Hy Weiss

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Hyman Y. "Hy" Weiss (February 12, 1923 – March 20, 2007)[1] was an American record producer of pop and rhythm and blues music in the 1950s and 1960s, and the owner of Old Town Records.


Born in Cuca, Argeș County, Romania,[1] he was an immigrant to the United States as a baby in 1924 and was brought up in the Bronx, New York.[2] There, he established a friendship with Morris Levy, who would also become active in the music business. He served in the US Army Air Force in World War II, before working briefly as a bouncer and as a furrier.[3] He started in the music industry as a record salesman,[4] and set up Parody Records with his brother Sam in 1949.[5]

His record label, Old Town Records, was established in August 1953 and was active until 1966. The company took its name, and its early stationery, from that of a wholesale paper business based in the same building.[4] Weiss took sole control of the label in 1956. He was primarily a producer of doo wop groups, as well as blues music.[5] Old Town had its first hit with the 1958 single "We Belong Together" by Robert & Johnny, and had further hits by Billy Bland, the Solitaires, the Capris, the Earls, and others. Arthur Prysock was the label's primary album artist. The Old Town catalog was sold by Weiss to Atlantic Records in 1970.[6] Subsequently, Weiss worked for Stax Records. He had a co-writer credit for the song "Foggy Notion" by the Velvet Underground, along with all the members of the band. Weiss revived Old Town as a vehicle for Arthur Prysock in 1973 and kept the label going until about 1978.

Weiss was described as "one of the most colorful characters of the New York independent record business"[4] and as "brash, miserable and explosive by turns... [He] had a bulging contacts book and was both courted and feared in an industry notoriously not for the faint-hearted." He was associated with the practice of "payola", being credited as the inventor of the "$50 handshake",[4] and once said: "Why waste time going out with someone you don't like, and sit down and feast with them when you can't stand them? Just give them the money and let them play the [fucking] record."[3]

He was a resident of Rockleigh, New Jersey.[5] He died in Englewood, New Jersey, on March 20, 2007, at the age of 84.[1]

His son, Barry Weiss, was the Chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam/Universal Motown Republic.

Notable artists[edit]


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