Co-founder of Mercury Records and longtime MCA VP and agent Berle Adams died Tuesday in Los Angeles following a long illness. He was 92.
An influential agent for musicians as well as film and TV talent, he was also active in the TV biz, packaging and selling shows to the networks and later repping the Emmys overseas.
The Chicago-born agent began booking swing bands as a high-schooler, then worked as an agent at General Artists Corp., repping musicians such as Louis Jordan, Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller and Art Tatum.
He left GAC to found his own agency, then established publishing companies Champagne Music and Preview Music. In 1945, he formed Mercury Records with partners Irving Green, Ray Greenberg and Art Talmadge. Mercury recorded Frankie Laine’s “That’s My Desire” in 1947 followed by Vic Damon’s “I Have But One Heart.”
After moving to Los Angeles, he was hired in 1950 by Lew Wasserman to work at MCA, where he remained for more than 20 years. During the 1960s, he repped talent including Jack Benny, Rosemary Clooney, Alfred Hitchcock and Dinah Shore.
While at MCA, Adams also was responsible for packaging new TV programs, including “This Is Your Life” and “Queen for a Day,” and created the company’s international TV division in 1957.
Adams also established the music company’s Uni Records, which signed the Who, Neil Diamond, Elton John and Olivia Newton-John. After MCA bought Decca Records in 1962, Adams and MCA colleague Brian Brolly signed Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to record the score for “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Adams left MCA in 1971 and two years later established William Morris Agency’s sports division. He also formed the corporation BAC Inc. to represent TV producers for international distribution and for 24 years was the sole distrib for the Emmys to more than 100 countries.
In 1978, he served as exec producer of “The Brass Target,” starring Sophia Loren, John Cassavetes and Max von Sydow.
Adam and his wife, Lucy, were active in cancer research before she died of the illness in 1990. Adams served as prexy for USC’s Norris Cancer Center and Hospital.
He is survived by a son, Richard; a daughter, Helen Kleinberg; four grandchildren including Lewis Kleinberg, a writer-producer, and Elliot Kleinberg, United Artists chief operating officer; and seven great-grandchildren.
Services will be held Sundayat 10 a.m. at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.
Donations may be made to the University Kidney Research Org., 2049 Century Park East, Suite 3180, Los Angeles, CA 90067.