Bob Krasnow, Former Elektra Records Chief, Diesby Jeff Tamarkin
Bob Krasnow, a prominent record business executive who served as CEO of the Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch group of record labels from 1983-1994, and before that created and ran Blue Thumb Records and served as a vice president at Warner Bros., died in Florida last night (Dec. 11). The cause of death was not reported. Krasnow was born in 1935 in Rochester, N.Y.; the exact date was not available.
Under his leadership, artists as diverse as Captain Beefheart, Dave Mason, the Pointer Sisters, Metallica, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Mötley Crüe, George Clinton and the Cure were signed and promoted.
A post on the Fans of Bob Krasnow Facebook page reads: “Our friend and mentor, Bob Krasnow, passed away Sunday in the hospital near his home in Florida. Our sincere condolences go out to his family in this difficult time.”
In 1994, David Geffen said, “Bob Krasnow is one of the smartest and most talented executives working in the music business these days… His track record as a talent scout is impeccable.”
Robert A. Krasnow dropped out of high school at 17 to join the Navy, after which, in 1957, he took a job as a sales representative at Decca Records. The following year he became the San Francisco branch manager for the R&B label King Records.
In 1964, Krasnow formed his own label, Loma Records, distributed by Warner Bros., then went over to the Kama Sutra and Buddah family of labels.
In 1968, Krasnow, along with former A&M Records executives Tommy LiPuma and Don Graham, created Blue Thumb Records, with Krasnow serving as president. Among the artists signed to Blue Thumb were Beefheart, Love (with Arthur Lee), Ike and Tina Turner, Buddy Guy, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, John Mayall, Mason, Hugh Masekela, the Pointer Sisters, Tyrannosaurus Rex (which later became T. Rex) and several folk, soul and jazz acts, including the Crusaders. The label went through several distributorships, folding in 1978. (An extensive Blue Thumb discography can be seen here.)
Krasnow had already left Blue Thumb by 1974, when he was tapped to become the vice president of talent acquisition for Warner Bros. Records, a role he held until 1983. That year he was named chairman and CEO of Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records, where he signed Khan, Benson, Clinton, Teddy Pendergrass, Anita Baker, the Sugarcubes, Mötley Crüe, the Pixies and the Cure, among others. He also created Elektra’s classical music division during his tenure.
Under his tutelage, Elektra also signed artists as diverse as Tracy Chapman, Metallica, the Gypsy Kings, Billy Bragg, 10,000 Maniacs, the Cure and Natalie Cole.
Mike Bone, who was Executive Vice President of Marketing for many years, said: “I never had as much fun or as many hits as when I worked” for Krasnow at Elektra.
Related: Arthur Lee of Love dies
He resigned that position in 1994 and started Krasnow Entertainment, with distribution from rival MCA.
In addition to his work at the various record companies, Krasnow was also a co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a member of the board of directors at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and at the New York City Center and other organizations. He was named the T.J. Martell Foundation Cancer Research Man of the Year in 1984 and 1989, and was the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy honoree in 1989.
Listen to “Only You Know and I Know” from Dave Mason’s Blue Thumb Records debut
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Jeff has also served on the Nominating Committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and as a consultant to the Grammys. As a consultant to the Music Club CD label, he assisted in releasing over 180 reissues and compilations, in styles ranging from jazz to country to pop. His first book was Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane (published in June 2003) – the first biography of this legendary San Francisco band written with the cooperation of all of the band members. He is also the co-author of Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc, with Howard Kaylan. From 2002 to 2006 Jeff was the editor of Global Rhythm, the leading magazine for world music and global culture. He was the Associate Editor of JazzTimes from 2008-16. He lives in Hoboken, NJ, with his wife, the novelist and Boston Globe book columnist Caroline Leavitt. Their son, Max, is a theater major at Pace University in New York.