April 15, 2024


Art Shines Through

Art Rupe, influential early rock recording executive, has died at 104 : NPR


One particular of the pioneering businessmen at the rear of rock ‘n’ roll has died. Art Rupe established Specialty Data, the label that introduced the occupations of Tiny Richard and Sam Cooke and helped make R&B preferred with white audiences. Rupe died Friday at age 104. NPR society correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas has this remembrance.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Art Rupe was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 for encouraging to form the sound of rock ‘n’ roll and for signing artists like Minor Richard.


Tiny RICHARD: (Singing) Wop bop a loo bop a lop bom bom. Tutti Frutti, oh, rootie. Tutti Frutti, oh, rootie.

TSIOULCAS: Artwork Rupe was born into a doing work-course relatives in Pittsburgh in 1917. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Galicia in Jap Europe. But he experienced stars in his eyes and established out for Los Angeles in 1939 to operate in the film enterprise. When that failed to pan out, he switched more than to the songs business enterprise. That wasn’t easy, either. He invested in a label named Atlas Information, but they could not make a strike, even with Nat King Cole on the roster.


NAT KING COLE: (Singing) Obtained a penny, Benny? I received to telephone to Jenny. And I just bought, just bought 4 cents to my name. Obtained a penny, Benny?

TSIOULCAS: Rupe soon determined to build his have file label, Jukebox, to grow the audience for so-named race records, which were being recordings made by Black musicians for Black listeners. Rupe researched the very best-advertising race documents assiduously to determine out what was popular and saw there was most likely funds to be built in bringing these artists to a white public.

Rupe wound up leaving Jukebox immediately after a fallout with his companions and quickly launched yet another label, Specialty Records. The 1st No. 1 strike for Specialty arrived in 1950 with “Pink Champagne” by Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers.


JOE LIGGINS AND THE HONEYDRIPPERS: (Singing) Pink Champagne that stole my appreciate from me. Pink Champagne stole my enjoy from me.

TSIOULCAS: Rupe signed numerous bounce blues, R&B and gospel artists, including the Soul Stirrers. And he realized that the Soul Stirrers’ lead singer, a youthful gentleman named Sam Cooke, experienced potential as a breakout pop artist. He and producer Bumps Blackwell recorded Cooke performing a secular pop track under the pseudonym Dale Cook in order to not alienate gospel lovers.


SAM COOKE: (Singing) She’s lovable, my, my female. She’s so lovable. Candy’s sweet…

TSIOULCAS: Rupe disliked the success and permit each Cooke and Blackwell go away Specialty with all their recordings from that session. 1 of the other tracks they recorded grew to become Sam Cooke’s initial massive pop hit, “You Send Me.”

By 1960, Rupe had grown disappointed with the machinations of the music business enterprise and significantly with the practically endemic practice of payola, labels shelling out off DJs to enjoy their music and thereby generate hits. The label went dormant by the stop of that decade. And in 1990, he offered Specialty’s catalog to Fantasy Documents, which sooner or later became aspect of Concord Information.

Even past the Sam Cooke circumstance, Rupe did not often hit the mark as an A&R man. Even though on tour in England in 1963, Small Richard phoned him to say he was on a bill with the band that Rupe just had to hear. Rupe wasn’t fascinated. That team was the Beatles.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR Information, New York.


Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Pay a visit to our web site terms of use and permissions webpages at www.npr.org for additional information and facts.

NPR transcripts are designed on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text might not be in its ultimate type and may be current or revised in the long run. Precision and availability may perhaps change. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio file.