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10 Businesses Supposedly Controlled by the Mafia


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Music Recording
Ol' Blue Eyes maintained that he and the Mob were "just friends." Bettmann/Corbis
Ol' Blue Eyes maintained that he and the Mob were "just friends." Bettmann/Corbis

Anyone who's seen "Jersey Boys" (the movie or the Broadway musical) knows something about the Mafia's recording industry history. It tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' connections to Gyp DeCarlo, a Genovese-tied mobster from New Jersey. Years earlier, another Genovese guy named Willie Moretti had a hand in building Frank Sintara's career. A scene in "The Godfather," where Luca Brasi puts a gun to the head of a bandleader to get a singer out of a contract, is reportedly based on a 1943 story, in which Moretti put a gun to bandleader Tommy Dorsey's head on Sinatra's behalf [source: Kleinknecht].

The Mafia has been a force behind some of the best recordings and recording artists of all time. But even as it promised to protect artists, the Mafia would eventually intimidate and extort them, too.

Take the Genovese family's Moishe "Morris" Levy, known in some circles as the Godfather of Rock and Roll (he also founded famed New York jazz club Birdland for his friend Charlie "Bird" Parker). As a producer of classic hits including "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" Levy's contracts were notoriously one-sided, keeping everything that could generate long-term money, including copyrights and publishing royalties [source: Sucher]. Mafiosi like Levy not only controlled artist management, they also owned the concert venues, then eventually the record labels, record processing plants and even the record stores. Levy founded the Strawberry record store chain in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, organized criminals reportedly bought record-pressing plants, allowing them to duplicate copies of a master recording and flood the market with lower-priced copies. Since then, as the industry has become more corporate and less lucrative, the music Mafia seems to have gone quiet.


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