Bob Krasnow, former chairman of Elektra Records, founder of Blue Thumb Records, veteran executive and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died last night (Dec. 11). He was born in 1935, though his exact age couldn’t be confirmed as of press time.
Krasnow, former chairman of Elektra Records, is often hailed for bringing Elektra back to prominence after taking over as chairman in 1983. His first orders of business were far from easy: Firing over 200 employees and cutting the artist roster by nearly 90 percent, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Starting nearly from scratch, he then built Elektra — via acts like Metallica, Anita Baker, Motley Crue, 10,000 Maniacs, The Cure, The Pixies, The Sugarcubes (featuring Bjork) and others — into a powerhouse. He left the company in 1994. Considering his mainstream success, few people know what a role he played in the careers of artists like Ike and Tina Turner (at Loma Records in the 1960s),Captain Beefheart (at Buddah later in the 1960s), Buddy Guy, Hugh Masakela and Tyrannosaurus Rex (at Blue Thumb, which he co-founded in 1968), and Funkadelic (which he signed during a stint at Warner Bros. in the early 1970s).
In a statement to Billboard, Charles Koppelman, who signed Chapman to his production company and brought her to Elektra in the mid 1980s: “The first time I played Tracey Chapman in demo form, [Krasnow] got it instantly, and that’s the reason I signed her to Elektra.”
In a personal note addressed to friends at the Warner Music Group penned by Bob Hurwitz, co-president of Nonesuch Records, he wrote that “Few people in the music business can be said to have made a profound impact on the destiny of a company. Fewer still could be said to have an impact on two different companies. Bob Krasnow, who passed away last night, had a profound impact on four different record companies in his career.”
He lists Blue Thumb Records, where Krasnow signed the Pointer Sisters, Dave Mason, Captain Beefheart and others; Warner Bros., where Krasnow served as the head of talent acquisition and “brought the company into the African-American marketplace for the first time in its history”; and Elektra.
“There were two golden ages at Elektra: the first was the Jac Holzman years; the second was the Bob Krasnow years,” Hurwitz writes, reeling off the label’s many successful acts as well as Nonesuch, which Krasnow hired Hurwitz to run in 1984. “Nonesuch’s sustained existence would have been unimaginable without [Bob’s] deep support and love of the music we were releasing.”
As the note reaches its end, Hurwitz concludes: “We will all say more about Bob in the upcoming days, but a few things should be noted. First, he had a big personality, and it wasn’t always the easiest personality. Second, he was a brilliant man, whose range of interests was as wide as anyone I’ve known in a position like that. Third, in terms of skill-set, I never met anyone who combined a knowledge of A&R, promotion and marketing like he did. Without Bob, there would not be a Blue Thumb. Warners would have been a different company. The experience of Elektra in the ’80s and ’90s would not have been possible. And Nonesuch….well, it might have stayed a small and interesting budget label. This is what Bob Krasnow did.”