×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Judd Apatow Ushers Grandfather Bob Shad’s Jazz Label Into the Streaming Age

Producer, director and writer Judd Apatow is best known for making people laugh, but he and his sister, Mia, have been working on something more tuneful over the past couple years: the rerelease of jazz and blues recordings from a label that featured the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Sarah Vaughan, and was built by legendary jazz, blues and early R&B producer Bob Shad — who also happened to be the Apatows’ grandfather.

On Oct. 6, the relaunched Mainstream Records label will reissue catalog albums from sax men Harold Land (“A New Shade of Blue”) and Buddy Terry (“Awareness”). That follows two spiritually minded compilations dropped to test the waters: last year’s “Feeling Good” and this year’s “Innerpeace.”

“We always knew our grandfather’s music was loved by hard-core jazz and blues heads, but wouldn’t it be great if more people could hear it and love it in the streaming age,” Apatow says. “His music always sounds like everyone is having a ball.”

Apatow, still high from his first stand-up comedy tour in more than 20 years (a Netflix special debuts in December), is also leaning on a music theme for his current theatrical release, “May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers,” a documentary he produced on the alternative-country sensations that also will air on HBO in January.

“I have a soft spot for underappreciated artists,” Apatow muses, “something that stems from my grandfather’s love of jazz and blues, and having a label that, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, didn’t quite jibe with the times.”

Shad held the keys to several labels, such as Mainstream, founded in 1964. Besides dropping new and reissued jazz albums, it released comedy platters from Dickie Goodman (“the filthiest jokes I heard until that point,” laughs Apatow) as well as debut recordings from Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Ted Nugent’s Amboy Dukes. “Everyone thinks Clive Davis is responsible for Janis, but my grandfather signed her first. My father was Nugent’s first manager.” Joke with the famously liberal Apatow about having anything to do with the staunchly Republican Nugent, and the director says, “I couldn’t agree less with him, but that doesn’t mean his albums don’t rock hard.”

Apatow describes Shad as a funny guy from the Bronx with a lot of attitude. “He gave people a hard time,” he says. “Example: the Blues Brothers. He hated them because he loved and even knew the guys who originated the original blues stuff. Why would people buy Belushi and Aykroyd? Why wouldn’t they just buy the real artists those guys were referencing? He could be irrational: He also hated Jimi Hendrix because he knew where the guitarist stole his riffs. The ‘Jaws’ soundtrack too — he knew the classical pieces that came from. Bob liked to show off that way.”

Young Apatow was only beginning to “get” jazz at age 17, when he was a DJ at his high school radio station, WKWZ in Syosset, N.Y. “I was their jazz DJ, and I started to understand that music on my own. I was excited and was going to visit [my grandfather] to aggressively discuss this music, but he died from a heart attack [in 1985] before I made that trip.”

Apatow has honored Shad in his films and television shows. In music comedy “Walk Hard,” Craig Robinson’s character is named Bob Shad. The producer-director also used Nugent’s “Journey to the Center of the Mind” in “Freaks and Geeks.” In “The Cable Guy,” Jim Carrey sings a twisted take on “Salt Peanuts” by Charlie Parker, one of Shad’s productions.

“My grandfather got Parker his union card. He paid for Alan Freed’s funeral. He was a poor kid with attitude who invented himself and therefore helped invent the record business.” The music that Mia and Judd Apatow will rerelease as part of the rediscovery of the Mainstream catalog is proof of that claim.

“A lot of Mainstream music — like Jack Wilkins’ funky ‘Red Clay’ — gets sampled by hip-hop artists all the time,” says Apatow, pointing out that Chance the Rapper’s “NaNa” track with Action Bronson does so (“with the dirtiest language,” he says).

“Shad’s Mainstream label was eclectic stuff at a time when that sort of music wasn’t necessarily the hottest thing happening,” Apatow notes. “My grandfather kept many musical styles alive by supporting jazz and blues right when they were losing favor. Now seems about the right time to reinvestigate those sounds.”

(Pictured: Freddie Robinson, Joe Sample, Blue Mitchell, Bob Shad and Herman Riley in 1973.)

More Biz

  • Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale

    Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale Date

    UPDATED: The troubled Woodstock 50 festival has run into more difficulties, as multiple sources told Variety late Friday that the April 22 on-sale date for the event has been postponed. Agents for artists scheduled to perform at the festival — which include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Halsey [...]

  • National Enquirer - Jeff Bezos

    Hudson Media CEO James Cohen Purchases the National Enquirer

    Hudson Media’s CEO James Cohen announced Thursday that he will purchase the National Enquirer as well as American Media’s other tabloids, the Globe and the National Examiner. With the purchase of the National Enquirer, which Cohen reportedly bought for $100 million, he plans to strengthen their collaborative efforts, documentary shows, weekly podcasts, and theme parks. [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music’s Free Tier Is More Advertising Play Than Spotify Killer, Analysts Say

    When news began to spread last week that Amazon Music’s long-anticipated free streaming tier was imminent, headlines emerged about its threat to Spotify and Apple Music, with some stories saying that Spotify’s stock price dropped in response to the news. But not only was today’s launch of the free tier basically a soft one — [...]

  • Nicki MinajCFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Dinner,

    Nicki Minaj Parts Ways With Longtime Managers (EXCLUSIVE)

    Nicki Minaj has parted ways with Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant and Blueprint/ Maverick Management, a source close to the situation confirms to Variety. She had worked with the pair for the majority of her career. The source says the decision was mutual and amicable, and there was no specific reason for the split, adding [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music Launches Free Streaming Tier, Through Alexa Only (for Now)

    Amazon Music today basically soft-launched its free streaming tier, in which U.S. customers of its Alexa voice assistant will have access to top Amazon Music playlists and thousands of stations, at no cost. The limited access that the new free service provides — it’s only available through Alexa, and when the listener requests a song, [...]

  • Donald Glover and Adidas Launch Short

    Donald Glover and Adidas Launch Partnership With New Shoes and Short Films (Watch)

    Donald Glover and Adidas Originals today announced Donald Glover Presents, a creative partnership that unveiled a new line of shoes and a series of brief — and very funny — films to accompany them. (Watch them below.) Donald Glover Presents reimagines threeAadidas styles, the Nizza, the Continental 80, and the Lacombe. The shoes feature uneven [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content