Various Artists (Zell Sanders)

ZELMA “ZELL” SANDERS – the Bronx-based songwriter and producer who owned and ran J&S, Dice, Zell’s and other record labels – was a hard-working woman with a great eye for talent. A formidable matriarch, she controlled the artists she managed with the tough love of a strict parent, sometimes sacking them on the spot if they broke her stringent rules on dress code and punctuality. Prior to entering the record business she worked as a security guard, while writing songs on the side. “She was working for the Police Athletic League in Harlem in the 23rd Precinct,” her daughter Johnnie Louise Richardson told Goldmine magazine in 1983. “She saw the talent; it was there on the street. They all got to know her as the lady who goes around grabbing groups. ‘Do you sing?’ she’d ask them. ‘Come on up to my house.’”

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