Amos Heilicher, a pioneering independent distributor, who also started the Musicland chain, died Oct. 12 of pneumonia at University of Minnesota Hospitals Fairview. He was 90.

Heilicher got his start in the music business in his late teens, as a jukebox service distributor in Minneapolis and before long moved over into the independent distribution business.

After his brother Dan got out of the armed services at the end of World War II, he joined Amos in the music business. By 1947, they had landed the Mercury Records account and was selling that label and other indie imprints and soon landed Columbia Records, handling distribution in the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan.

In 1954, Amos started the label Soma, which would have hits from the Fenderman, "Muleskinner Blues," and the Trashmen's "Surfin Bird." In 1955, the Heilichers started the Musicland chain and merged it with Pickwick International in 1960, and somewhere along the way acquired a record pressing plant and studio called Kaybank.

Heilicher's headed up the Pickwick retail/wholesale/rackjobber/label operation which led Amos to be cited as one of the most powerful people in the music industry, landing on an Esquire magazine list in 1970 with Mick Jagger, Paul Simon and Motown founder Berry Gordy, according to an obituary on Heilicher that ran in Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Pickwick and Musicland were sold to Hartz Mountain in 1977, which in turn sold it to American Can.

"The brothers really built their business together and I saw the perfect combination between Amos and Danny, says Owen Husney, a principal of First American Entertainment Inc. "Amos was the front man bringing in the deals, and Danny was the one who put it all together."

After leaving the music industry Heilicher remained an active businessman, concentrating on real estate, equipment leasing, and the coin-operated machine business.

Amos is preceded in death by his brother Dan, who passed away in 2005. He is
survived by his daughter Lisa and son Ira.

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