14 December 2006
The electric, eclectic Turk
In 1936, Turkish nationals were directed to choose surnames, one of Atatürk's ideas. Munir, who had been an aide to Atatürk, selected the name "Ertegun," which translates roughly as "living hopefully."
When Munir Ertegun, then the Turkish ambassador to the US, died in 1944, his sons Nesuhi and Ahmet, then in their twenties (Nesuhi was about six years older) opted to remain in the States; Nesuhi and his wife stayed on the West Coast, while Ahmet went to graduate school and sold records at retail on the side.
Eventually the younger Ertegun wanted to get into the business for himself, and after a false start, he, dental student Herb Abramson, and dentist Dr Vahdi Sabit incorporated as Atlantic Records in the fall of 1947. With a strike by the musicians' union looming, the nascent label recorded dozens of sides, though nothing clicked until Stick McGhee's remake of his "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" in the spring of 1949.
Independent labels were perpetually imp