Russ Solomon, founder of the legendary Tower Records chain, died on Sunday night, while drinking whisky and watching The Oscars. Solomon, 92, died from a heart attack, his son, Michael Solomon, told the Sacramento Bee.
“Ironically, he was giving his opinion of what someone was wearing that he thought was ugly, then asked (his wife) Patti to refill his whisky,” Solomon told the paper. His father was apparently dead by the time Patti returned with the drink.
Solomon was synonymous with the Tower Records chain, which he began in Sacramento, which the Bee called “the most famous company in Sacramento history.”
Solomon’s famous record company chain stretched across the world, garnering $1 billion in revenue annually. It began in approximately 1960 – that’s actually when Tower Record Mart went bust and Solomon returned to his original creditors to give him new inventory.
“He went right back to the same guys, the same creditors who put him out of business,” Dick Harris, an early employee, told the paper. “It was the power of personality.”
The first store opened on Watt Avenue. He named it after his father’s drug store, which shared space with the city’s Tower Theatre and where Solomon first began selling records. He opened Tower Books, Posters and Plants in 1976, next to Tower Records. The Japan version of Tower Records opened iun 1979 and soon the chain had stores in places as vast as Hong Kong, the Philippines, Ireland, Israel, Mexico and Canada. Solomon’s philosophy was simple and often imitated: Make the store big and fill it with as much product as it could hold.
Tower.com came online in 1995, making it one of the first online retailers.
The chain, under the weight of Napster and digital sales, finally imploded December 2006 although Solomon attempted a resurgence a few months later, putting up a store on the site of one of Tower’s very first outlets, but that too went away. A documentary on the history of Tower, “All Things Must Pass,” debuted March 2015.
Tower Records currently exists solely as an online music store.