Tower Records Founder Russ Solomon Dies at 92, Musicians React
Tower Records founder Russ Solomon died Sunday evening at his home near Sacramento, Calif. when he suffered an apparent heart attack while watching the Academy Awards ceremony. He was 92.
"Ironically, he was giving his opinion of what someone was wearing that he thought was ugly, then asked [his wife] Patti to to refill his whisky," his son, Michael, told the Sacramento Bee. When she returned with the drink, Solomon had passed away.
The entrepreneur was a high-school dropout who started selling used 78rpm jukebox records out of his father's Sacramento drugstore at the age of 16. Located in the Tower Theater, Solomon would pay homage to the drugstore's name and location when he opened the first Tower Records on Watt Avenue in 1960. As the years went on, the brand grew throughout the United States and internationally, becoming the first megastore record chain at nearly 200 locations, becoming not just a record shop, but de facto hangout for music lovers.
Though profits swelled to $1 billion a year at the height of Tower Records popularity, it couldn't survive the onslaught of file-sharing and digitally available music. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004 and again in 2006, the latter a death knell resulting in the final locations shuttered. The sole brick and mortar Tower Records thrives to this day in Tokyo, Japan.
Solomon was the subject of the 2015 documentary All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records, directed by actor and fellow Sacramento native Colin Hanks.
"The world lost an absolute legend last night," Hanks posted to Instagram. "Russ Solomon changed my life; he changed the way I look at the world and how to navigate it. His wit and curiosity was unparalleled. He was, quite simply, one of coolest people I've ever met. It was an honor to help tell his story and a privilege to call him a friend. Sending my love to Patti, Michael, and all of the Tower Records family."
Tower Records weaved its way into the narrative of some of the top hard rock acts in history. During a 2012 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose recalled his brief time as a manager of Tower Video, located across the street from the iconic Tower Records location on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.
"I let everybody have beers after work," Rose said, adding that he hired members of the Appetite for Destruction lineup of the band - including Slash - along with his friends. "We had a great time for awhile."
Musicians like Sacramento's own Deftones and Papa Roach - out of nearby Vacaville, Calif. - expressed their condolences via social media and recounted what the company meant to them. Frontman Chino Moreno of the former posted a link to the first record he purchased with his own money at Tower Records, Roger's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" when he was just eight years old.
"Russ Solomon R.I.P. Tower Records was the spot!!!," tweeted Deftones collectively. "Thank you Russ for giving us ALL a home…..a place to explore in and to be turned on in. Ha...lets not forget book covers for school each year!!! Our thoughts go out to Patti and their family."
"Russ Solomon gave us #towerrecords," tweeted former Headbangers Ball host and owner of the music club The Cathouse Riki Rachtman. "The Sunset strip location was such a big part of my childhood It was huge & had every genre of music especially local& as I got older I used to leave @Cathouse86 flyers there before the club opened. I miss record stores."
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