Places that Matter
234 West 56th Street
Place Matters Profile
In 1947, Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson founded the independent record company Atlantic Records with a focus on jazz and rhythm and blues in mind. Ertegun is said to have imagined Atlantic like this - "There's a black man living in the outskirts of Opelousas, Louisiana. He works hard for his money; he has to be tight with a dollar. One morning he hears a song on the radio. It’s urgent, bluesy, authentic and irresistible. He can’t live without this record. He drops everything, jumps in his pickup and drives twenty-five miles to the first record store he finds. If we can make that kind of music, we can make it in the business."
According to Rolling Stone journalist Robert Greenfield, "the reason for this was simple." In the 1940s, "America was still a racially divided nation." Even in Manhattan, blacks were discouraged from attending performances of the most prominent black singers. As a resutl, listening was largely limited to people's own homes. But if it was a song you just could not live without, the radio was not enough - you needed the record.
In its early years, Atlantic Records was based at 234 West 56th Street, on a small suite on the top floor of the Jefferson Hotel. In the 1950s, Atlantic moved its headquarter to a bigger space on 57th Street, but continued to use the 56th space as a recording studio. Although Atlantic has no claim on the space today, the building still stands.
Greenfield, Robert. "The Greatest Record Man of All Time." Rolling Stone. Issue 1018, Jan 25, 2007.
"Industry Icon Ahmet Ertegun Dies At 83." Billboard.com. December 17, 2006.
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