Herb Abramson

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Herb Abramson and wife Miriam, c. 1947

Herbert C. Abramson (November 16, 1916 – November 9, 1999)[1] was an American record company executive, producer and co-founder of Atlantic Records

Life and career[edit]

Abramson was born in 1916 to a Jewish[2] family in Brooklyn, New York City, United States, and initially studied to be a dentist but he landed a job with National Records producing such performers as Clyde McPhatter, The Ravens, Billy Eckstine and Joe Turner. Abramson founded his first record company, Jubilee Records, in 1946 with Jerry Blaine. Abramson aspired to record jazz, R&B and Gospel recordings. Though Blaine was having some success recording Jewish novelty records, this genre did not interest Abramson, so he sold his interest in Jubilee to Blaine. Abramson and his wife Miriam were close friends with fellow jazz buff Ahmet Ertegün who recognized Abramson's talent and came to Abramson with a label proposal and together they founded Atlantic Records in 1947. Abramson was president of Atlantic and Ertegün was vice-president. Both Abramson and Ertegün handled the creative end of the business and Miriam handled the business end.[3]

In 1953, he was drafted into the U. S. Armed Forces which put him out of touch with the company which continued to enjoy great success while he was away. Jerry Wexler filled in while Abramson was serving the nation and joined Atlantic as a partner in his absence while Abramson retained the title of President of the company. When Abramson returned from the Army in 1955, he found Atlantic a changed company. Ertegün's brother Nesuhi had joined Atlantic in 1955 as a partner and was enjoying great success in jazz LPs. Ertegün and Wexler were recording R&B hits which crossed over into pop. Complicating things was his failing marriage to Miriam which would end in divorce[4] which was precipitated when Abramson returned home from Germany with a pregnant girlfriend who became his second wife.[5]

In Abramson's absence, Wexler had taken over his position. That resulted in Ahmet Ertegun and Abramson re-negotiating a work around which formed Atco Records in 1955 as a division of Atlantic. Abramson would run this label completely on his own.

Atco went on with great successes with such artists as The Coasters. One of the artists he discovered was Bobby Darin,but was not able to pull out a hit for him. When Abramson announced that he was dropping Darin from the label, Ertegün took a shot at it and decided to record three tracks with Darin. Two of them, Splish Splash and Queen Of The Hop became breakthrough hits for Darin.

It was then that Abramson left Atlantic Records in December 1958, selling his stake in the company to ex-wife Miriam Bienstock (who married music publisher Freddy Bienstock) and Nesuhi Ertegün.[6] Ahmet Ertegün became president of the company.[7] Abramson would start new record labels including Triumph,[8] Blaze and Festival.[9] His most successful post-Atlantic recording was producing Hi-Heel Sneakers by Tommy Tucker (released on Checker Records) still able to compete in the industry as an independent label.[10]

While with Atlantic, Abramson developed a method of cutting concentric grooves for a record so a different recording could be heard depending on which groove the tonearm landed on. That process was used on a series of "Magic Records" Abramson produced which were marketed for children.[11] After leaving Atlantic, Abramson sold the patent to Mattel which used the process to develop the Chatty Cathy talking doll.[11]

Abramson set up his own recording studio in the early 1960s - A-1 Sound Studios (as in Atlantic-1) first at 234 West 56th Street, in Manhattan, N.Y. where he produced recorded a multitude of classic R&B and soul artists with sound engineer Jim Reeves for Titus Turner, Sidney Barnes, J. J. Jackson, Don Covay, Linda & The Vistas, Mr. Wiggles, Pigmeat Markum, Eddie Singleton, Johnny Nash, The Thymes, Ruby & The Romantics, Luther Dixon, The Supremes, The Darling Sisters, John Davidson, followed by engineer Glen Kolotkin, and Tom Dowd, he then moved A-1 Sound uptown to 76th Street on the ground floor of a hotel off Broadway where he recorded artists Johnny Nash and Lloyd Price were among the other artists who recorded there. Muddy Waters, Hank Crawford, James Moody & Richie Cordell were also among A-1's clients. Bette Midler, Barry Manilow & Patti Smith all cut demos there. Jonathan Thayer, later of Vanguard Recording Studios, engineered for Herb. Other engineers at the 76th street studio, Rob Fraboni (the Band, Bob Dylan) along with maintenance engineer Mike Edl (WBAI-FM), who replaced Carl Lindgren in April 1969 and was with Herb from then on. A-1 Sound was managed by his third wife, Barbara who was with him to the end.[12]

In 1998, he received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

He died in Henderson, Nevada, in 1999, seven days shy of his 83rd birthday.


  1. ^ White, Adam (November 27, 1999). "Herb Abramson, Atlantic's 1st president, dies at 82". Billboard (BPI Communications Inc.). 
  2. ^ Billig, Michael (2001). Rock and Roll Jews. Syracuse University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-8156-0705-2. 
  3. ^ "Herb Abramson". Rockabilly.nl. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  4. ^ "Atlantic Records Story". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  5. ^ "Stay Tuned By Stan Cornyn: Atlantic Spreads Up". rhino.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  6. ^ Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers - John Broven - Google Books. Books.google.com. 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  7. ^ Billboard - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 1958-12-15. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  8. ^ Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com. 1958-12-15. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  9. ^ Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com. 1961-08-14. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  11. ^ a b The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun - Robert Greenfield - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  12. ^ The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun - Robert Greenfield - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21.