Friday, September 12, 2014

RIP Cosimo Matassa, recorded New Orleans R&B

Cosimo Matassa, 1981. Photo: Times Picayune

Legendary New Orleans studio owner and recording engineer Cosimo Matassa has died, aged 88. He recorded legendary artists Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe and dozens others. 

When he was inducted to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. the Times Picayune reported that "Matassa opened what was reportedly New Orleans’ first recording studio at 838-840 North Rampart Street in 1945 after dropping out of the chemistry program at Tulane University. He was not yet 20 years old.

His family’s J&M Music Shop, a record and appliance store, occupied the front of the building. He installed J&M Recording Studio in a back room. It measured 15 by 16 feet, with a control room that Matassa has described as being “as big as my four fingers.” The “J” and “M” referred to the initials of his father, John Matassa.

Though modest in size, J&M Recording played a major role in popular music. Several records cut there facilitated the transition of rhythm & blues to rock ‘n’ roll, including Fats Domino’s 1949 debut, “The Fat Man,” Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”

During the golden age of New Orleans rhythm & blues, J&M was ground zero for musicians, songwriters, producers and record label representatives. Its pedigree rivals that of the better-known Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn. Essentially, Matassa provided the framework for the creation of the “New Orleans sound.”

From Times Picayune: "What a great way to make a living," he said in a 2012 interview with The Huffington Post.

"I wanted to be a just conduit of what that performance was – a performance frozen in time, if you will. So if you didn't know I was there, I did my job. . . .

"I appreciate people thinking about my work, and I always try to say that all the great musicians made me look good. And I believe that. I wasn't playing. I couldn't have done any of those records if the guys sitting in the chairs didn't do them. So first and foremost, credit to them. I will say I tried my damnedest to make them sound good."

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