Mack Emerman: Recording studio mogul


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mack Emerman, who has died at the age of 89, was the founder of Criteria Recording Studios, where acts such as Eric Clapton, James Brown and the Bee Gees made some of their most famous records.

Around 250 gold or platinum records were made at Criteria, which became known as Atlantic Records South when Emerman teamed up with producer Tom Dowd. The records include "Layla" by Derek and the Dominoes, James Brown's "I Feel Good," "Eat A Peach" by the Allman Brothers and parts of huge 1970s hit albums such as Saturday Night Fever by the Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Hotel California by the Eagles.

Other musicians who recorded at Criteria included Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lenny Kravitz, Lynyrd Skynyrd and REM. But things went downhill for Emerman in the 1980s when he continued buying equipment and expanding studios at Criteria even as the music industry hit a slump. He sold Criteria to a local investor in 1988 and three years later he was forced out. His daughter Bebe Emermen said her father suffered from depression for years afterwards. "Eventually, however, he recovered and began recording again, on a small scale," she said.

Maxwell Emerman was born in 1923 in Erie, Pennsylvania, and began playing jazz trumpet at Duke University. With his wife and daughters he went to Florida in 1953 to work in his father's candy business, but he began recording live jazz and set up a studio in his garage, running cables into the living room, where the musicians played.

"The same family station wagon he used to haul saltwater taffy for his father by day was packed with audio gear at night as he moved from club to club, perfecting his recording technique," said Bebe Emerman.