Cosimo Matassa, Recorded New Orleans R&B, Dies

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Cosimo Matassa, who recorded New Orleans rock and rhythm and blues from the 1950s to the 1970s, has died. He was 88.

Matassa, who had been ailing since suffering a stroke in 2009, died on Thursday, granddaughter Mia Matassa told The Associated Press.

Matassa’s death was first reported by WWL-TV.

The musician was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, two years after the organization named his original J&M studio – now a laundromat but with “J&M Music Shop” still on the threshold – as its 11th historic American rock and roll landmark.

“Some of the greatest rhythm & blues and rock and roll sides of all time were laid down in Matassa’s small, unpretentious room,” according to the hall of fame website.

It said 21 gold records and about 250 singles that made national charts were recorded in Matassa’s studio, including nearly every Fats Domino hit. Hits by others included Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law.”

Matassa’s recording business grew out of a jukebox business run by his father, John Matassa, and business partner Joe Mancuso. After selling used jukebox records, Matassa went into business with Mancuso as J&M Music Shop, according to a biography at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ “Encyclopedia of Louisiana” website. Their venture was a hit.

Matassa set up recording equipment in a back room in 1945 or 1946, making his earliest recordings for DeLuxe Records, a New Jersey label whose owners learned about his studio during a scouting trip to New Orleans for new jazz and blues musicians.

Paul Gayten, whose hits “True” and “Since I Fell For You” were recorded at Matassa’s studios, was also its main director and arranger early on. Dave Bartholomew and Allen Toussaint were later producers.

Matassa-recorded hits included Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” Smiley Lewis’ “I Hear You Knockin’“ Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise” and Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1,000 Dances.”

He created his own label, Dover Records, in the 1960s. He retired from music in the 1980s and returned to work at Matassa’s Market, which his sons John and Louis had renamed after buying Johnny’s Grocery and Bar from their grandfather.

He is survived by sons John, Louis and Michael as well as seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Matassa’s wife Jennie died in 2009.