Florence Greenberg

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Florence Greenberg (September 16, 1913 – November 2, 1995) was an American record label owner, music executive and a record producer. Greenberg was the founder and owner of Tiara Records, Scepter Records, Hob Records, and Wand Records. She is most known for her work as a record producer and music executive for several popular singers in the 60s including Dionne Warwick, the Shirelles, Tammi Terrell, Chuck Jackson, B.J. Thomas and many others.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Greenberg—a former Republican campaign worker—lived as a housewife in Passaic, New Jersey.[2] In the mid-1950s she was in her mid-forties with two children, Mary Jane and Stanley, who were both in school, so she had nothing to do at home during the day.

Career (1956 - 1976)[edit]

By 1956, a 43 year-old Greenberg was desperately searching for an escape from suburban lifestyle that accompanied her being a housewife. She did not know what she wanted to do but could often be seen hanging out at the Turf restaurant in New York City as she was enamored with the atmosphere surrounding the Brill Building.[2] A friend of her husband's, Freddy Bienstock, helped her to get in the record business by one day inviting her over to the Hill & Range Music offices when he was working with his cousins Jean and Julian Aberbach.[3] Greenberg was a natural and immediately began exploring her options of career paths in the music industry.

In 1958, she started her own record label, called Tiara Records. After a performance by a group of girls at Passaic High School in 1957, Greenberg's daughter Mary Jane convinced her that she had to hear the group sing.[1] She signed the group—popularly known as the Shirelles—to Tiara after they auditioned for Greenberg in her living room.[4]

The first song recorded and released on the Tiara Records label was "I Met Him On a Sunday" the Shirelles' talent show song that grabbed the attention of Greenberg in the first place. Just as the record started to break locally, Greenberg sold the company with the Shirelles' contract to Decca Records for $4,000. However, she started a new label in 1959, called Scepter Records which became one of the leading independent record labels in the 1960s. Under Scepter Records Greenberg resigned the Shirelles, becoming their manager once again.[5] In 1961, Greenberg launched another record label, called Wand Records, as a subsidiary of Scepter Records.

It is said that since Greenberg was a "a white woman who was in a black business,” Scepter did not truly begin to see success until Greenberg began her partnership with Luther Dixon.[2] Once confirming their financial partnership, Greenberg became exclusively in charge of the business development of the label while Dixon would manage Scepter's publishing and artistic production.[4] Around this same time, she moved her labels' offices into the offices of 1650 Broadway: the home of Aldon Music.[6] Due to its close proximity, 1650 Broadway shared many songwriters and artists (such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin) with the infamous Brill Building.

In 1965, Greenberg received an offer of $6 million for Scepter from Gulf+Western, an offer that she rejected and later regretted not accepting.[1] Greenberg retired from business in 1976, and sold all of her labels to Springboard International.[6]

Notable work[edit]

Greenberg's labels produced some of the most applauded and awarded songs of the Brill Building era including:

Personal life[edit]

Greenberg was married to an accountant with whom she had two children, Mary Jane (Greenberg) Goff and Stanley Greenberg. At the time of her death, she was a grandmother to six and had five great-grandchildren.[1] Her son-in-law, Sam Goff, is a managing partner in Essex Entertainment.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Greenberg died on November 2, 1995, of heart failure at Hackensack University Medical Center. She was 82, and lived in Teaneck, New Jersey.[1]

She is remembered fondly by those with whom she worked. For example, Maxine Brown, a Scepter artist, defined Greenberg in saying "She was a brave woman ... to be the only woman to own a record label in this business, competing with men and standing in there toe to toe with male producers and record owners."[5]

In 2011, a Broadway show based on Greenberg's life called Baby It's You! debuted starring Beth Leavel as Greenberg.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Thomas, Robert, McG., Jr. "Florence Greenberg, 82, Pop-Record Producer", The New York Times, November 4, 1995. Accessed September 14, 2011. "Florence Greenberg, a one-time New Jersey housewife who parlayed an unlikely hit record by a teen-age group known as the Shirelles into an improbable career as the proprietor of a leading independent label of the 1960s, died on Thursday at the Hackensack University Medical Center. She was 82, and lived in Teaneck, N.J."
  2. ^ a b c Fletcher, Tony (2009). All Hopped Up and Ready To Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77. W.W. Norton & Company. 
  3. ^ a b Licthman, Irv (November 1995). "Florence Greenberg, 82, dies: Scepter head mentored R&B artists". Billboard. 
  4. ^ a b Warwick, Jacqueline (2007). Girl Groups, Girl Culture. Routledge. 
  5. ^ a b Emerson, Ken (2005). Always Magic In The Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era. Penguin Books. 
  6. ^ a b Stratton, Jon (2009). "Jews Dreaming of Acceptance: From the Brill Building to Suburbia with Love". Shofar. 27. JSTOR 42944449. 
  7. ^ O'Brien, Lucy (2012). She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Popular Music (3rd ed.). Jawbone Press. 
  8. ^ "A second chance for Florence Greenberg". northjersey.com. Retrieved 2011-02-24.