Lee Magid

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Old-time record hustler Lee Magid held a position in nearly every facet of the industry at one time or another. As a producer, he recorded some of the best gospel acts in the business, including Clara…
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Old-time record hustler Lee Magid held a position in nearly every facet of the industry at one time or another. As a producer, he recorded some of the best gospel acts in the business, including Clara Ward, and as a manager, he helmed the careers of singers such as Al Hibbler and Della Reese.

Joining the staff of National Records at 19, Magid had previously been a song plugger for a singer named Ralph Young, who recorded under the moniker Rudy York. At National, Magid's enthusiasm and tenacity (he was one of a select handful who could break black acts on white radio) caught the eye of label owner Al Green. Green made Magid an A&R man and, over the next few years, Magid's duties gradually included producing acts as well. Working with Joe Turner, Charlie Ventura, and the Ward Singers, Magid was able to turn out hit material, but felt creatively constricted by Green's tight pockets. After two years he accepted a position at Herman Lubinsky's Savoy label (ironically, Lubinsky was another notorious cheapskate). At Savoy, Magid continued to produce, along with the aid of a young engineer named Tom Dowd, and to promote records, write songs, and scout for talent. With Magid's help, as well as others such as Ralph Bass, the label turned into an R&B powerhouse in the late '40s with Johnny Otis and Little Esther.

In 1953, Magid discovered and signed singer Al Hibbler, becoming his de facto manager in the process and securing a record deal with Decca. Soon after, Magid met Della Reese and helped to guide the young singer's career as well. With managerial duties looming, over the next several years Magid occasionally produced, but found little time for the kinds of duties he had performed at National and Savoy. He became a manager full-time, booking dates for Lou Rawls, Earl Grant, and Sam Fletcher, among others.