Sam Weiss passed away at 5:00 am on Wednesday March 19 from natural causes at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Florida. Sam was one of the great pioneers and innovators of the Record industry. Born on September 19, 1926, he will be forever known for his tremendous spirit, his love of the music industry, and the great relationships he formed with other pioneers in the business.
His professional life reads like a virtual timetable for the development of the record industry. After growing up in the Bronx, he spent time in Florida where he worked in the jukebox business. Then came a short stint in the army, followed by a job at the Old Town Paper Company. He and his brother Hy both had an affinity for the Doo-wop singers that performed all over New York back in the early 50's, and without proper funds to open an office, decided to simply start a label called Old Town, so they would have a place to take calls and have access to stationary. Old Town turned into one of the great R&B/Doo-Wop labels.
From there Sam in the late 50's formed one of the first record distribution companies, Win Records. With his younger brother George by his side, Win Records would eventually enjoy a 30 year run as a top one-stop in the New York area. When Win records first started in the 50's, Sam also provided an invaluable service which is almost inconceivable when considering the role distributors currently play in the business; specifically, Sam did radio promotion. His relationships with New York radio legends like Peter Tripp, Alan Freed and Jazzbo Collins in the 60's made him one of major forces of the New York music industry at that time. In the mid - 70's, Win Records was one of the first distributors to export product overseas. Win Records was so proficient at exporting that Columbia Records branches in France and Germany would buy from Win, as opposed to waiting for their own territories to get the product up and running.
In 1977 Sam jumped back into the part of the business he loved the most, which was producing records. He formed Sam Records, and along with his future son-in-law, Daniel Glass, created an incredible legacy of New York based dance hits. He enjoyed his biggest success with John Davis & The Monster Orchestra and with the Gary's Gang song, Keep On Dancing. Sam eventually made the cover of Billboard Magazine in 1979 when Columbia Records, which till then had shied away from disco, jumped into the genre by making a distribution deal with Sam. In the early 80's, Sam again forged a new path when he became the first music one-stop to jump into the video industry. While the movie studios at first did not see any point in dealing with music one-stops, Sam opened up drug store chains like Rite Aid and Pathmark to the concept of selling pre-recorded videotapes, helping to create the wide open retail landscape that currently exists.
More recently Sam joined with his son Michael Weiss in 1992, creating one of the next generation of great New York independent labels, Nervous Records.
Sam is survived by his wife, Enid "Twinnie" Weiss, his children Michael and Deborah, his son-in-law Daniel Glass, his daughter-in-law Julie Weiss, and his grandchildren, Sean, Maxie, Liam, Jake and Noah. Services will be held Friday March 21 at Riverside Chapel, 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, at 11:15 am. Donations in his name can be made to Lifebeat, The Music Industry Fights Aids, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1010, New York, NY 10036.