Amanda Edwards/WireImage
March 06, 2018 02:35 PM

Russ Solomon, the maverick entrepreneur who created an empire when he founded the music mega-chain Tower Records in 1960, died Sunday at the age of 92.

The retail mogul’s family told the Sacramento Bee that he suffered an apparent heart attack in his California home while kicking back to watch the Academy Awards telecast — glass of whiskey in hand. 

“Ironically, he was giving his opinion of what someone was wearing that he thought was ugly, then asked [his wife] Patti to refill his whiskey,” Solomon’s son Michael — the former chief executive of Tower — told the outlet. By the time his wife had returned, he was dead.

Russ Solomon.
Michael A. Jones/Sacramento Bee/ZUMA

The first Tower Records shop opened in the back of a drug store in Solomon’s hometown of Sacramento, and by the end of the ’60s it had begun its spread across California. Its outpost on Sunset Strip became a hub for the Los Angeles music scene of the ’70s, ’80s and beyond. Solomon’s laid-back managerial style deemed dress codes unnecessary, and store clerks chatted easily with eager shoppers and fans.

“If you came into town, you went into Tower Records,” Bruce Springsteen proclaimed in All Things Must Pass, a documentary about the beloved outlet made by Colin Hanks in 2015.

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During the heyday of CD sales, over 200 Tower Records stores dotted the globe between North America and Japan, but the industry’s shift from physical to digital music took a toll on brick and mortar stores. After reaching a peak of $1 billion sales in 1999, profits began to dwindle. Tower declared bankruptcy in 2004 and closed its stores two years later.

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