Russ Solomon, 92, Tower Records Founder

Last Interview, On Sacramento PBS Station KVIE

By Joyce Mitchell
Chapter Governor, Sacramento

Sacramento born and raised, Russ Solomon changed the world of music as we know it. Solomon died March 4 while watching the 90th Annual Academy Awards. Solomon was the founder of the world-renowned record store chain Tower Records.

At home viewing the awards program, making comments about red carpet attire, the 92-year-old Solomon asked his wife to grab him another whiskey. When she returned with his drink, Solomon was dead from a heart attack.

At the age of 16, Solomon started selling records out of his father’s pharmacy, called Tower Cut Rate Drug Store. And, the rest is history. You might say it was the beginning of a music boom. Solomon became a music icon, opening stores around the globe.

KVIE’s Rob Stewart and Russ Solomon

“Russ shared many of his life lessons with me in November in a PBS television interview that would be his last,” said KVIE Rob on the Road host Rob Stewart. “He was surrounded by thousands of hit records and a collection of art that would rival any exhibition of Sacramento artistic legends.”

Solomon started his stores in Sacramento but quickly expanded to more than two dozen locations including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and as far away as Sapporo, Japan. His music stores became popular gathering spots for stars and music enthusiasts browsing old tunes and new hits. Then, about a decade ago, Solomon fell on hard times, eventually declaring bankruptcy.

When Stewart asked Solomon what sustained him through the soaring success and devastating defeat, he exclaimed, “what an interesting question.” Then he went on to say in the interview that the answer is a little odd. “I think it was my dad,” said Solomon. “My dad always said it would be alright.” Solomon continued in reference to his dad, “See, I showed ya.”  Use this link to watch the Rob on the Road featuring Solomon’s final interview.

Stan Atkinson

After declaring bankruptcy at the age of 81, Solomon reinvigorated his lifelong passion for photography with a 2015 show at Sacramento City College called Legends of Sacramento. Among the portraits, one of Sacramento television news legend, Stan Atkinson. “This portrait was one of the best I always thought,” Atkinson said. “He could have had another career!”

Solomon was an alum of Sacramento City College, studying photography and working on the school newspaper, which, at the time, was called The Pony Express. Two years ago, the Solomon family set up a scholarship program for photography students.

Kitty O’Neal and Russ Solomon

Solomon touched the lives of so many. Sacramento broadcast personality Kitty O’Neal said that Solomon not only had a profound impact on the music industry and the way music was bought and sold, he also remained very humble. “He was approachable and dedicated to his hometown,” O’Neal said.



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