Music biz executive, MIRIAM BIENSTOCK died on Saturday March 21st at her Manhattan home… she was 92. Soul and jazz wise, Miriam will be best remembered as one of Atlantic Records founding triumvirate.
The great old label was founded by Miriam’s first husband, Herb Abramson and their friend Ahmet Ertegun. Having failed with two other ventures the pair felt there was a demand for a specialist R&B label and to that end the Abramsons invested $2,500 in the project while Ertegun scored a $10,000 loan from his dentist. Role wise, Ahmet scouted the talent, Herb oversaw the recordings and Miriam did just about everything else… even down to packing the records. She did, though, have a great ear for the music and Ertegun credits her with first bringing Ray Charles to his attention. He also once said that without her business skills the label might well have folded
In 1957 she and Herb divorced (she then married music publisher Freddy Bienstock) and in 1958 she became the label’s VP in charge of publishing and finance. In 1964 she left Atlantic and sold her interest in the company. By then Atlantic was basically run by Ahmet (as president) with brother Nashua and Jerry Wexler as partners.
Miriam’s career then focused on theatrical productions… amongst her credits are the musical bio of Elvis Presley and the acclaimed Carol King musical ‘Beautiful’.
In a 1997 interview Ahmet Ertegun paid Miriam a huge compliment: “You can recruit all the genius musicians you want, but if you ain’t getting paid, there’s no business. And you’ve got to be a pretty tough broad if you’re going to make people to hand over their money.”
The picture below shows Miriam in her Atlantic days flanked by Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler.