Mack Emerman, a jazz lover whose hobby recording bands at nightclubs led him to found Criteria Recording Studios in Miami, where dozens of celebrated pop and rock records were made, died May 17 in Miami Beach. He was 89.
The cause was pneumonia, his daughter Bebe said.
Some of the most well-known albums of the 1970s were recorded at Criteria, either entirely or in part, among them "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" by Eric Clapton's band Derek and the Dominos, "Eat a Peach" by the Allman Brothers, "Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac and the soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever," featuring the Bee Gees.
Criteria was a quixotic enterprise when it opened in 1958; most recording studios were in New York City and Los Angeles at the time. But as Criteria established a reputation for up-to-date technology and quality engineering, it became a recording option for musicians on tour and those on the East Coast who simply preferred warm weather.
By 1965, the studio had its first gold record, James Brown's funky hit "I Got You (I Feel Good)." Mr. Emerman went on to build a second studio spacious enough to accommodate a big band or even an orchestra; early on, it was used to record music for "The Jackie Gleason Show." More state-of-the-art studios were added in the 1970s.
A key to Criteria's success was Mr. Emerman's friendship with Tom Dowd, a producer and engineer for Atlantic Records. In addition to "Layla" and "Eat a Peach," recordings made at Criteria in the 1970s for Atlantic and its affiliated labels included Aretha Franklin's "Young, Gifted and Black" and Mr. Clapton's "461 Ocean Boulevard."
Hired by other labels, Criteria was also used by the Count Basie Orchestra, Jimmy Buffett, Wilson Pickett, KC and the Sunshine Band, Abba, Aerosmith, Delaney and Bonnie, John Cougar Mellencamp, The Eagles, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.
Maxwell Louis Emerman was born Oct. 14, 1923, in Erie, Pa., where his father, Harvey, owned small businesses.
Young Mack went to Duke University, where he played trumpet in the Duke Ambassadors, a big band.
As a skinny young man he gorged on bananas and peanut butter to gain weight so he would qualify for the armed forces, his daughter Bebe said. He served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.
Mr. Emerman was living in Florida in the early 1950s, making deliveries for a candy company his father ran and, at night, recording music at clubs, using the same station wagon to haul around his equipment.
He briefly had his own label, taping local bands in clubs and occasionally in his own living room, before scraping together the money to buy his first studio.