Hugh Mendl, the influential British producer and A&R man who signed the likes of Genesis and David Bowie to Decca Records, passed away on July 7 at the age of 88.

Born in London on Aug. 6, 1919, Mendl was educated at University College, Oxford, and had readied himself for a career in the diplomatic service. However, the call of music proved too much. Like many top music executives, Mendl worked his way from the ground up, starting from the post room of Decca Records, where his grandfather was chairman.

Mendl was called up for duty during the Second World War, but still managed to find a purpose for his love and knowledge of music, presenting a jazz show on Palestine Radio and reading the news for British Mediterranean broadcasting on British Armed Forces Radio.

After the war, Mendl returned to Decca, where he was instrumental in signing Bowie, Genesis and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and gave a break to Tommy Steele and Lonnie Donegan, among others. He also executive produced the Moody Blues' second official album, "Days of Future Passed," from 1967.

"Hugh was one of the great A&R men of his era, capable of spotting and encouraging unique and unusual talent," recalls Max Hole, Universal Music Group International executive VP and Asia-Pacific region president.

"He got me started in this business when I was managing and producing bands, by offering me and my business partner a three-year deal with Decca," notes Hole. "We used to look forward to our fortnightly meetings with him, which were like a seminar in the music business coupled with a good gossip."

Mendl remained with Decca until 1979 when he suffered a heart attack. He retired the following year, and moved to Devon, south west England, where he opened an antique store.

Hole describes the late executive as "a real gentleman, kind and intelligent, with a wicked sense of humor. Countless artists owe their start in the music business to him."

Mendl is survived by his wife, Beverley, and four children.