MTV Artists

Millions of artists.
Your pocket.
One app.
Download now

Download on the App Store Stay in
My Browser


Herb Abramson was the first president of pioneering jazz/R&B/pop label Atlantic Records. Born November 16, 1920, in Brooklyn, NY, Abramson, who was a blues, jazz. and gospel music enthusiast, began collecting records in his teens. Meeting fellow jazz record collectors brothers Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun in Washington, D.C., in the early '40s, he began promoting jazz concerts in New York and neighboring D.C. Abramson would solicit the musicians. D.C. record store owner Max Silverman of Quality Music Store, aka Waxie Maxie, financed the Quality and Jubilee labels with Abramson and Ahmet Ertegun. After no commercial success, Silverman decided not to invest any more money in the venture and the labels folded.

While studying to be a dentist at New York University, Abramson produced records for Al Green's -- not the '70s singer -- National Records between 1944-1947 and cut sides on Billy Eckstine, Joe Turner, and the Ravens. Ahmet Ertegun, determined to get into the record business, talked his dentist, Vahdi Sabit, into investing 100,000 dollars into his startup label, Atlantic Records. Abramson joined him at the label, along with Nesuhi Ertegun. Atlantic hurriedly recorded sides before the American Federation of Musicians' strike came into effect in late 1947. Located in a small office in New York's Jefferson Hotel, the label's first releases were jazz records. Like all independent record labels, Atlantic had to endure slow payment from distributors. Abramson's wife Miriam handled administrative duties for the label and suggested Ray Charles for the artist roster which went on to include such R&B/pop luminaries as Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, and Clyde McPhatter.

After helping the label become the premier R&B label, Abramson went into the armed services for two years in 1953. After his stint, he supervised Atlantic's subsidiary label, Atco, which had hits with the Coasters, Bobby Darin, and Wynonie Harris. In 1957, Abramson sold his interest in Atlantic for 300,000 dollars and launched his own labels, Festival, Blaze (Bobby Comstock's "Tennessee Waltz"), and Triumph. Later, he became an independent producer working with Don Covay, Gene Pitney, Elmore James, Tommy Tucker ("High Heel Sneakers," Chess/Checker Records), Louisiana Red, and Titus Turner. In February 1998, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation gave Abramson a Pioneer Award.

Herb Abramson died at the age of 82 on November 9, 1999, at St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Henderson, NV. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi