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Jerry Masucci (October 7, 1934 – December 21, 1997) was a co-founder of Fania Records.
Masucci was born October 7, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York to Urbano and Elvira Masucci. His brother is Alex Masucci (born November 11, 1949). Masucci moved to a home on the Upper East Side of New York, eventually owning homes in Paris, Ibiza, Uruguay, Havana, and Miami.
Masucci was a high school dropout who earned his high school diploma while serving in the United States Navy at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, during the Korean War. He became a member of the New York City Police Department. After attending college at night, Masucci took a leave of absence and attended City College of New York, where he played halfback on the college football team, and earned a degree in Business Administration, majoring in foreign trade. He graduated first in his class with cum laude honors. He then returned to the Police Department as a plainclothes policeman and attended New York Law School during the day. Graduating in 1960 with a Doctor of Law Degree, he resigned from the Police Department and worked in Havana, Cuba as assistant to the Director of Public Relations in the Department of Tourism.
Masucci became a partner in the law firm Pariser & Masucci. Masucci met Johnny Pacheco in 1962 when his firm handled Pacheco's divorce. In 1964 Masucci and Pacheco established Fania Records. They started out selling records out of the trunk of cars on the streets of Spanish Harlem, signing up young artists, creating new sounds, and eventually having hit records. Throughout his tenure as an impresario of the so-called salsa genre, Masucci was reportedly generous, sponsoring lavish parties and buying everyone lunch at rehearsals, while popularizing salsa among Latin Jazz listeners. Over the next 15 years, Fania Records helped define the sound, culture, and language associated with the salsa genre, a musical movement that arose partly from the unavailability in the United States of music produced in Cuba.
Masucci became a feature film maker, producing Our Latin Thing, Salsa, Vigilante, and The Last Fight. He became sole owner of the Fania Records label in 1977, and would own ten other recording companies, as well: Vaya, Cotique, Tico, Alegre, Mardi-Gras, Sonido, Éxitos, International, Bronco, and Karen. He was also a part-owner of the "Fame" modeling agency.
Masucci had Pacheco directing stage shows and Larry Harlow directing in the studio. Alex Masucci was at the helm of the New York-based Fania Records for many years. Masucci first produced a concert at Yankee Stadium. The event, featuring his Fania All-Stars, was attended by 45,000 people, and was included in the second set of 50 recordings in a list preserved in the National Recording Registry.
In 1993, inspired by the many rock band reunions and country supergroups attracting attention at the time, Chino Rodríguez lobbied Jerry Masucci and Ralph Mercado for a Fania All-Stars reunion. Chino was already managing most of the iconic Fania artists and knew how eager they were to get back to playing regularly in front of larger audiences. Chino Rodríguez (an ex-artist himself and a booking agent) had already booked Larry Harlow as a solo artist at New York City venues like SOB's, Broadway II, and the old Club Broadway on 96th Street, and Jerry had been visiting during these events. Chino was managing and booking most of the former Fania All-Stars including Ismael Miranda. Prior to Masucci's death and the sale of Fania Records, Chino Rodríguez and Ismael Miranda convinced Larry Harlow and Ray Barretto to create the smaller supergroups called the Latin Legends of Fania and Salsa Legends, whom Chino booked at SOB's in New York City. Barretto had been considering such a group for years but never was able to ask Masucci for temporary rights to use the name. The first Latin Legends show sold out. "No one thought it would work but Chino Rodríguez", Harvey Averne said in an interview. "Even I didn't think it would work. He taught all of us that night, including Jerry."
Masucci agreed to Chino's proposal and started with three Return of Fania All-Stars concerts in 1994 in New York and Puerto Rico, the first taking place at Madison Square Garden, with Chino acting as exclusive booking agent with Jerry's approval. With the Fania All-Star reunion show going on every 3 to 4 months Jerry had thought about re-vamping the Fania company. He started talking to some of the major labels and was fielding offers from Sony and Universal.
Masucci had decided to have shares of Fania Records issued on Friday, December 19, 1997; Fania was going public. He had a master plan that would make those offers become more of a desire from the major labels to buy or take over Fania Records, with the Fania All-Stars performing every 3 to 4 months all over the world again. Jerry was feeling as if he had stepped back in time and his beloved Fania was once again becoming the leader in the Latin Music world. When Jerry Masucci died over the weekend of December 19, 1997 everything just stopped and the Fania Records shares were never offered. Chino Rodríguez had said "Miles Kahn, Esq. (Larry Harlow's son) showed me the prospective and it looked fantastic. It seemed like a share of Fania stock would have cost about the same amount as Universal or Sony at that time."
Jerry Masucci had moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1997. On December 21, of that very year, Masucci died in said city. He left as survivors three daughters, namely, Darlene, Misty, and Corrine, with three different women: Marlene Masucci, Rachel Ann Butler, and Melissa Gosnel. His personal assistant, Daniel Amar Siad, was not with him the weekend he died. He flew in from Cuba when he heard the news. Masucci had complained in the weeks before his death of headaches and stomach pains, but did not seek medical advice. On Friday, December 19 he experienced further stomach pains while playing tennis. Two days later he died on the operating table during exploratory surgery. The cause of death was a brain aneurysm. The following week his body was flown to New York City for a service at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home; the body was cremated after the service.
- Watrous, Peter, "Obituary: Jerry Masucci, 62, International Salsa Promoter", The New York Times, December 24, 1997