Ed Wright Forward Thinker Dies at 82 The innovative leader also played a crucial part in the establishment of June as Black Music Month.
Ed Wright, a pioneering figure in the entertainment industry whose diverse career spanned radio programming, music promotion, artist management, and private consulting for film and television, passed away from natural causes in Cincinnati on Monday, September 11. He was 82 years old.
Don Mizell, a Grammy-winning producer, described Wright as a mentor, friend, colleague, and client. Mizell emphasized that Ed Wright was a suave and forward-thinking individual who effectively navigated the transformative developments initiated by the Black music industry during the 1970s. Wright’s warm and gracious personality, diplomatic approach, and adaptability proved invaluable during a crucial period of growth for Black music.
Mizell also pointed out Wright’s pivotal role in his own career, as Wright played a key part in Mizell becoming the first Black executive at Elektra Records.
Wright’s appointment as the General Manager of the label’s jazz fusion/urban division eventually led to his promotion to Vice President.
At just 13 years old, Wright embarked on his journey as a part-time announcer at WCIN in Cincinnati, his place of birth in 1940. His dedication to the station led him to a full-time role in 1958, where he eventually rose to become the news director and production manager.
Concurrently, Wright pursued a degree in communications at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.
Between 1962 and 1966, Wright assumed the role of program director at Cleveland’s WABQ radio station, where he played a pivotal role in shaping the contemporary urban radio format we know today.
During this period, he achieved the remarkable distinction of becoming the youngest president of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers (NATRA), an organization dedicated to representing Black broadcasters.
In the latter part of the 1960s, Wright transitioned into the music industry, taking the helm of Liberty Records’ Minit division. Under his leadership, the division boasted notable artists such as the O’Jays and Bobby Womack. In addition to overseeing artist development, production, promotion, and sales, Wright orchestrated marketing efforts for the prestigious Blue Note jazz label, further showcasing his multifaceted talents in the music business.
In 1969, Wright established himself as the president of the Edward Windsor Wright Corporation (EWW), where his primary focus was on promotion and public relations.
This venture lasted until 1976, during which EWW served a diverse clientele including prominent labels like CBS Records, A&M, Warner Bros., Capitol, MCA, Stax, United Artists, and Philadelphia International.
Additionally, EWW extended its services to ABC Circle Films, under the leadership of Barry Diller, and New World Pictures, associated with Roger Corman.
During its peak, EWW’s management division represented a wide range of artists, from Womack, the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, and Herbie Hancock to Natalie Cole, Billy Paul, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Kenneth Gamble, renowned as one half of the legendary production duo Gamble & Huff and co-founder of Philadelphia International, initially crossed paths with Wright at a NATRA convention. Their subsequent collaboration led to the founding of the Black Music Association, which played a pivotal role in the establishment of June as Black Music Month.
According to Gamble’s statement to Billboard, Ed Wright was a visionary in the music industry. He recognized a significant gap in understanding the economics of the field and, alongside notable figures like Clarence Avant, Jules Malamud, Glenda Gracia, Dyana Williams, as well as influential artists like Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder, played a pivotal role in advancing African American culture.
Ed Wright emerged as one of the key leaders responsible for creating economic opportunities for Black professionals. He also played a crucial role in establishing Black Music Month, which has now been celebrated for 44 years.
Ed Wright’s impressive career included the founding of GEI Communications, a company specializing in market research, consultation, and public relations.
In 1977, he ventured into artist management with the establishment of Global Entertainment. During the 1980s, he served as the co-owner and president of the FM station KNAC in Long Beach, California. Additionally, he managed artists like Chico DeBarge and played a pivotal role in the reformation of the group DeBarge, featuring Bobby DeBarge.
In 1973, Ed Eckstein, the former president of Mercury Records, was a youthful 19-year-old music journalist just starting out at Soul magazine. His assignment led him to cross paths with Wright’s company, EWW.
Eckstein reminisces about those days, recalling how he and his trusted colleague, Bob Brock, stood out as the premier PR firm for contemporary R&B artists. In an email to Billboard, he fondly reflects on that period when he would receive calls about interviewing a young, pre-Teddy Theodore Pendergrass Jr. from Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes or spending a day with Eddie Levart of the O’Jays.
He also remembers spending a significant evening in the studio with Minnie Riperton, the Epic Records artist, as she was completing her career-defining album, “Perfect Angel,” with the legendary Stevie Wonder.
Ed Eckstein was not just a businessman but a person of dignity, class, and professionalism. He ran an operation of the highest caliber, and his mentorship and guidance played a pivotal role in nurturing Eckstein’s career from its earliest stages through the ensuing decades. Ed’s legacy endures, as he left an indelible mark on the lives of many through his gentle and caring approach. Rest in peace, Ed, for you touched numerous lives with your graceful influence.