SANTA BARBARA (CelebrityAccess) – Art Rupe, music executive and founder of Specialty Records, died Friday (April 15) at his home in Santa Barbara. He was 104. The Arthur N. Rupe Foundation confirmed his passing, but no cause of death was released.
Rupe started Specialty Records, known for its R&B, blues, gospel, and rock and roll artists, in Los Angeles in 1946. He helped launch the careers of artists such as John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke, helping to bring R&B to the mainstream. Rupe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and, during an interview, stated, “There was something in Little Richard’s voice I liked. I don’t know … it was so exaggerated, so over-emotional. And I said, ‘Let’s give this guy a chance, and maybe we can get him to sing like B.B. King.’”
Rupe sold Specialty to Fantasy Records in the 1990s. He became an oil and gas executive and entrepreneur after the sale. He spent his final years working for the Rupe Foundation, which supports research and education to “shine the light of truth on critical and controversial issues.”
Born Arthur Goldberg to Jewish parents in Pennsylvania, his love for music came while attending his family’s Baptist church. He attended the University of California and decided to pursue a career in music. He co-founded Jukebox Records, which he left to start Specialty, and changed his last name from Goldberg to Rupe, his family’s ancestry name.
Rupe is survived by his daughter Beverly Rupe Schwarz and granddaughter Madeline Kahan.