Jerry Moss, Who Formed A&M Records With Herb Alpert, Dies

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This photo of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss appeared as part of a two-page ad* that ran in the October 7, 1972, issue of Record World

Jerry Moss, the music executive who, together with his creative partner, Herb Alpert, formed A&M Records in 1962, has died at age 88 at his Bel Air, Calif., home. The news was announced by his family in his obituary posted on August 16, 2023, on The pair of music industry titans had originally planned on naming their label Carnival Records but settled on A&M—their initials—when they discovered that their original choice was already taken. Led initially by the phenomenal success of recordings by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, the duo ultimately led one of the great independent labels of all-time with such signings as Sergio Mendes, Carpenters, Joe Cocker, Carole King (through an agreement with Lou Adler’s Ode Records), Cat Stevens, the Captain & Tennille, Billy Preston, Humble Pie, Peter Frampton, Supertramp, the Police, Sting, Janet Jackson, Quincy Jones, and dozens of others. Several of those artists have made tributes to Jerry Moss; see below.

Born Jerome Sheldon Moss on May 8, 1935, he was raised in a modest Jewish home in the Bronx, during the Great Depression. After graduating from Brooklyn College and serving in the U.S. Army, Moss began his career in the music industry. His first job was promoting “16 Candles,” a 1958 hit for the Crests on Coed Records. After moving to California in 1960, he promoted artists and produced records independently, before meeting his eventual business partner. Alpert and Moss famously launched their record label on a handshake, in a garage, and humble beginnings as they each contributed $100. Thanks to their early success—revenues reportedly grew from $500,000 in 1964 to $30 million in 1967—they purchased the historic Charlie Chaplin Studios in Hollywood and made it the label’s headquarters. The stunning environment became a magnet for talent and A&M Records grew into the largest independent record label in the world, as it championed the art of the artist.

In a 2021 interview with Best Classic Bands, Alpert said, “It was [getting] hard to compete with the major companies. Jerry and I were the sole owners of A&M and big companies were paying big bucks to Prince and those artists that were worthy of signing, and we couldn’t take a chance and be wrong. We felt like it would be time to head for the hills.” The pair ultimately sold the label to PolyGram (now part of the Universal Music Group) in 1989 for a reported $500 million. They continued to manage the label for another four years. The label is the subject of the excellent 2021 two-part docuseries Mr. A & Mr. M: The Story of A&M Records. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Page two of the ad that appeared in the Oct. 7, 1972, issue of Record World, celebrating A&M Records’ 10th anniversary

Moss became a dedicated philanthropist, particularly in the Los Angeles community in the areas of the arts, education and healthcare. Most recently, he and his wife, Tina, and the Moss Foundation made a historic $25 million gift to the Music Center to help support the cultivation of strong arts and culture-focused partnerships and new programming initiatives at the county’s performing arts center. He was honored at a concert at the Center on January 14, 2023, that included performances by Frampton, Dionne Warwick and others.

He also had a hugely successful career in thoroughbred racing and breeding. Some of his wins included the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, and the 2010 American Horse of the Year, Zenyatta.

His family wrote, “They truly don’t make them like him anymore and we will miss conversations with him about everything under the sun, … the twinkle in his eyes as he approached every moment ready for the next adventure.”

Alpert himself was gracious enough to share Best Classic Bands’ obituary on his Facebook page. He later posted many photos of the two of them, writing, “I never met a nicer, honest, sensitive, smart and talented man then my partner Jerry Moss.”

Frampton posted a tribute to his friend, writing, “I am so sorry to hear Jerry Moss has left us. Jerry was a true gentleman and if it weren’t for him, so many lives might have turned out very differently. He loved great music and went out of his way to make a place where artists could find themselves and create with his lovely encouragement and patience. I love you, Jerry, and my thoughts are with wife Tina and the entire family. Rest now my dear friend.”

In a statement quoted in the New York Times, Sting, who recorded for A&M with the Police and his long solo career, said of Moss and Alpert, “They were gentlemen. I think their extraordinary success was really predicated on those very human qualities — not being ruthless businessmen or kill-or-be-killed people.”

And in an interview he did with Billboard, Sting wrote, “Mr. A and Mr. M were people. You could sit on their desk and chat to them. They were the perfect company for us. They were artist [friendly], they would be patient, and they knew what they were talking about. They weren’t like just the set of accountants, who are guessing. These guys knew the business.

“Jerry would have informed opinions about [the music] he was hearing and would say things like ‘I think it needs a bridge here.’ He wasn’t necessarily right [laughs]. I’m joking. But I would always listen and take what he said seriously. He knew what he was [talking] about.”

Leland Sklar, the great session and touring musician, was one of the first to post a tribute. “Jerry Moss was a remarkable man and along with Herb Alpert created one the greatest record labels. Saw him all the time on the lot when working at A & M. My heart is with his family and the music community as a whole. Thank you Jerry for all you did.”

Denny Tedesco, the producer-director of the documentary film about the Los Angeles musicians, The Wrecking Crew, wrote, “[Jerry] had seen a screener and wanted to know what he could do to help get us to the finish line. I told him our situation and he came on as an Executive Producer and helped with a large donation. He gave so much to the industry and helped so many others. He will be so missed and hope others will continue to look to him as an inspiration.”

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2023

Greg Brodsky

3 Comments so far

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  1. Frank
    #1 Frank 16 August, 2023, 22:28

    You kind of missed the lead…he, along with Albert, discovered the carpenters

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  2. Ron Gartner
    #2 Ron Gartner 16 August, 2023, 22:34

    I remember when they opened on LaBrea Ave a few blocks from my high school Fairfax High where Herb graduated from. It was abuzz with excitement and all of us around the music business wanted in. What a ride. RIP

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    • mike
      mike 26 December, 2023, 14:06

      i used to work part time at the LOT on La Brea when I was a kid setting up the headphones and sheet music at then studio “C” the only studio that was there then. That was when they bought the studio that was filming the Perry mason series. I begged Henry Lewey to let me sit there as he recorded Joni Mitchell and the Burrito Bros. I told him if you let me watch, I’d clean the studio up after the sessions. lotsa beer cans and fried chicken buckets. totally worth the memories. classic stuff. the lot was Magic. worked there for many years after I got outta the Navy. much love, respect and appreciation for my cousin Jerry who gave me the opportunity……Mike Hart

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