers University Press, 2002, pp.153-154; OCLC 48176785
  15. ^ Artist Biography: Herman Lubinsky, by Scott Yanow, AllMusic. Retrieved 25 March 2014
  16. ^ "The Hit That Never Was", by David Ritz, The Guardian, 9 January 2003. Retrieved 25 March 2014
  17. ^ "Talking about life with Little Jimmy Scott" (interview), by Jason Hoffer, www.goingthruvinyl.com, 15 November 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2014