John Matassa, a Grammy winner and 2012 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is widely regarded as an influential figure in popular music. He’s renowned for his engineering prowess and knack for finding great songs.
He is credited with producing virtually every R&B record that hit the charts during the 1940s and 1950s, as well as some of the earliest rock ‘n’ roll recordings.
Early Life and Education
John Matassa was born in 1926 and grew up in the French Quarter, now known as “Little Palermo.” His family ran a grocery store that lined the streets of this bustling neighborhood.
He then established his own record label and music distribution business, as well as opening a pressing plant. Additionally, he managed singer Jimmy Clanton who achieved number four success with “Just a Dream” in 1958.
He was an influential recording engineer and studio owner in New Orleans’ early rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll music scenes, engineering many classic recordings by Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Lee Dorsey and others.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, recognized with a Grammy for his contributions to music history, as well as receiving both the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Loyola University New Orleans’ Honorary Degree in 2011.
Matassa and Joe Mancuso ran J&M Amusement Services together, placing jukeboxes in bars and restaurants on commission. Additionally, they collected used records and sold them from the shop’s jukeboxes.
Matassa realized there were few places to record music in New Orleans, which prompted him to open a studio at the back of his shop in 1946. At first, he only produced amateur recordings such as personal messages or band demos for personal enjoyment.
His studios, operating under the name J&M Music Shop, recorded some of rock and roll’s and rhythm and blues’ iconic sides. Many artists who recorded there became famous, such as Aaron Neville, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Shirley and Lee among others; for this he was inducted into both Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Achievements and Honors
Matassa produced and engineered hundreds of R&B and rock and roll classics at his New Orleans studios. A 2007 Recording Academy Trustees Award recipient, he contributed significantly to the musical heritage of New Orleans as well as its place within American musical culture.
His J&M Recording studio on Rampart Street in New Orleans was an integral part of the city and beyond’s music industry. Here Fats Domino, Little Richard and Roy Brown cut some of their most renowned recordings.
He is widely considered the father of rock and roll production. His recording techniques set a standard that would be emulated by all subsequent artists and producers who would go on to become influential figures within the genre.
Matassa was an influential figure in New Orleans’ music scene for much of his lifetime. His studio became renowned for recording early R&B hits by artists such as Domino and Bartholomew.
He was also involved with Allen Toussaint’s Sea-Saint Studios, which recorded artists such as the Neville Brothers, Paul McCartney, Dr. John and LaBelle during the ’70s and ’90s.
Matassa had an influential relationship with Chicago Outfit figure Vincent Solano, the boss of the Northside crew and president of LIUNA Local 1. According to CI 5, they met during the 1970s and ’80s through Solano.
John Matassa has an estimated net worth of around $2 million. He has extensive experience in the entertainment industry and has collaborated with many artists. Additionally, he was involved with Gateway Canyons resort development and CuriosityStream subscription video-on-demand service. Residing in Dania Beach, Florida since 1979, John has been married four times and has one daughter. Additionally, John served on the Florida Democratic Party board of directors from 1977 onwards; additionally a native New Orleans was part of its board as well.