In Memoriam: Jerry Moss

3 min read
Jerry Moss with students at the Moss Scholars’ Lunch, 2019

Jerry Moss, co-founder of A&M Records and philanthropist, died on Wednesday, August 16 in his home in Bel Air, California. He was 88. A vigorous supporter of the arts in Los Angeles, Moss’s generosity has reverberated across UCLA.

“Jerry Moss’s impact on the music industry and on The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music has been profound,” said inaugural dean Eileen Strempel. “He was a visionary. He was also a generous and remarkable man, and his legacy lives on with the Moss Scholars.”

Jerry Moss helped fund the Moss Scholars program, which provides full scholarships to art and music students at UCLA. In 2019, Moss gave $1 million to help establish a permanent endowment for the program. Given during the Centennial Campaign for UCLA, the gift triggered a matching grant from the UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholarship, raising the total gift to $1.5 million. 

At the time, Moss reflected that he “always believed that art and music are global in nature and transcend boundaries,” adding that it was important to him to help UCLA recruit “a diverse cohort of local and international students.”

The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music has supported undergraduates and graduate students studying musicology, ethnomusicology, global jazz studies, and music performance. The scholarships have gone to international students of exceptional quality. Most recently, master’s student Yundian (Elle) Cao performed the Jaques Ibert Flute Concerto at the Eighteenth Annual All-Star concert with the UCLA Philharmonic.  

Yundian Cao, Moss Scholar

Moss’s direct support of students reflected his long-time passion of supporting individual artists. Moss entered the music industry after doing radio promotion for Coed Records. His work on the Crests’ doo-wop hit “16 Candles” in 1958 helped make it the No. 2 single in 1958. He relocated to Los Angeles where he established an independent PR firm. A chance meeting with Herb Alpert led to a handshake deal and the founding of A&M Records, which worked out of Alpert’s garage. The label made its name on giving artists control over their work.

Herb Alpert recalled in an interview that he had learned much from the heavy-handed approach of RCA, where he had first worked as a recording artist. “They didn’t get it,” recalled Alpert. “That’s when it hit me: if I ever have a chance to have my own label, nothing like that will ever happen. I wanted our company to be centered around the artists first, and that’s the company we designed.”

Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert of A&M Records

Alpert credited Moss with turning A&M towards Rock music in the 1970s. Moss led efforts to sign British rock bands, and A&M landed legendary artists like Joe Cocker, Cat Stevens, and Peter Frampton. 

A&M grew from a company of two men working out of a Hollywood garage to a worldwide leader in the record business with over 500 employees. All that time, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss worked without a written agreement, on the same handshake deal that they had started with back in 1962.

“When we sold the company,” recalled Alpert, “that was the first time we put our names down on a contract.” 

Jerry Moss at the Opening of Lani Hall, with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Herb Alpert, and Lani Hall

Jerry Moss’s family remembers him as an empire builder, but even more tenderly as a devoted family man and old-school romantic. He always had a “twinkle in his eyes as he approached every moment ready for the next adventure.” The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music community mourns his passing, while celebrating his generosity and lasting legacy.