Long-time music industry executive Johnny Bienstock died today (Jan. 20) in Naples, Fla., due to complications from heart disease and a stroke. He was 83.
During his 60-year career, Bienstock moved back and forth between the publishing and label worlds, serving as a top executive at Big Top Records, Cotillion, RSO and Carlin America.
Born in Vienna, Austria, Bienstock and his brother, Freddy, escaped the Nazi occupation aided by their father’s Swiss citizenship. They arrived in the United States at the start of World War II. Johnny joined the army and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.
Bienstock began his career in 1944, when he and Freddy joined the music publishing operation of their cousins, Jean and Julian Aberbach, who went on to found Hill & Range.
Johnny Bienstock’s first job for the Aberbachs was pitching sheet music to big-band leaders like Lawrence Welk. Later at Hill & Range, he was involved in handling the publishing of such artists as Ernest Tubbs, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow and Elvis Presley.
In 1958, the Aberbachs launched Big Top Records, naming Bienstock GM. During his tenure, the label had hits with Del Shannon, Johnny & the Hurricanes, Sammy Turner, Lou Johnson and Miss Toni Fisher, employing such producers as Leiber & Stoller, Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach. An affiliated label, Dunes, issued hit records by Ray Peterson and Curtis Lee.
Bienstock also helped establish comedy albums in the marketplace, issuing sets under the Mad Magazine logo in affiliation with Mad publisher Bill Gaines.
In 1965, Bienstock joined the A&R department at Atlantic Records. Eventually, he headed up Atlantic’s Cotillion publishing operation. Later, he ran the Cotillion label, which issued the Woodstock album. From there, he was tapped to head the RSO label for Robert Stigwood.
According to a press release from Carlin America, Bienstock helped bring together the Bee Gees with producer Arif Mardin. Bienstock also played a role in bringing together Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf, according to the Carlin America press release, for the single “More Than You Deserve,” which preceded the landmark “Bat Out of Hell” album.
After leaving RSO in 1978, Bienstock reteamed with Freddy to buy Moss Rose Music, a catalog of country songs. That was integrated into Johnny Bienstock Music, administered by Freddy Bienstock Enterprises.
In 1983, Johnny became GM of E.B. Marks Music Company, a subsidiary of Carlin America, Freddy’s publishing operation. Johnny continued to work with his brother until his retirement in 2003.
In addition to his brother, Johnny Bienstock is survived by Nichola, his wife of 15 years; daughters Jacqueline Kates and Andrea Bienstock; stepson Alexander McKenzie; four grandchildren; and a great-grand-daughter.
Funeral services will be held on Jan 23 at 11:30 AM at the Riverside Chapel in Manhattan.