Larry Harris, who was second-in-command to his cousin, Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records died of an abdominal aneurysm in Port Angeles, Wash., on Dec. 18. He was 70.
The news was reported by The New York Times, who say that the Brooklyn-born Harris was hired by Bogart in 1971 to do promotional work at the Buddah and Kama Sutra labels, which Bogart was running. Looking to form his own label, Bogart got financial help from Warner Bros. and brought Harris, Cecil Holmes and Buck Reingold along, and created Casablanca.
Their first signing was Kiss, but Casablanca quickly became associated with funk and disco after having big hits with Donna Summer and Parliament. The Village People arrived in 1977, and Lipps Inc. of “Funkytown” fame came aboard three years later. They also released comedy albums by Robin Williams and Rodney Dangerfield.
But as much as Kiss and Summer were bringing in money to the label by the end of the ’70s, Casablanca were also spending plenty, and became synonymous with the drug-fueled excesses of the decade. “Publicity, promotion, advertising, tour support — we went the distance on everything we could,” Harris told Legendary Rock Interviews. “We flew everyone first class, and limos all over the place. We wanted to stand out as the funnest label ever, and I think we accomplished that.”
Such decadence also meant that they were fated to crash-and-burn as soon as trends changed. PolyGram, which purchased the label in 1977, kicked Bogart out three years later, by which time it’s believed that Harris had already left. The owners eventually dismantled Casablanca and moved many of their artists onto Mercury. Bogart died in 1982.
Harris moved to the Seattle area in 1989 and later opened a comedy club. In 2009 he published a memoir, And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Mary Candice Hill, a son and daughter and two sisters.