Westbrooks, who has been in the music industry for more than 40 years, led the beginning of a month-long celebration of black history at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Grand Hall with a lecture titled “Bustin’ Loose: Breaking Racial Barriers in the Music Industry.”
Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered to hear Westbrooks talk about his journey from becoming the first black territory salesman for Capitol and Mercury Records in the 1960s to becoming CBS Records’ first director of special markets in 1971.
After his lecture, the IU Archives of African American Music and Culture unveiled the “Logan Westbrooks: Music Industry Executive, Entrepreneur, Teacher, Philanthropist” exhibit in the Neal Marshall Bridgewater’s Lounge, which will be on display throughout February.
The director of the archives, Portia Maultsby, served as a liaison between Westbrooks and IU. Maultsby, who is also a folklore and ethnomusicology professor at IU, said she met Westbrooks while doing research on the black music industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Los Angeles.
“While I was there I was introduced to him by a major contact that I had who was the editor of Soul magazine, the first black publication on black music,” Maultsby said.
He was only one of the many black executives she met as she interviewed and gathered archival information about the pioneers of black music in conventions around Los Angeles.
“I realized history was being made,” Maultsby said. “These units and these African American executives were putting together units and developing marketing strategies that would ultimately cast black music into the mainstream. It was a story that needed to be documented as it was unfolding and preserved, because now nobody knows anything about it.”
Westbrooks said that he has been in contact with Maultsby for the last decade as she visited Los Angeles to work on her collection of Westbrooks’ saved archives.
Many of those archives include record vinyls and hundreds of photographs of famous people and places throughout his career.
Westbrooks found his niche in promoting black music to the mainstream working throughout the United States in various promoting manger positions for Capitol and Mercury Records. While he was there, he promoted several artists, from Nat King Cole to the Beatles.
In 1971, Westbrooks broke barriers by becoming CBS’s first director of special markets, which was dedicated to promoting black music to mainstream audiences. This position also opened the doors for several black marketing staff and other black executives to recording companies.
“Some of the things that I did was opened doors and created positions for other young black executives in the music industry,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t have no idea that I was establishing the ground rules, but as I look back, that’s exactly what took place.”
Westbrooks’ advice to the audience was to find a career they enjoy.
“I worked for a number of different companies and each day getting up, I looked forward to it,” he said. “You should enjoy what you do. If you don’t, stop doing it and find something you enjoy doing. Find something, something you enjoy doing, and the world will come to you.”
Westbrooks’ arguably greatest achievement was creating Source Records, which was responsible for making Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers’ “Bustin’ Loose” a nationwide hit.
Landon Jones, a first-year graduate student in African studies, said Westbrooks’ lecture was influential to undergraduates who are trying to break into the music business.
“I thought the lecture was really good, especially for undergrad students who are wanting to find their way into the industry, and then also for undergrads of color who are trying to find music industry and also understand that it’s not just as much as to breaking into the music industry, but trying to make milestones on your own behalf, especially as a person of color,” Jones said. “I think it was important for him to come here to speak, especially this being one of the first black history events.”
Maultsby believes that Westbrooks’ exhibit is an important addition to the campus because of his contributions to black history.
“It’s an insight into the life of a pioneer in the music business, and I think there are many lessons to be learned from interpreting the present and the future and understanding the past and to look at the successful during a period where there were many obstacles,” Maultsby said. “I think there’s a lot to be learned through a journey of his life, and I think for anyone interested in the industry today, it’s useful, even though there are many changes in the industry.”
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