He founded Atlantic Records with a $10,000 loan from his dentist and Herb Abramson, who had a few ins in the record business. With his brother Nesuhi and Jerry Wexler, they built an R&B empire in the 1950s with the Drifters, Coasters, Ruth Brown and LaVerne Baker. Ertegun signed Joe Turner and they recorded “Shake, Rattle & Roll”; while catching a show by Wilson Pickett in England, he heard Eric Clapton and signed him immediately. Atlantic was a hotbed for rock, jazz and R&B throughout the ’60s, but it was its rep as the home of soul music’s finest that led Mick Jagger to bring the Rolling Stones to Ertegun’s label in the early 1970s.
Key signings: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Cream