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Mack Emerman, founder of Miami recording studio where Clapton, others made albums, dies at 89

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MIAMI - Mack Emerman, the founder of Criteria Recording Studios where acts including Eric Clapton, James Brown and the Bee Gees made some of their most famous records, has died after a long illness. He was 89.

His daughter Bebe Emerman said Tuesday that her father died of complications from pneumonia at the Miami Jewish Home for the Aged, where he had lived since his health began failing in 2004. The Criteria studio, which he opened in 1959 in North Miami, has been operated by the Hit Factory since 1999.

Some 250 gold or platinum singles and albums were recorded at Criteria, which became known as Atlantic Records South when Emerman formed an alliance with producer Tom Dowd.

The records include "Layla" by Clapton's group Derek and the Dominoes, James Brown's "I Feel Good," ''Eat A Peach" by The Allman Brothers Band and parts of huge 1970s hits such as "Saturday Night Fever" by the Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" and "Hotel California" by the Eagles.

Things went downhill for Emerman in the 1980s. His daughter said he continued buying equipment and expanding studios at Criteria even as the music industry hit a slump. Emerman eventually sold Criteria to a local investor in 1988 and three years later he was forced out.

Bebe Emermen said her father suffered from depression for years afterwards.

"Eventually, however, he recovered and began recording again, on a small scale," she said in an email.

Maxwell Louis Emerman was born in 1923 in Erie, Pa., and later began playing the jazz trumpet while attending Duke University. With his wife and two daughters, he came to South Florida in 1953 to work in his father's candy business in Hialeah, but his daughter said he began recording live jazz and then set up a studio in his garage, running cables into the family living room where the musicians performed.

"The same family station wagon he used to haul saltwater taffy for his father by day was packed with audio gear at night as he moved from club to club, perfecting his recording technique," said Bebe Emerman.

He built Criteria with a loan from his father and opened it in 1959 as Miami's first world-class recording studio. Other musicians who recorded there over the years included Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lenny Kravitz, Lynyrd Skynyrd and R.E.M.

Emerman his survived by daughters Bebe Emerman, of Pasadena, Calif., and Julie Goldman of Miami, as well as two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt

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