Cosimo Matassa

The Award for Musical Excellence


New Orleans R&B historian Jeff Hannusch has written that "Virtually every R&B record made in New Orleans between the late 40s and early 70s was engineered by Cosimo Matassa, and recorded in one of his four studios." As the owner of J&M Recording Studios in the city's French Quarter, Matassa recorded the music that helped give birth to rock and roll. Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Smiley Lewis, Professor Longhair, Roy Brown and countless others created magic at J&M. Matassa opened the J&M Record Shop in 1945, and installed recording equipment in the back of the store. There were no recording studios in the city at the time, and J&M became a gathering place for musicians. Matassa sought to capture rather than shape the city's thriving R&B scene: "I always tried to capture the dynamics of a live performance. These guys were doing these songs on their gigs and that was the sound that I was trying to get. We didn't have any gimmicks-no overdubbing, no reverb-nothing. Those guys played with a lot of excitement; and I felt if I couldn't put it in the groove, people weren't going to move." Record labels like DeLuxe, Atlantic, Chess, Imperial, King and Specialty lined up to record at J&M. He moved the studio around New Orleans in later years and kept on recording New Orleans greats like Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey, and Robert Parker.

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