Ahmet Ertegun profiled by George W. S. Trow in 1978
August 17, 2009 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Ahmet Ertegun was profiled by George W. S. Trow in The New Yorker in a classic piece back in 1978. Ertegun was the son of the Turkish ambassador to the US and he remained behind in D.C. studying medieval philosophy at Georgetown. Instead of devoting himself to his studies he founded Atlantic Records with his friend Herb Abramson. Trow charted how Ertegun moved from tramping through muddy, Louisiana fields in search of hot new sounds to the whirl of Studio 54. Below the cut are links to the songs mentioned in the article, as best as I could find, in the order in which they appear.

Hugues Panassié, Le Jazz Hot (performed by Julie Andrews).
I couldn't find any online versions of Dirty Mother for You but here's Roosevelt Sykes rippin' it up on Swedish TV in 1972.
Couldn't find Ruth Brown singing A - You're Adorable, so here's the Sesame Street version.
Ivory Joe Hunter, Since I Met You Baby.
I couldn't find any footage or recordings of Bob Howard and His Rhythm, who recorded Button Up Your Overcoat and Memories of You for Atlantic Records, but here's Ruth Etting's 1929 version of the former and Sinatra's 1956 take on the latter.
Here's a performance by Boyd Raeburn and His Orchestra who recorded The Lady is a Tramp and How High the Moon for Atlantic, here's Jaye P. Morgan doing the former and Les Paul and Mary Ford the latter.
Sticks McGhee and His Buddies, Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee.
Couldn't find Clovers' version of Skylark, so here's Bette Midler.
I couldn't find a version of Don't You Know I Love You online.
Joe Turner, Chains of Love.
Ruth Brown, Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean.
Joe Turner, Shake, Rattle and Roll.
Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters, Money Honey.
The Coasters, Searchin'/Young Blood.
I couldn't find Chuck Willis' Hang Up My Rock n' Roll Shoes, but here's Bruce Springsteen covering the song and another song by Chuck Willis, What You Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You.
Bobby Darin, Splish Splash.
Ray Charles, What'd I Say? and I Got a Woman.
The Rolling Stones, Street Fighting Man, Satisfaction and Love in Vain.
Stevie Wonder, Happy Birthday and Uptight/Satisfaction (with The Rolling Stones).
Muddy Waters, Hoochie Coochie Man.
Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.
Professor Longhair, Tipitina (with The Meters).
I can't figure out what that Trammps song is that's referenced, but here they're performing Shout.
It's impossible to know what Johnny Dodds song Ahmet Ertegun is da da dooing along with, so here's some random Johnny Dodds.
I couldn't find Brown Skin Man by Lovie Austin and Her Blues Serenaders, but here's Charleston Mad (Priscilla Steward singing).
Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, King Porter.
Tampa Red and Georgia Tom, You Can't Get That Stuff No More.
Fred Astaire, Puttin' on the Ritz.
I didn't find The Jealous Kind online.

If I missed anything, please add a link.
posted by Kattullus (25 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ageispolis at 6:45 PM on August 17, 2009

beautiful post.
posted by frankbooth at 6:47 PM on August 17, 2009

Ahmet Ertegun died in 2006 after falling and cracking his head back stage at a Rolling Stones concert.
posted by Kattullus at 6:47 PM on August 17, 2009

damn yo, it's like he took one for Keith Richards
posted by mannequito at 6:52 PM on August 17, 2009

Here's Don't You Know I Love You by The Clovers.
posted by ageispolis at 6:53 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Excellent post. Great work. And some hugely cool sound treats!
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:09 PM on August 17, 2009

Epic Post. Doubleplusgood. This will take a while to dig through. Thanks so much!
posted by hippybear at 7:23 PM on August 17, 2009

That Spo-Dee-O-Dee song was Atlantic's first hit. He brought a jazzy sound into blues and R&B, made Stevie wonder's first hit record, and was recording in stereo well before the 60s. He was a awesome cat.
posted by now i'm piste at 7:29 PM on August 17, 2009

(This is a great post and you're a good person for doing it.)
posted by now i'm piste at 7:30 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

That Trow piece is maybe the best magazine profile ever written. And this post is fucking amazing. Thank you.
posted by neroli at 8:39 PM on August 17, 2009

Trow wrote a lot of amazing and funny short essays for the New Yorker over the years. He's one of the main reasons I bought the complete NYer hard drive a couple of years ago.
posted by neuron at 9:07 PM on August 17, 2009

Trow, previously on MetaFilter.
posted by escabeche at 9:21 PM on August 17, 2009

Great Northern Soul on Atlantic

Thank You Baby, For Loving Me -- Soul Brothers Six
Here I Go Again -- Archie Bell and the Drells
You've Got To Pay Your Dues -- The Drifters
Send Him Back -- Pointer Sisters
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:38 PM on August 17, 2009

Thank you. This is an amazing post. I'm really loving the Roosevelt Sykes video.
posted by OttomanSantour at 10:07 PM on August 17, 2009

My new favorite song is Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee.
posted by shinyshiny at 1:52 AM on August 18, 2009

damn yo, it's like he took one for Keith Richards

How many more will die so that Keith Richards may live?
posted by tommasz at 5:30 AM on August 18, 2009

