Success at Atlantic
Jerry Wexler was the Atlantic producer who approached Ted White about signing Aretha to his label. Jerry Wexler, like John Hammond at Columbia, was a producer who appreciated the talent of African American performers. At Atlantic, Wexler helped develop the careers of Ray Charles and Ruth Brown, two of the most successful black singers of the time. Wexler felt certain that he could help Aretha find greater success, too. With a $30,000 bonus for signing with Atlantic, Aretha happily agreed to switch labels in 1966.
Wexler was aware that Aretha had tremendous talent as a pianist and admired her gospel roots. He wanted Aretha to accompany herself on piano while she sang. Aretha was encouraged by these changes. She felt reassured by Wexler's involvement, but she was glad that he wanted her to be included in most of the production decisions. It was a very different experience than she had had at Columbia, where executives decided most of the details without asking for her input.