Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Bound - Book Review from Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

"what'd I Say": The Atlantic Story 50 Years Of Music

Author: Ahmet Ertegun With Others
Publisher: A Publishing Company

Record companies face innumerable obstacles to survival. Surviving (much less prospering) for 50 years with the same person in charge is unprecedented. Ahmet Ertegun beat those odds by turning a small, independent label into one of the world’s major record companies. Atlantic Records set the standard in ’50s rhythm & blues and ’60s soul music, its distinctive red and black label signifying quality to musicians and fans alike with such artists as Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett.

The company’s achievements are thoroughly and entertainingly documented in “What’d I Say”. Filled with more than 900 photographs, the coffee-table book presents an oral history of Atlantic with contributions from Ertegun, his artists, and partners Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun, his older brother who built the company’s jazz roster into one of the world’s best.

Essays by nine writers, including Lenny Kaye and Robert Gordon, effectively examine different eras of Atlantic’s history and offer an outsider’s perspective on the label’s influence and impact. “What’d I Say” is hefty in size (nearly 10 pounds) and price ($75).

At the center of the action, from Ray Charles to Sugar Ray, is Ertegun, a son of the Turkish ambassador to the United States, who fell in love with American jazz and R&B. He started Atlantic in the fall of 1947 at age 24 with a $10,000 loan from his dentist.

Atlantic began at a time when records meant 78s and segregation was legal in the United States. “We were just trying to create our own mix of music that we enjoyed,” explained Ertegun, who even wrote for and produced his artists in the early years. That mix was a key to Atlantic’s longevity and stemmed from Ertegun’s belief in a diversified roster of artists. It was a company where Abba, Doug Sahm and Charles Mingus could coexist alongside the Tramps, Willie Nelson and Led Zeppelin. Atlantic’s ability to adapt to the changing music scene of the 1960s by signing such acts as Cream, Aretha Franklin and Buffalo Springfield enabled it to survive while other independents were sold or went out of business.

Ertegun, now 78, combined a businessman’s savvy and a fan’s enthusiasm in running the label. He recognized early that commercial hits — from “Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin to Cracked Rear View by Hootie & the Blowfish — provided the capital to subsidize Atlantic’s more adventurous pursuits in other areas, such as jazz and world music.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • By the Time You Read This, It'll Be Over: A Pre-Newport Ramble
    Missing the first night -- likely the best of the three, given my taste and interest -- is sort of a bummer. But, on the other hand there's still two more days and nights to wander around the festival site, to hopefully discover a new act or the reinvention of something old. And, to be completely honest, the music and performances will run second to jus […]
  • Your Interview with the Jayhawks' Gary Louris
    A couple of weeks ago, we announced a contest to give away some copies of the Jayhawks' remastered and reissued editions of Sound of Lies, Smile, and Rainy Day Music. In the process, we asked you to pose questions you'd like to see Jayhawks founding member Gary Louris answer. Fifty folks entered and Jayhawk Gary Louris… […]
  • Bill Frisell and “The Great Flood”
    I feel late to the game with Bill Frisell, discovering him around the time of East/West and just after The Intercontinentals.  We all have those moments of discovering something that is so beautiful and so complete (and even  quite popular), but… […]
  • Lake Street Dive Motorboats into the Big Time
    The usual pleasantries open the interview with Lake Street Dive's singer extraordinaire, Rachael Price. There’s a mention of a shared acquaintance and a nod to the band's previous appearances in town, the first before a tiny crowd at Norfolk's Taphouse in 2011. "Oh, I recall," Price says. "That was a very memorable show." I […]
  • Chris Smither - Still on the Levee, A Fifty Year Retrospective (Album Review)
    I first heard Chris Smither in 1970. Not live, unfortunately, but on vinyl when picking up his first record I'm A Stranger Here Myself on the Poppy label, unheard, for the simple reason that it was Townes' label. I figured -- rightly so -- any label that knew what a talent he was could certainly be trusted. It did not disappoint. The album not only […]
  • No Depression Is Getting a Facelift: A Note About What's Around the Bend
    Ever since we announced that No Depression had been acquired by FreshGrass back in March, we’ve heard from many of you with questions, concerns, and ideas about the future of this website and the community that gathers here. We created a forum topic at that time so we could organize these comments and refer to them frequently, which we have done as we’ve dev […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter