Born 10 November 1908, Chicago, Illinois
Paul Cohen was the first producer to record one of his artists in Nashville. The artist was Red Foley; the year was 1947; the location was the Castle Recording Studio in Nashville's Tulane Hotel. Cohen was the first to recognize the potential that Nashville had as a recording center and one of the men chiefly responsible for Nashville's emergence as country music's recording capital.
He began his career with Columbia but switched to Decca in 1934, where he sold records and scouted talent in the Midwest and New York from his base in Cincinnati. During World War II he gradually took over Decca's hillbilly production from Dave Kapp, and in 1945 he was placed in charge of Decca's Country division. Having broken the ground with the Foley session, he produced Ernest Tubb on his first session in Nashville in September 1947 and two years later, two engineers, Aaron Shelton and Carl Jenkins, opened Castle Studios on the site of the old Tulane Hotel at Eighth Avenue North and Church Street, which became the first recording studio in Nashville. Cohen is remembered for an energetic production style - as much cheerleader as executive - and a knack for spotting new artists and matching them with songs, often published by his own companies. Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, and Bobby Helms were among the new acts signed to Decca during Cohen's tenure, while Tubb, Foley, Jimmie Davis and others continued to have success with the label.
Cohen left Decca's country department early in 1958 (replaced by Owen Bradley some weeks later), first to do pop production for Decca's Coral subsidiary. Soon he launched his own company, Todd Records, and besides signing such acts as Pee Wee King and Dub Dickerson, the label enjoyed a pop hit, "Snap Your Fingers" by Joe Henderson (# 8 in 1962). In 1964 Cohen rejoined his old boss Dave Kapp, as head of Kapp Records' country division in Nashville. In four years at Kapp, Cohen signed and produced Hugh X. Lewis, Cal Smith, Billy Edd Wheeler, and Mel Tillis, among others. Cohen's last major executive position was as head of ABC-Paramount's Nashville office (1968-69), a position he left after being diagnosed with cancer.
Although a man of judgment, he was capable of letting one get away. When Buddy Holly was recording at Owen Bradley's studio, Cohen referred to Holly as the "biggest no talent he had ever worked with." If only all performers were as untalented as Buddy Holly!
As president of the Country Music Association, Cohen was on board when the Country Music Hall of Fame opened on March 31, 1967. In 1976, six years after his death, he was inducted into the Hall himself.
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