Sunday, August 17, 2008


I was very sad to hear that Jerry Wexler died last week. In the summer of 1993, I was reading his fantastic biography Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music, while staying with the Stumpy JRs in East Hampton. 

One night after more than a few cocktails, we decided to go over to The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett to check out some music. When we walked in the door, there was an all girl blues band called Big Sister on the bandstand. I got talking to one of the locals at the bar who told me that Jerry Wexler's daughter, Lisa, was the drummer in the band. He said: "That's Jerry Wexler standing right over there." 

Without much hesitation, I walked over and introduced myself. Having always been a huge fan of all the Atlantic Records artists, this was a peak experience for me. Jerry was very friendly and we talked about his music for the rest of the night. Later, he was nice enough to inscribe my copy of his book, which is now a prized part of my book collection.

 It is said that Jerry coined the term "Rhythm and Blues". As a partner at Atlantic Records and later as an independent, he produced some of the finest records made in the last 50 years. If you are not familiar with the career of Jerry Wexler, here is a list of a few of his artists:
  1. Big Joe Turner
  2. Ray Charles
  3. The Drifters
  4. Solomon Burke
  5. The Coasters
  6. Sam and Dave
  7. Wilson Pickett
  8. Percy Sledge
  9. Aretha Franklin
  10. Duane Allman
  11. Doug Sahm
  12. Dire Straits
  13. Dusty Springfield
  14. Willie Nelson
  15. Bob Dylan
Of all the records he produced, these are my favorites and they should be part of your collection:
  1. Dusty in Memphis
  2. Phases and Stages and Shotgun Willie
  3. Slow Train
Imagine a man with so much talent that he could make a classic album with such a wide variety of artists: Big Joe Turner, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Dusty Springfield, even Bob Dylan.... now that is covering a lot of ground.

His work with the original Atlantic Records artists is legendary, but how about his work with Bob Dylan on Slow Train? He has the vision to put Bob's "faith of the moment" songs together with Mark Knopfler and a killer rhythm section. Not only does it revitalize Bob's career (again), Bob wins a Grammy for Serve Somebody.

Jerry Wexler had his hand in the creation of some very special music. You should have a lot of it in your life or you are missing out.


  1. Don't Forget Doug Sahm - it was at these sessions in NYC that Wexler met Doug's long-time Texas buddy Willie Nelson - and the rest is history. i chatted with Wexler on the phone several times throughout the past two years, telling me after i mentioned my reissue work on Doug's Rhino Handmade reissue, that the work he's the most proud of "at least at that moment" was "Doug Sahn And Friends"
    i can dig it.

  2. Hey Willy,
    I love your blog. Thanks for letting me know about it - will be checking it now to see what you're up to.
    Alison M.

  3. You are so right about the Doug Sahm record. I should have highlighted it. It has always been one of my favorites. What's wrong with Doug, BoB and Jerry Wexler working together?

    Mike---If you are responsible for the great releases at Rhino, thank you so much.
    Thanks for checking out my blog

  4. hey......another great informative post....thanks. you are on my check out when the spirtit moves me list.....10 am, 11 pm or sometimes 3 the internet !! old dogs (gals) can learn new tricks! heehee
    - hal

  5. yep - worked at Rhino Handmade Mach 1 from the beginning then freelance outta our bedroom after the AOL/Time Warner axe of 2001.
    put together a nice Mance Lipscomb package also (and others).
    -mike johnson