[Dixielandjazz] Record Producer Gus Statiras dies at 81

Norman Vickers nvickers1 at cox.net
Fri Apr 23 16:10:21 PDT 2004

Dear Listmates:  Here is a piece I wrote on the death of record producer Gus
He was known to many through his record sales and his recordings.  He'd
travel with his station wagon loaded with choice CDs and show up at Jazz
Festivals from New York to Florida.  A native of the New York area (
actually New Jersey), he lived most of his married life in his wife's home
town of Tifton, Georgia. In the latter part of his active life, he'd worked
with his friend  George Buck in New Orleans.  It was a bonus for me as he'd
freqently come through Pensacola on his way between New Orleans and Tifton.
I'm sure that Buck's Jazzology Journal will carry a piece about him as will
the Mississippi Rag and the American Rag.

After his stroke in 1998, he was in the Georgia War Veterans Home in
Milledgville, GA as he couldn't be cared for at home.
A dear friend to musicians and jazz fans alike.  He will be missed.  He was

Norman Vickers

Music Enthusiast Gus Statiras, A Remembrance

By F. Norman Vickers

Music dealer and record producer Gus Statiras died April 2, 2004 at age
81.The record producer and music dealer was incapacitated since July 13,
l998 following a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery and a subsequent
stroke.  He died at the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville, GA.  He
is survived by his wife Genelle, a Tifton, Georgia native.  The had two sons
Glenn who died two years ago of a heart attack and Perry who died March 19,
2004 of acute leukemia.  Perry had been tour manager for various rock groups
and had recently been employed by a car dealership in Tifton.

Gus was born in Jersey City, NJ, son of a Greek immigrant parents.  His
father owned and operated a series of lunch stands in an around New York

Gus became enamored with the popular and jazz music business early in his
life.  He told of the high school students in neighboring New Jersey all
skipping school one day in 1937 in order to hear the Benny Goodman band that
was opening at New York’s Paramount Theater.  Also, he was briefly a disc
jockey on one of the New York radio stations using the stage name of Gus

Musical friends guitarist Marty Grosz and New Orleans record producer George
Buck both described Gus as an eternal optimist whose stories about the New
York music scene were both entertaining and accurate.  Said Grosz, who was
recorded on several occasions by Statiras, “ You couldn’t help but like Gus
because he was so enthusiastic and charming.”

Statiras teamed with the Jazz Society of Pensacola to produce three annual
Jazz Parties from 1989 to 1991.  During the Pensacola Jazz Party in 1991,
the guest of honor was Milt Gabler, founder of the Commodore Record Shop in
Manhattan.  Gus had worked for Gabler in the record store, a premier site
for jazz records during the 30s and 40s.  During a  “press conference” Gus
interviewed Gabler about the record store and its influence on the course of
jazz.  Gabler would arrange Sunday afternoon jam sessions and record them.
Guitarist Eddie Condon, wit and raconteur jazz club owner was a principal in
helping to arrange the sessions. Gabler would also purchase the master
recordings from other record companies that had declined to reissue some of
their jazz recordings.  The press conference was unique because no members
of the press were present.  The Gulf War had just begun and because the
Central Gulf Coast had a strong military presence, US Naval Air Station
Pensacola and nearby Eglin Air Force Base, all the military bases were on
high alert.  The local press was covering that breaking story.  The other
unique event for Pensacola was that Eastern Air Lines failed that weekend,
causing some of the attendees to scramble for alternate return air

It was my pleasure to be the recipient of many of Gus’ New York stories
about jazz musicians, and the unique problems of recording jazz musicians.
One day at the Arbors March of Jazz Party in Clearwater, I sat at breakfast
with Gus and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli a longtime resident of the New York
scene.  (Bucky lives in Saddle River, NJ and often commutes to NYC gigs.)
They were telling New York stories as I sat fascinated the exchange. Gus
told about the famous customers in Gabler’s Commodore Record Shop, including
Greta Garbo.  When the “ I want to be alone” Ms. Garbo saw Marlene Dietrich
come in the store, Ms. Garbo exited out the rear of the shop.  Another story
Gus told was about standing on the sidewalk on Broadway with a group of
friends when Irving Berlin and entourage were walking toward them.  Gus
recognized Mr. Berlin, having met him previously, and mentioned to friends
who were unbelieving that Gus knew Berlin.  Berlin was dressed, Easter
parade style, with cane, spats and straw hat, leading the entourage.  As
they passed by, Mr. Berlin greeted him with “ Hi Gus,” to the astonishment
of his friends.

Statiras founded Progressive Records in the 1950s and recorded on that label
Cullen Offer, Dorothy Donegan and Sammy Rimington, among others.  It was
purchased by Savoy and Prestige and was subsequently repurchased by Statiras
in the late 70s.  During that period Statiras recorded Buddy DeFranco,
Carmen Leggio, Derek Smith, Scott Hamilton and others.  Later record
producer George Buck (Jazzology, GHB and others) purchased Progressive
Records but engaged Statiras’ continued supervision of that label.

Statiras met his future wife Elizabeth Genelle Decker met during WWII when
Gus was in the service.  They settled in her hometown of Tifton, Georgia.
Before he went into the music business, they tried several businesses
including a hamburger stand.  Statiras music company was called Mail Order
Jazz.  During his active years, Statiras was a familiar fixture at jazz
parties and festivals from Florida to New York. Gus published some brief
anecdotes about his experiences in the music business but never completed
the book he  anticipated writing.

Letters of condolence may be sent to Genelle Statiras, 1304 Fletcher Road,
Tifton, Georgia 31794.
F. Norman Vickers is Volunteer Executive Director of the Jazz Society of
Pensacola.  He is a retired physician and an amateur musician with a
lifelong interest in jazz.

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