Alfred Lion

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Alfred Lion (born Alfred Löw; April 21, 1908 – February 2, 1987), was a German-born American record executive who co-founded the jazz record label Blue Note in 1939 with Max Margulis, who soon ceased active involvement in the company. Lion's childhood friend in Berlin, Francis Wolff, soon joined him in New York as his associate. Lion retired in 1967 after producing recordings by many leading musicians; he had sold the company only a year or two earlier.


  • [M]y father was an architect. He and my mother separated when I was young, but before that I went with them to Russia, where he had an assignment; then World War I broke out, and he was arrested and sent to Siberia. My mother and I had a terrible journey back, on an ice-cold train, first to Paris, eventually home.
  • I used to go skating regularly in Berlin. One day, I went to the skating rink and found I was there on the wrong day; instead of skating, they had a show. I thought I might as well stay, so I put my skates over my shoulders and went in. The show starred Sam Wooding accompanying the Chocolate Kiddies Revue; he had a 8- or 10-piece band, and I was totally fascinated.
  • The ship took a long way around, via the Caribbean. A West Indian cricket player befriended me, and I began to sit at his table. From that point on, I noticed that the white passengers began treating me very strangely. Finally, one of them said: "We don't do that you know. Don't socialize with those people." That was my first encounter with segregation.
  • I didn’t care about overtime. I didn’t care about how much money it cost me. I wanted to get the thing right. So I never rushed musiciansinto the studio and rushed them out. When we went into overtime,which was double for everybody and triple for the leader—forget all this, lets [sic] make the records, right? The musicians didn't just do it for the money. They wanted it right too. They listened to the playbacks and they'd say if something wasn't quite right, and go back and do it again.

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