Russ Solomon, who developed Tower Records into one of the world’s largest music and video retail chains, has died at age 92 at his home in Sacramento, California on Sunday, March 4.
Solomon, born in 1922, developed Tower records from a section in his father’s drug store in Sacramento, California in 1941, and by 1960 had opened the first Tower Records. He developed Tower Records to an international chain store that at its peak had nearly 200 stores in 21 states nationwide. According to CBS News, the company held up to 180,000 music titles in its largest stores.
In 1995, Tower Records became one of the first retailers to move online, offering RealAudio samples on Tower.com, as well as 99 cent digital downloads in Liquid Audio format. The company would go on to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for a second time in 2006 as the music industry was affected by music piracy, and underwent the transition from physical product to downloads and later streaming.
Solomon’s story was documented in 2015 with All Things Must Pass, a look at the Tower Records story. Solomon has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.
Music Business Association (Music Biz) president James Donio said of Solomon’s passing, “Music Biz is extremely saddened to learn of the passing of a true music industry legend and icon, Russ Solomon. As the founder and CEO of Tower Records, Russ was one of the primary architects of NARM in its formative years. His and Tower’s presence and influence loomed large in our Association for many decades. You always felt the love when Tower was in the room. He served on our Board of Directors and held the office of Chairman from 1987-88. During his tenure, he presented his Chairman’s Award to Barbra Streisand, which he remembered as a highlight of his career. He himself was honored with our Presidential Award for Sustained Executive Achievement in 1999. I fondly recall walking with him through the ‘Gallery of Memories’ we created for our 50th Anniversary Convention in 2008 as he provided a running commentary of each and every photo and piece of memorabilia we displayed. Russ returned to our annual conference for the first time in many years as we honored his dear friend John Esposito of Warner Music Nashville with that same Award in 2016. Coincidentally, he sat with Mary Wilson of The Supremes at our Industry Jam that same year, and I recall this surreal moment looking out into the audience and seeing them chatting and laughing together. I am so lucky to have known and worked with Russ during my nearly 30 years here at the Association. Russ was quite outspoken and having a conversation with him about the music business was always a priceless education. He never ceased to amaze me with his unique wit and wisdom. I had actually just spoken with Russ a few days ago about a special tribute we’re planning for him at our 60th Anniversary Conference in May, and he planned to be there. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Russ’ beloved Patti, his family, friends, colleagues, and all of the music fans around the world who have a special memory of what Tower Records meant to them.”
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