I always love when Ahmet gets some of the attention he deserves. However, there is a slight misstatement in the post. It was not INSTEAD of studying philosophy, but rather BECAUSE of his study of philosophy that he was able to found such an important record label. Graduates of the Great Books program at St. John's College need no graduate study in medieval philosophy to complete their education. It just took Ahmet a little while to realize that he was finished and could move on to the great work of creating and preserving amazing American music. ;)
posted by MultiplyDrafted at 6:18 AM on August 18, 2009

You missed part one, Katullus!
posted by felix grundy at 6:37 AM on August 18, 2009

Oh shit! So I did. Oh man, epic fail! Thanks, felix grundy, for linking to part 1.
posted by Kattullus at 6:42 AM on August 18, 2009

Epic fail in the midst of epic success, I'd say. No shame in that. This is great!
posted by felix grundy at 6:44 AM on August 18, 2009

Ertegun comes off very differently in part 1. If I had read it first I don't know whether I would actually have finished it. While part 2 was riveting to me part 1 only interested me because it provided a different take on the fascinating figure in part 2. What fascinates me is how Ertegun parlayed his love for music into a very successful career while seemingly still yearning for the good ol' days and being slightly lost in the new world he helped bring into being. The music industry mogul of part 1 is just that, yet another successful businessman albeit one, we are told at the end, who really likes Duke Ellington. Now I'm sorta glad that I only linked to part 2.
posted by Kattullus at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2009

I worked for Atlantic Records back in the 90's -- in '97 we created a tribute video for the 50th anniversary (interviews up front, very dated CG starts at around 3:30)
posted by drmanhattan at 10:30 AM on August 18, 2009

Omg Kattullus, what a work of art your post is.

It has occurred to me on creating heavily researched, link-studded MetaFilter posts that I now have a miniature degree in a variety of obscure topics. You obviously got the Metafilter post PhD in Ahmet Ertegun. What a fascinating article and man!

What an interesting name he had, it sounds as if it should read the same backwards and forwards or turned inside out. It reminds me or ortolan.

It is in many circumstances a troubling thing to belong to the advanced class of a backward nation. One surrenders coherence and begins a difficult process of choice which ends, often, in an eclectic idiosyncrasy. For members of a traditional society where many traditions have been discredited, an interest in modernity can result in a restless sophistication.

That was an important statement in the second part of the article for me, as it succinctly describes some of what I find discombobulating when contemporary American culture is or has been assumed on the surface of any traditional culture.

Recently I was having a salad bar dinner in a local gourmet food place in Hell's Kitchen, Amish Market, which is not Amish at all, is quite the opposite of the Amish philosophy in terms of being luxuriously Mediterranean and run by a couple of very savvy Turkish guys. The store manager, Hasan (first picture as you scroll down), and I fell into conversation about Ahmet Ertegun, who Hasan knew personally.

He [Ahmet's father, Mehmet] seems to have been clear on the mixture of modern and traditional strains he wanted for himself and for Turkey, and to have held to the idea, once pervasive, that in a traditional society one can encourage some traditions and suppress others, that one can import some foreign influences and embargo others.

That seems to be the fantasy of a number of traditional societies, whose rich elite prefer appearing European or American modern, while keeping traditional social suppression in most ways, particularly in relation to women's rights. Levi's worn under a burqa sort of thing.

Adding to your list of YouTube vids:
Nino Tempo--I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
posted by nickyskye at 8:42 PM on August 18, 2009

neroli: That Trow piece is maybe the best magazine profile ever written. And this post is fucking amazing. Thank you.

I don't know – I kind of thought about half of it was about the best magazine profile ever written, and it's the half that concentrated on Ertegun and the music he was involved in. I could take or leave all the whirling socialite life of the kind of New York families for whom replicas of French mansions just outside Toledo, Ohio (now abandoned in favour of a new replica mansion in Haiti because "Perrysburg is a dead town now"1) are entirely normal.

Actually, that's not quite true; I'm at times as fascinated by such gaucheness as the next man, but I think what got me was the way it was presented by Trow, who seemed to be implying, without ever coming out and saying so, "look at this brilliant, erudite, rich, entitled, sophisticated and simply fabulous world of elite society parties with Diana Vreeland2 that I am, naturally, obviously and deservedly part of." (And that you, dear reader, are not part of, in which case why not press your face up to the metaphorical window, while I show you how a real life, like mine, is lived.)

Maybe, of course, this is my inner class-warrior-grouch coming out, and I don't doubt that that is part of it. And maybe I'm not giving Trow enough credit (I've not read anything else by him, but I will), because almost all of these people he writes about he seems to skewer, in some small way or other. However, he does it with the air of being an insider who's therefore allowed to poke a little light fun; had an outsider done the same, he or she would have been a pariah, darling. (Not that an outsider would ever have gotten the access, obviously ...)

All that said, fascinating profile, and cracking round-up of music links; cheers, Kattullus!

1I'm sure the dying Ohio rustbelt of the late 1970s was absolutely gutted to see them go.

2who "had [the Erteguns] to dinner before anyone you [i.e. Trow] know had them to dinner", like some weird analogue of LCD Soundsystem's paranoid record store geek in Losing My Edge, always concerned with being "there" before anyone else.

posted by Len at 8:14 AM on August 21, 2009

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