In Memoriam: Cosimo Matassa

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Published on: September 11th, 2014

WWOZ has been celebrating the life of Cosimo Matassa, legendary studio owner and recording engineer, since receiving word of his passing on September 11 at age 88. He is survived by his three sons, seven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Matassa was one of the architects of the early rock’n’roll sound and a major contributor to many of the biggest R&B hits of the 1950s and 1960 through his studio work. Matassa opened the legendary J&M Studios at the corner of Rampart and Dumaine in 1945 at the age of 18, and moved into Cosimo Recording Studios a decade later. He frequently worked with other New Orleans musical legends, engineering the sound that would become distinctive to New Orleans R&B/rock’n’roll of the era along with artists like Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, who recorded many hits at his studio, as well as Smiley Lewis, Bobby Mitchell, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and many more.

Matassa and his studio hosted plenty of big names in the coming decades, including most of the top names in New Orleans sound like Aaron Neville, Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Earl King, Frankie Ford, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, and Clarence “Frogman” Henry.

Matassa's accomplishments were recognized in a variety of ways in his twilight years. In 1999, the city of New Orleans declared the original J&M Studios building to be a historic landmark. Three years later, it was also added to the National Rock’n’Roll Landmark list. In 2007, Matassa was honored with the Recording Academy’s prestigious Trustees Award and in 2012, he was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. In 2013, he was also inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

This article features more about Matassa's life and work, as well as fond memories of him from Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, and Dave Bartholomew.

Memorial services were held on Tuesday September 16 at Metairie Funeral Home.

Dave Bartholmew and Cosimo Matassa
Dave Bartholmew and Cosimo Matassa at WWOZ in 2009.
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