RIP: Tower Records Founder Russ Solomon

Russ Solomon, founder and leader of the legendary Tower Records — arguably the most influential chain of music stores in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s — died Sunday at his home near Sacramento, California. He was 92.

The outspoken visionary died of an apparent heart attack with a whisky in hand while watching the Academy Awards, according to 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 whiskey," Solomon’s son Michael told the newspaper. When she returned, he was gone.

Solomon started selling records at his father's pharmacy in the 1950s and opened the first Tower Records store — Tower Record Mart — in Sacramento in 1960. From those humble beginnings, Solomon built Tower Records into a powerhouse with stores around the world, including the iconic flagship on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.

The chain that revolutionized music retailing during its heyday was ultimately unable to adapt to a music industry undergoing rapid change in the early 2000s as sales of Apple’s iPod began to explode. Between 2004 and 2005, iPod sales quadrupled, surpassing 20 million by the end of 2005. Tower declared bankruptcy in 2004 and was out of business by 2006.

See The Sacramento Bee story for an excellent historical overview of Tower Records.

In 2015 Colin Hanks produced All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records, a documentary that chronicles the story behind an iconic record-store empire that created its own brand of sex, drugs, and rock & roll during its 46-year reign. The 94-minute film features interviews, outlandish stories, and a wealth of archival video, including footage of Elton John at the celebrated Sunset Strip location stuffing records into a box held by his limo driver.