Jerry Wexler, the man who coined the term “rhythm and blues,” will get a first-class memorial sendoff on Oct. 30 in New York.
Wexler died in August 2008, and it’s been hard getting everyone in the same place for his service. But his kids, Lisa and Paul, have chosen the 30th because so many people will be in town for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shows.
Wexler, of course, was one of the backbones of Atlantic Records including Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, and Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd. But it was Wexler who really put the stamp on Atlantic’s R&B empire with Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and many other landmark acts. He also led the Atlantic incursion into Memphis for Stax Records and then down to Muscle Shoals, Ala. Among Jerry’s many triumphs: Dusty Springfield’s “Dusty in Memphis” album.
The memorial will include performances by Vaneese Thomas (daughter of Rufus), as well as Allen Toussaint, Bettye Lavette, William Bell and Lenny Kaye. Other artists are still to be announced. The band will include some of Atlantic’s legends including Bernard Purdee, Anton Fig and Simon Kirke on drums; Jerry Jemmott and Barbara Cobb on bass; Spooner Oldham and Mike Finnegan on keyboards; Jen Leigh on guitar; and the Uptown Horns.’ The musicians have been assembled with help from producer Jon Tivens, who will be the musical director.
Speakers at the service will include soul legend Sam Moore; jazz writer Gary Giddins; writer David Ritz, with whom Wexler penned his autobiography; WBGO DJ Bob Porter; and Mark Meyerson, who was Wexler’s assistant at Atlantic Records during the mid-1960s. Both Atlantic and Rolling Stone magazine have chipped in to help make the afternoon possible.
On a personal note: I knew Jerry Wexler, and he was just as great a guy as you might think. He was also underrated and a little overshadowed. This event should do him just a little of the justice he deserves.