Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Born September 15, 1931
Elektra Records Jac Holzman
Jac in younger days.

Follow the Music

Stefano Santucci, a childhood conker buddy and fellow vinyl collector, recommended that I read Follow the Music: The Life and High Times of Electra Records In The Great Years of American Pop Culture by Jac Holzman and Gavan Daws.

He said that it was “…the cat’s pajamas. Highly recommend how this guy Jac Holzman discovered and produced some of the most amazing bands and songwriters, but also found their proper producer and engineers to get their best stuff out…not only the proper sound, but also   elected the album art and logos.”

Among Boomers, a common complaint regarding today’s recordings is the size of liner notes while holding a CD or, worse, no liner notes with a download.

Album covers we could read, but today’s font sizes (did anyone even know what the word “font” meant in the 60s?) (if one actually purchases a “hard” copy of a recording and not simply downloads it) are lilliputian.

Electra Records Jac Holzman

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman

When I did read those covers, I always saw the name Jac Holzman on the back of my Elektra Records and gradually realized that Elektra Records was a company that could be depended upon to produce great music.

Holzman founded Elektra Records on October 10 1950 out of his St John’s College (Maryland) dorm room. (Sounds like Crawdaddy! founder Paul Williams, eh?)

Holzman had $300 bar mitzvah money, but needed $300 more.College friend and Navy vet Paul Rickholt put in his veterans bonus. To make the Elektra logo, Holzman turned two Ms on their side for the Es and used a K instead of a C. Voila.

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Holzman was before Sam Phillips’s Memphis Studio.

Before Elvis.

Before Rocket 88. 

Before the Beatles were teenagers.

Elektra’s first album was an album of German art poems set to music by John Gruen and sung by Georgiana Bannister. Holzman left St John’s College and stepped into Greenwich Village’s nascent folk scene. He recorded Josh White (folk blues), Jean Ritchie (Appalachian folk) and Theodore Bikel (Israeli folk).

He recorded Judy Collins and Tom Paxton.

Record companies need income and Jac Holzman was creative. He could support the fledgling folk artist because he also released a series of albums aimed at branches of the military and various other groups’ interests and hobbies.

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Sound effects

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site: Another of Holzman’s inspirations was a series of sound effects records. The first volume was released in 1960. Numbering 13 in total, they sold well and were extremely popular with the movie industry and radio programmers. Never had such a gallery of sounds and noises, including a definitive car crash, been so painstakingly recorded. Moreover, they were highly profitable because there were no performers’ royalties involved.

Another way he subsidized his Elektra label was by creating Nonesuch records in 1963. He made classical music available by licensing titles from overseas labels and marketing the records at a lower price than American labels selling the same titles.

As the music of the 60’s evolved, so did Elektra. Acoustic folk continued to be part of the label, but electricity too.

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

The Incredible String Band. David Ackles,  Carly Simon. Harry Chapin. Bread. Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Love. The Doors. Clear Light. The MC5. The Stooges. Queen.

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

John Densmore spoke at Jac Holzman’s March 14, 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Densmore said, “Without Jac Holzman, Jim Morrison’s lyrics would not be on the tip of the world’s tongue.”

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Music continues to benefit from Holzman. Nowadays he is now Senior Technology Adviser to Warner Music Group as “a wide-ranging technology ‘scout’, exploring new digital developments and identifying possible partners.”

References: Rock and roll Hall of Fame bio >>> R & R H o F Derek Sivers site >>> Sivers

Elektra Records Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records
cover of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon

I have already done piece on Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records.

In it, I briefly referred to the part the Nonesuch label played in relation to Holzman’s Elektra label.

In today’s post I will concentrate on Nonesuch Records.

Paquito D’Rivera recorded this piece with his group for the album Funk-Tango on 2006, featuring Fernando Otero on piano. The album won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Also David Harrington, from the Kronos Quartet , showed interest for this piece.Fernando wrote the String Quartet named *The Cherry Tree* for Kronos, which was premiere at Carnegie Hall on February 22nd, 2008.

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Paperback records

The quick history of Nonesuch is that Holzman founded the label n 1964  to produce “fine records at the same price as a trade paperback” (Holzman in Gavan Daws’s Follow the Music (1998).

At first the label concentrated on chamber and baroque music. In 1970, Holzman sold Elektra and Nonesuch to Kinney National Company, which became Warner Communications and later part of Time Warner’s Warner Music Group.

Teresa Sterne was the director of Nonesuch from 1965 – 1979 and expanded the labels musical horizons. According to a NYT article, “…she brought attention to areas of music neglected by the major labels, particularly contemporary music and American vernacular music. She championed American composers like George Crumb, Elliott Carter, Morton Subotnick, Charles Wuorinen and Donald Martino, not just recording their works but commissioning them, an unusual move for the leader of a record company. She also issued important recordings of lesser-known works by Schoenberg, Busoni, Stravinsky and other major figures. 

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Warner Bros actions

When Warner terminated Stern’s contract in 1979, twenty-two artists signed a letter sent to the New York Times expressing their sadness of her forced departure and also stated that they felt she had “had the courage and foresight to build a catelogue of unparalleled interest, importance and beauty.” 

Jac’s brother Keith Holzman operated the label from Los Angeles until 1984 when Bob Hurwitz became the Nonesuch President. In 2014, the Well-Tempered Ear blog interviewed Bob Hurwitz, the president of Nonesuch Records. and David Bither, its senior Vice-President. 

Within the first two years under Hurwitz’s leadership, Nonesuch released albums by such “new music” pioneers as Steve Reich (The Desert Music, 1985), John Adams (Harmonielehre, 1986), Philip Glass (Mishima, 1985), John Zorn (The Big Gundown, 1985), and Kronos Quartet (Kronos Quartet, 1986).

For a great introduction to the broad range of Nonesuch music today, see their radio station at its site.

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records