Cosimo Matassa, legendary New Orleans recording engineer who worked on seminal recordings from the ’40s through to the ’70s – by artists such as Fats Domino and Little Richard – died on Thursday, September 11, aged 88. Mr Matassa’s granddaughter Mia Matassa confirmed the death.
Matassa received a lifetime achievement award at the 2007 Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. One of the locations of his famed J & M Recording Studio (named after his father, John, and his father’s business partner, Joe Mancuso) remains on North Rampart Street, New Orleans. Although these days it is a laundromat, it has been designated a “rock and roll landmark” in 2010. Jerry Lee Lewis made his first demo record there.
Matassa’s studio produced more than 250 chart singles, including 21 gold records and was used by independent labels such as Chess, Aladdin, De Luxe, Atlantic, Savoy and Specialty. Some of the studio’s hits included Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”; Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll”; Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans”; Smiley Lewis’s “I Hear You Knockin’ ”; Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise”; and Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1,000 Dances.” Sax player Lee Allen paid tribute to the studio on his instrumental ‘Rockin’ At Cosmo’s.’
Cosimo Vincent Matassa was born in New Orleans on Aug. 13, 1926. He studied chemistry at Tulane University but dropped out after five semesters, bought an old grocery store with the idea of turning it into an appliance store. He also sold records discarded by his father, a grocer who also owned a jukebox business. In 1946, he bought equipment that let him record directly onto a disc. In 1945, Matassa opened the J&M Recording Studio at the back of his family’s shop on Rampart Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In 1955, he moved to the larger Cosimo Recording Studio.
Mr. Matassa is survived by three sons, John, Louis and Michael; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2009.