10 June 2008

UK: Name that tune!

Ready for a trip down a musical memory lane? Do your toes tap when you hear
"Rock Around the Clock," "Bobbie's Girl," "You Really Got Me" or "See You In September" ?

And, just in case you were going to ask: Yes, even the beginnings of rock and roll connect to Jewish history and genealogy.

We know these songs because Edward Kassner, born in 1920 Austria, wanted to become a composer but Hitler's annexation of Austria changed his plans.

“He was tipped off by his friends that they were rounding up Jewish boys,” says David Kassner, Edward’s eldest son and now MD of President. “He fled through Belgium and got caught trying to cross the border at Aachen twice. On the third occasion a German soldier caught him but let him go saying that he hadn’t signed up to shoot young boys.”

His parents both died in Auschwitz. Edward made it to England but was interned before being shipped to Australia alongside his fellow European refugees. Later allowed to return to the UK, he joined the British Army, serving in France and Germany as an interpreter.

The UK's Independent recently profiled Kassner's rise to fame, as he and his wife formed The Edward Kassner Music Company Ltd in 1944. Post-war, money was in printing and selling sheet music. Kassner acquired many copyrights and catalogues before buying one song that would change popular music forever, "Rock Around The Clock."

His son David's first memory is dancing to the Bill Haley version in the family's living room. The family moved to New York in the mid-50s and President Records, Inc. was formed in 1955. By 1961, it was a public corporation with Kassner the majority shareholder. He launched Seville Records and his 1962 hit was "Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)", followed by "Bobby's Girl."

In 1963, Kassner relaunched President and his UK office, in 1964, hit it big with The Kinks and "You Really Got Me."

One of my all-time favorites - from my Catskill summers (1960s) - was "See You In September," for which he owned the publishing rights. The Happenings got to #3 in the US with it.

The label still releases reissues and compilations from their catalog.

Read more here.

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