Various Artists (Old Town)

For the full effect you really had to meet Hy. Described as a Runyonesque character, that doesn’t do the full experience justice. Simultaneously irascible and funny as hell, he could talk up a tall tale like no one else, then you found out it was true. Though he commanded respect he never sought it, preferring to stay as the street guy, the hustler, the outsider.

It is guys like Hy who inspired us to start a record label in the first place. I still identify with him more than most of the others. More so than the high flying guys who went on to make fortunes and sell up or be conglomerated - the “class acts”, as Hy calls them without a hint of jealousy. 

Hy’s personality looms so large in the Old Town story that it is possible to forget that he has produced some amazing music over the years. Not just great Doo Wop, but fine Blues and RnB, which was really where we came in. At first he resisted licensing to Ace, until I said that what really interested us were the Blues and RnB sides. As it turned out he much preferred those, even though it was the Doo Wop that earned the bucks. That started a turbulent, unforgettable, frustrating, hilarious 10 years as the UK representative of Old Town records and as a life long friend of Hy. 

Every Old Town artist I meet breaks into a broad grin at the mention of his name. They talk enthusiastically about a real friend, a man without airs and graces, an extraordinary Joe. With Hy what you see and hear is what there is and what you get.

He was full of pithy commentary on life in all its vagaries. The one that I have heard from him most often is “I could have, I would have, I should have”. He did.

Roger Armstrong

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