Russ Thyret Board Chairman and CEO Warner Bros. Records July 1, 1945 – February 12, 2021

Russ Thyret

July 1, 1945 – February 12, 2021

 

 

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Michael Hepworth

 

HOLLYWOOD (Perfect Music Today) 2/14/21/—Russ Thyret who, over the course of a thirty-year tenure, rose through the ranks at Warner Bros. Records culminating in his serving as the Burbank-based label’s Board Chairman and CEO from 1995 to 2001, died this past Friday, February 12, at his home in the Valley Village neighborhood of Los Angeles.  He was 76 and had been ill for some time.  He is survived by his wife Rebecca, a son, Russ Thyret Jr., and a sister.  Prior to his being named Chairman, Thyret was widely regarding throughout the music industry as one of the true legends of  promotion.  He was accorded an unprecedented level of respect and loyalty from both his staff and the other executives at the company as well as from the artists signed to the label.  His approach was the embodiment of the company’s artists first philosophy that had been a hall mark of the company under Mo Ostin, his predecessor and mentor.

Thyret, the son of a Glendale CA policeman, began his career in the music industry managing an independent retail store on the Sunset Strip.  He was recruited to join the fledgling WEA Corporation as a field sales rep in Los Angeles at a time when the company had only one a singles sales branch. He joined Warner Bros. Records shortly thereafter alighting at the company’s Burbank home office in a national sales position during the time that WEA Corporation opened branch operations in the rest of the country.   In the mid-70s he was tapped to serve as Vice President and Director of National Promotion during a period when Warner Bros. dominated the charts and became the preeminent record company on the west coast.  He had been brought to Warner Bros. from WEA by Ed Rosenblatt who headed promotion and sales for the company.  He recalled, “Russ was a different kind of guy and his roles at Warner Bros. fit him like a coat.”

He was named Board Chairman at Warner Bros. after a period of instability following the departure of long time Warner Bros Chairman Mo Ostin and several others who helmed the company immediately thereafter.  Ostin was moved to comment at the time, “Russ is a total record man — brilliant, experienced and well-rounded in every aspect. He is eminently qualified… I love the guy.” In point of fact, Thyret was able to maintain the success as well as the family feel of the company after the tumult that followed Ostin’s departure.

For his part, Thyret remarked, “You’d have to be dead not to get excited about running a company with the high caliber of artists and employees we have here at Warner Bros. This is my home.; it’s the only record label I’ve ever worked at. To call this opportunity a dream come true would be a drastic understatement.”

Thyret was on hand in 1976 when the company moved from the converted machine shop on the Warner Bros. movie lot it had occupied since its inception nine years earlier to a new office structure lauded for its acclaimed architecture  Management subtly suggested that the employees might consider dressing a bit less casually than they did in the old building where t-shirts and flip-flops were the order of the day. Thyret’s response was to show up the next day wearing a suit and tie.. with board shorts and flip flops.

During his years heading the company’s promotion department he commanded a small army of local, regional and national promotion people whose primary focus was getting the label’s records played. Thyret and his staff came through with hit after hit from, among others,  Fleetwood Mac, the Doobie Brothers, Randy Newman, James Taylor, Alice Cooper, Chaka Khan, R.E,M., ZZ Top, Depeche Mode, k.d. lang,  John Fogerty, Madonna and Prince.  He was the executive primarily responsible for facilitating Prince’s signing to the label in 1977 when the artist was barely 18 years old.  Owen Husney, Prince’s original manger, noted, “Warner Bros. was at the top of the list for us as a home for Prince. After Prince and I met Russ and hung out with him there was no doubt where we’d wind up. Russ was a man of great instinct and heart. When other labels were taking us to fabulous restaurants to get us to sign, Russ drove us to his house, where we’d sit on the floor, listen to music and he’d explain the business to us. He gave of himself 1000% and that meant the world from two neophytes from Minneapolis.”

When he left Warner Bros. in 2001 in the wake of the AOL Time Warner merger, he summed up his remarkable tenure with the company “My strongest ambition has always been to serve the artists well, and I leave Warner Bros. hoping I’ve accomplished that. I was in awe of Warner Bros. Records the first day I walked in the door, and in so many ways, I leave even more in awe. It will forever be a magical memory.”

 

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