Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, Cosimo Matassa, has died at 88. The artist was famous for recording New Orleans rock, rhythm and blues in his legendary J&M studio from the 1950s to the 1970s. His granddaughter, Mia Matassa, said he had been ailing since suffering a stroke in 2009. His wife, Jennie, died that same year. They were married for 65 years.
Matassa was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Shortly before that, the organization named his recording studio their 11th historic American rock and roll landmark. Throughout his career, 21 gold records and over 250 chart-topping singles spilled out of his humble studio. The small New Orleans storefront, which is now a laundromat, still has the old “J&M Music Shop” sign out front.
Originally, the space was a music store that sold used jukebox records, run by Matassa’s father, John, and his business partner Joe Mancuso. Matassa worked in the shop selling records. In 1945, he partnered with Mancuso and launched his recording business from within the store, setting up equipment in one of the back rooms. Their first recordings were for a New Jersey label called DeLuxe Records, who had been scouting for New Orleans jazz and blues musicians in the area when they discovered his modest startup.
His venture was an astonishing success. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website states that “Some of the greatest rhythm & blues and rock and roll sides of all time were laid down in Matassa’s small, unpretentious room.” Almost every Fats Domino song was recorded there. Other hits included Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” Chris Kenner‘s “Land of 1,000 Dances,” Big Joe Turner‘s “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” Ernie K. Doe’s “Mother in Law,” Professor Longhair‘s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” Smiley Lewis‘ “I Hear You Knockin’,” and Frankie Ford‘s “Sea Cruise.”
In the 1960s, Matassa created his own label, Dover Records. He retired from music around 20 years later and went to work at Matassa’s Market, a grocery store and bar his sons John and Lewis purchased from their grandfather. Matassa is survived by three sons, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.