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Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built

by: Ahmet Ertegun

Album Artwork

(Atlantic DVD)

Let me tell you a story.

According to The Rolling Stones and Led Zappelin, that is the way Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun began his conversations, almost every time.

When Ahmet was 14, he went clubbing in Washington, DC. He was drinking scotch when a friend came up and scolded him, saying he was too young to drink. The friend said “Here, smoke this,' and handed him a joint.

And so begins the story of one of America’s most important record industry people, a man whose father was the Turkish Ambassador to USA. It was a job that brought young Ahmet and his brother and the rest of the family to live in Washington, DC, and brought Ahmet closer to the music he loved so.

Young Ahmet loved jazz. In fact, he loved music with every fiber of his soul. He had an ear for what was good that was like no other, except for maybe his co-conspirators Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd.

Ahmet started Atlantic Records in the late 1940’s, signing gospel and rhythm and blues acts. As time went on, Ahmet signed his first white act with Bobby Darrin, which lead to the influx of rock and roll acts like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Narrated by Bette Midler, the documentary features live clips Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Muscle Shoals, Eric Clapton, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bette Midler, Ray Charles, and Phil Collins, and Otis Redding, about whom Ahmet said, “I don’t think we’ll ever see a talent like Otis Redding again.” 

I would have loved to have seen more footage of the Muscle Shoals studios, which is never mentioned in the documentary. There are a few scenes inside the srudios during the part of the film on Aretha Franklin, but that’s it. Perhaps someone is planning a whole separate film. I’d buy it.

Still, The House That Ahmet Built is an awesome documentary about one of the most important men in rock and roll and rhythm and blues history.

- Michael Buffalo Smith

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