Bob Rolontz, a music industry vet who was former editor of Billboard magazine and originator of the platinum record, died June 14 at the Jewish Home & Hospital in Manhattan of complications from a 22-year bout with Parkinson’s disease. He was 79.
A Philadelphia native and Columbia grad, he began working in the record business in that city. His father owned local radio station WCAU.
Rolontz joined Billboard as a reporter in 1951, penning the Rhythm and Blues column. In 1955 he joined RCA Victor as the musical director of its R&B labels Groove and Vik. The latter spawned Mickey & Sylvia’s 1957 hit “Love Is Strange.”
He returned to Billboard in 1958 as associate music director, and was later promoted to music editor. He also authored the 1963 book “How to Get Your Song Recorded.”
Rolontz joined Atlantic Records as vice president of advertising and publicity in 1965.
Seeking to publicize the success of the 1968 Cream album “Wheels of Fire,” Rolontz decided to go beyond the industry standard of a gold record, (then granted for $1 million in retail sales) and proclaim it platinum for selling 1 million copies. The Recording Industry Assn. of America adopted the platinum moniker in the early ’70s.
Rolontz became vice president of corporate public relations for Warner Communications in 1975, and in 1989 co-founded the Ralph J. Gleason music book awards.
He is survived by Susan, his wife of 41 years, a daughter, a son, a sister and two grandchildren.