Tommy LiPuma

Tommy LiPuma
Born (1936-07-05) July 5, 1936
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Genres Jazz
Rhythm and Blues
Occupation(s) Producer
Years active 1960s - present
Labels Liberty/Imperial (1961–1965)
A&M (1965–1969)
Blue Thumb Records (1968–1974)
Warner Bros. (1974–1978)
A&M/Horizon (1978–1979)
Warner Bros. (1979–1990) Elektra Records (1990-1995)
GRP/Verve (1994–2011)

Tommy LiPuma (born July 5, 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio[1]) is an American music producer. As of May 2012, LiPuma's productions have earned him 35 albums certified gold or platinum, 33 Grammy nominations, and 3 Grammy wins. He has worked with many musicians, including Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, Claudine Longet, Dave Mason, the Yellowjackets, Michael Franks, Diana Krall, Sir Paul McCartney, The Story, The Crusaders, Joe Sample, Randy Crawford and Dr. John.


When LiPuma was a child, an extended bone infection caused him to find solace with a bedside radio, where he discovered rhythm-and-blues and jazz artists of that time – Little Jimmy Scott, Ruth Brown, Big Maybelle, Charles Brown and Nat Cole. Inspired by the music, he began taking lessons on the tenor saxophone. While playing in local big bands, he also attended barber school, intending to follow in his father's footsteps. However, a chance opportunity to go on tour with a band changed his plans. His first proper music business job was working as an entry-level employee for a local Cleveland music distributor, M.S. Distributors, where eventually he became the local promotions representative.

Liberty/Imperial & A&M

In 1961, LiPuma worked as a promotional representative for Liberty Records which eventually acquired Imperial Records and its publishing catalog. From here, LiPuma began working the publishing end of the business. He produced demo sessions for young songwriters such as Jackie DeShannon, Randy Newman and P.J. Proby. In late 64', LiPuma produced his first recording for release with fellow Clevelanders The O'Jays, yielding the TOP 40 R&B hit, "Lipstick Traces." In 1965, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss hired him to be the first staff producer for their A&M label. Over the next four years, he produced the Top Forty hits, "Guantanamera" for the Sandpipers, "The More I See You" for Chris Montez; and gold albums for French singer Claudine Longet (Claudine and The Look of Love).

Blue Thumb

Inspired by the cultural changes of the late 1960s including such events as the Monterey Pop Festival, LiPuma formed Blue Thumb records with Bob Krasnow in 1968. Feeling that his productions for A&M were pigeonholed to a certain style, LiPuma saw this as a chance to expand his musical horizons. Blue Thumb Records assembled an eclectic roster of musical talent, including Dave Mason; Gabor Szabo; Phil Upchurch; João Donato; Hugh Masekela; the Jazz Crusaders; Southwind; Mark-Almond; Ben Sidran; The Pointer Sisters; Nick DeCaro; comedy troupe National Lampoon; and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

Columbia Records & Warner Bros. Records

In 1974, LiPuma took on a production assignment for Columbia Records (as Blue Thumb's co-owner, he could freelance at will), working with Barbra Streisand to create an album featuring the theme song to the film The Way We Were. By late '74, he joined Warner Bros. Records as an A&R staff producer. It was at Warner Bros. that he had his first multi-platinum success with George Benson's 1976 album Breezin', winning his first Grammy for the track "This Masquerade." Further chart success continued with music by Michael Franks, Al Jarreau, Stuff, Eumir Deodato, Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and Dan Hicks.

A&M/Horizon & Warner Bros. Records

From 1978 to '79, LiPuma was hired to handle Horizon Records, an imprint of A&M, where he worked with Brenda Russell, the Yellow Magic Orchestra, Seawind and Dr. John. At the end of 79, he became Vice President of Jazz and Progressive Music at Warner Bros. Records. For a little over a decade at Warner Bros., he produced records for Randy Crawford, Brenda Russell, Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Yellowjackets, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Bob James, Miles Davis, Earl Klugh, Randy Newman, Dr. John, Aztec Camera and Everything But The Girl.

Elektra Records

In 1990, LiPuma left Warner Bros. to become Senior Vice-President at Elektra Records. There he executive produced Natalie Cole's Unforgettable... with Love (he produced 8 tracks on the album). It is considered one of his most successful projects as it was certified 7 times platinum, winning three Grammy awards, one with which LiPuma earned his second of three. He revived the career of Little Jimmy Scott (Sire Records) and once again was involved in a film's soundtrack, producing the music for David Mamet's film Glengarry Glen Ross.

GRP/Verve Records

From 1994 to 2011, LiPuma would call GRP/Verve Records home. At the start of his tenure he met Diana Krall, which would eventually lead to long history of successful collaborative efforts (12 albums). Her album, When I Look In Your Eyes, sold 2 million copies and was nominated for Album of the Year. Her next album The Look of Love, debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard's Albums chart, selling over 4 million copies globally. Krall's 2002 album, Live in Paris, netted LiPuma his third Grammy.

From 2004 to '11 he was Chairman Emeritus at Verve. While at Verve, LiPuma was able to freelance again, producing tracks for non-Verve artists such as Michael Bublé, Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Joe Sample & Randy Crawford (PRA Records), Luis Salinas, and Paul McCartney (producing the ex-Beatle's first-ever standards album, Kisses on the Bottom).

Other interests & honors

Outside of music, LiPuma collects 20th Century American Modern art. Works from his collection, featuring pieces from artists Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Arthur Dove and Alfred Maurer, have been exhibited at various galleries and museums throughout the US.

On March 26, 2012, Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH, named their new arts studies center the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts.


  1. Ed Hogan. "Tommy LiPuma: Biography". All Music Guide. Retrieved 2010-01-27.
Preceded by
Chairman of Verve Music Group
Succeeded by
David Foster
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