clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Larry Sherman, co-founder of Chicago’s legendary TRAX Records, dead at 70

Like many independent record label owners, Sherman had a complex legacy.

Larry Sherman founded TRAX records in 1984 with Vince Lawrence. Mr. Sherman was an ardent collector of vinyl, which led him to purchase a pressing plant.
Larry Sherman founded TRAX records in 1984 with Vince Lawrence. Mr. Sherman was an ardent collector of vinyl, which led him to purchase a pressing plant.
Rachael Cain

Larry Sherman, the co-founder of Chicago’s legendary TRAX Records, died of heart failure on Wednesday. He was 70.

“It is with great sadness that TRAX Records and Rachael Cain [the label’s president] must announce the passing of Larry Sherman — it’s legendary founder,” said a label statement. “I am beside myself ... I ask that everyone please send LOVE AND PRAYERS. He was of the Jewish faith and passed away on his holiday Passover.”

Mr. Sherman also was a member of the Wisconsin recording group The Robbs, whose 1966 song “Race With The Wind” became a hit record for Mercury Records.

He founded TRAX in 1984 with Vince Lawrence. He was an ardent collector of vinyl, which led him to purchase Precision Printing Plant in Bridgeport.

TRAX was instrumental in developing house music — a music genre that was born in Chicago. House music legends Frankie Knuckles, Larry Heard and Marshall Jefferson were some of the mainstays who released iconic music on the label.

“Larry and I looked at each other and said ‘that’d be a great name for the label,’” said Jesse Saunders, a DJ and recorder producer most known for his hit “On & On,” the first mainstream record featuring a house music DJ as the artist. “Larry and I basically started TRAX at that point instead of just releasing records one after the other, at least two or three a week at that point. Word started to grow around town about all these records coming out of Chicago more and more.”

Despite the label’s success, Mr. Sherman left a complex legacy within Chicago’s house music community.

TRAX Records co-founder Larry Sherman is photographed in China in 1996.
TRAX Records co-founder Larry Sherman is photographed in China in 1996.
Rachel Cain

Saunders said most artists had limited options when getting their music distributed. “If it hadn’t been for what Larry was doing, most of these guys who are ‘celebrity DJs’ now would not be that celebrity DJ.”

Cain said Mr. Sherman had a complex legacy, adding that he was trying to make amends to TRAX artists though Rights Incorporated. According to the label’s website, due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Sherman “was planning a special royalty fund for TRAX artists before his death and his final wish will be carried out in his name by the label under the guidance of Rights Incorporated.”

“It’s important for people to know that right now that we’re fighting to get the TRAX’s classics royalties paid. I’m hoping it will turn out well,” Cain said. “That is something that Larry wanted to see happen. Before his death, that is what we were working on.”

Cain says that Mr. Sherman’s entire legacy should be remembered.

“He’s a controversial figure,” said Cain. “And if you think about this crazy little [bunch] of kids, and this guy in this warehouse in Bridgeport on the South Side — half the time covered with ink and pressing his own vinyl records — and how we took this thing that people used to laugh at in New York and made it a worldwide sensation. That’s the story. And if it wasn’t for Larry it wouldn’t have happened.”

Mr. Sherman is survived by his daughter Tessa Sherman and his widow Sandee Sherman.

A memorial service has not yet been planned due to the coronavirus pandemic shut-down.