HITS Daily Double
Weiss’ professional life reads like a virtual timetable for the development of the record industry.


Bronx Native Carried the Indie Torch Throughout a Long and Varied Career, From Jukeboxes and One-Stops to Promotion and Production
Legendary music business figure Sam Weiss passed away on the morning of March 19 from natural causes at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Florida. He was 81.

An archetypal independent operator who made up his own rules at a time when there were none to follow, Weiss will be remembered for his tremendous spirit, his love of the music industry and the lasting relationships he formed with other pioneers of the business, which is diminished by his passing

Weiss’ professional life reads like a virtual timetable for the development of the record industry. After growing up in the Bronx, he spent time in Florida, where he worked in the jukebox business. Following a short stint in the army, he took a job at the Old Town Paper Company. Sam and his brother Hy shared an affinity for the doo-wop singers who performed all over New York back in the early ’50s, and lacking funds to open an office, the brothers decided start a label. Resourcefully, they called it Old Townin order to take advantage of the paper company’s switchboard and stationery. Before long, the brothers turned it into one of the leading doo-wop and R&B labels of the era.

In the late ’50s, Weiss formed Win Records, one of the first indie distribution companies, with his younger brother George. The company would enjoy a 30-year run as a top one-stop in the New York area. Sam did double duty as a promotion man, forming relationships with New York radio legends like Peter Tripp, Alan Freed and Jazzbo Collins. In the mid-’70s, Win became one of the first distributors to export product overseas, becoming so proficient at the task that Columbia Records branches in France and Germany would buy from Win, rather waiting for their own territories to get the product up and running.

In 1977, Sam jumped back into record production, the part of the business he loved most. He formed Sam Records, and along with his future son-in-law, Daniel Glass, created a memorable string of New York-based dance hits, enjoying his biggest success with John Davis & the Monster Orchestra and with the Gary's Gang hit, “Keep On Dancing.” Weiss made the cover of Billboard Magazine in 1979, when Columbia, which till then had shied away from disco, jumped into the genre by making a distribution deal with Sam. In the early ’80s, Win became the first music one-stop to jump into the video business. While the movie studios initially saw no reason to deal with music one-stops, Sam sold drugstore chains like Rite Aid and Pathmark on the concept of selling pre-recorded videotapes, helping to create the wide-open retail landscape that exists to this day.

In 1992, Sam and his son Michael launched Nervous Records, one of the next generation of New York indie labels.

Sam is survived by his wife, Enid "Twinnie" Weiss, children Michael and Deborah, his son-in-law Daniel Glass, daughter-in-law Julie Weiss and his grandchildren, Sean, Maxie, Liam, Jake and Noah.

Services will be held Friday, March 21, at Riverside Chapel, 76th St. and Amsterdam Ave., at 11:15 am. Donations in his name can be made to Lifebeat, 630 Ninth Ave., Suite 1010, New York, NY 10036; www.Lifebeat.org.