Andy Ross Dies at 66: Tributes Pour In for Label Boss Who Signed Blur and Jesus Jones

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LONDON – Tributes have been paid to British music executive Andy Ross, a key figure in the 1990s U.K. music scene, who has died at the age of 66.

Ross co-ran London-based independent label Food Records with founder David Balfe and famously gave rock band Blur its first record deal, signing the group to the label in 1990 after seeing them perform at the Islington Powerhaus venue months before.

Blur’s commercial breakthrough came with its third studio album, Parklife, released on Food Records/EMI in 1994. The album debuted at number one in the U.K., spawning several hit singles, including “Girls And Boys” and its title track, and establishing Blur as leading figures in the ‘Britpop’ era of British guitar bands alongside Oasis and Pulp.

After Balfe sold Food Records to EMI in 1994, Ross — who was a member of late 1970s punk band Disco Zombies and worked as a music journalist before entering the record business — continued to run the label within the EMI group. Other acts signed by Ross included Jesus Jones, Shampoo, Idlewild, The Supernaturals and Dubstar. Food Records ceased to exist after being folded into the Parlophone label in 2000.

Following the news of Ross’ passing, a number of artists, executives, friends and former colleagues posted tributes to the much-admired label boss on social media. A cause of death has not been reported.

“Really sad to learn of the passing of my friend and mentor Andy Ross,” tweeted Blur drummer Dave Rowntree. “He was one of the good ones – generous, warm, and kind. They broke the mold.”

Jesus Jones said they were also heartbroken. “Without him, we’d have never been able to do what we did. We’ll always be grateful, and we’ll always miss him,” tweeted the band. Jesus Jones’ official Twitter account subsequently messaged @blurofficial and asked if they would be interested in getting “Food back together, and do something for Andy?” The group is yet to respond.

Record producer Stephen Street, who produced several Blur albums including Parklife and chart-topping follow-up The Great Escape, said Ross was the best A&R man he’d ever met. “Quite simply, if it had not been for him, Blur’s history would have been very different,” he tweeted.

Posting on Instagram, Creation Records founder Alan McGee called Ross “one of the all-time good guys in the music game,” while music publicist Terri Hall said the “industry has lost a real human and a gentleman.”

Global President of Downtown Music Publishing Mike Smith said Ross “was the living embodiment that that you could follow your path in music and succeed on your own terms.”

“I was in awe of his musical knowledge and his lust for life,” wrote Smith, who signed Blur to its first publishing deal and had a long friendship with Ross, stretching back more than three decades. “He understood how music was a life force,” wrote Smith, “and how the business was not to be taken too seriously.”

“Andy Ross was the type of music exec we all aspire to be,” said Parlophone co-presidents Nick Burgess and Mark Mitchell said in a statement sent to Billboard. “He combined an ability to spot and develop talent with a warmth and compassion for everyone making music. He brought Food Records into the EMI family and it subsequently became part of Parlophone, so we’re truly proud to be following in his footsteps.”

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