Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman talks with label historian (and Patti Smith Group guitarist) Lenny Kaye.
Elektra Records was started in 1950 by a then 19-year-old named Jac Holzman and grew to be one of the most revered labels in the history of modern music. That history was showcased in the opening video montage that contains dozens and dozens of clips, including Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, Josh White, Fred Neil, Theodore Bikel, The Limeliters, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins, The Doors, Nonesuch Explorer Series, Tim Buckley, Love, Incredible String Band, MC 5, Bread, Carly Simon, Harry Chapin, Freddie Mercury, Queen, Jackson Browne, Natalie Merchant and Bruno Mars.
The talk that followed is chock full of amazing tidbits, describing a record industry that surely looks much different today. At one point, Holzman describes personally looking for and finding the musician Arthur Lee, with intent to sign him. Arthur told him he wanted $5,000 in cash, and Holzman walked to the bank and got the money.
Holzman was very hands on in the studio as well, right down to looking after what microphones were used. As a matter of fact, he told Kaye he used to bring the records to the pressing plant himself, on his scooter. That amazing tidbit came shortly after the 20 minute mark.
“I was very hands on, because that’s how I was going to learn,” Holzman continued. “I did everything I possibly could do myself. I took photographs, I wrote notes. I did all of the editing. I produced probably 90% of the Elektra records for the first 12 or 13 years.”