Sensation Records co-owner dies FORUM: Archive - Beginning April 17, 2003: Sensation Records co-owner dies
Top of pageBottom of page   By Jim G ( on Sunday, February 23, 2003 - 01:47 pm:

Bernie Besman, who along with John Kaplan owned and operated Sensation Records, died in Los Angeles on January 10, 2003. He was 90 years old.
Besman was born in Kiev, Russia in 1912. Besman was orphaned at 8, lived in England for five years, ended up in Detroit in 1926.
Bernie began piano lessons at age 3 and started playing professionally at 14. He went to Wayne State in the early 1930s and also led a dance band under the name Dean Dennis.
Following his service in World War ll, Besman and his pal, accountant John Kaplan formed Sensation Records in 1947. They named the label after Lee's Sensation Lounge (NOT Lee Sensation's Lounge), but there was no business connection.
Besman handled the music end of the business & Kaplan handled the money.
Sensation recorded many important Detroit Jump bands including those of Todd Rhode and TJ Fowler. Sonny Stit and Milt Jackson (fronting his bandmates from Dizzy Gillespie's orch in a proto-Modern Jazz Quartet group)recorded for Besman.
John Lee Hooker's first sessions were for Sensation but the Masters were leased to Modern Records and were first issued on that label.
The label went belly-up in 1952 after a disastrous 'business deal' with King Records Syd Nathan. The partners split up and Besman became sole owner. He moved to California and made a killing in the marketplace by distributing 'paint by number' kid's' toys.
Besman licensed rights to the Sensation material to Ace Records in UK. Ace recently released a CD of Todd Rhodes sides and one by pianist Doc Wiley is in the works.
Bernie Besman was a soft-spoken, thoughtful man who admired all of the people he recorded. He had a good ear for talent. He made a significant contribution to Detroit music.

Top of pageBottom of page   By David Meikle ( on Sunday, February 23, 2003 - 05:27 pm:

Thanks for bringing this sad news to the forum Jim.

I was amazed to see Bernie in a music documentary on UK TV last year.

He is heavily featured in John Lee Hooker's book and was truly a pioneer.

It was interesting to read of the link with Lee's Club Sensation, Jim.

Bernie Besman RIP

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