Nigel Grainge, Founder of Ensign Records, Dies
Nigel Grainge, who, as founder of Ensign Records, signed acts like the Boomtown Rats, Sinead O'Connor, the Waterboys and World Party, has died in his home in Santa Monica, Calif.. He was 70 years old, and the cause was complications from a recent surgery.
"I never knew anyone who loved music as much as Nigel,” Seymour Stein, founder of Sire Records, told the Los Angeles Times. Grainge developed that love growing up in London thanks to his father, Cecil, who owned a record store and brought home a record for him every weekend. By 1970, he was working for Phonogram Records, which eventually became the Mercury label, in the accounting department.
But within three years, Billboard noted, he had worked his way up the ladder to become in charge of all their U.S.-based bands, and joined the A&R team in 1975. By the time he left in April 1977, he was in charge of the A&R division, signing such hitmakers as the Steve Miller Band, 10cc, Thin Lizzy and Eddy Grant.
With Phonogram's financial backing, he founded Ensign Records, whose name was a self-referential nod to his talent-spotting skills; the "En" stood for the "N' in "Nigel" and the "sign" was for signs -- as in "Nigel Signs." Billboard said that more than half of Ensign's first 50 singles charted, including the early singles by the Boomtown Rats, one of the first bands he signed.
But his biggest successes came between the mid-'80s and early '90s, thanks to the Waterboys (This Is the Sea, Fisherman's Blues), World Party (Private Revolution, Goodbye Jumbo) and O'Connor's blockbuster I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.
After selling Ensign, he founded a publishing company called Dizzy Heights in 2000 and, two years later, worked as a music business consultant.
He is survived by two daughters, Heidi and Roxie; a sister, Stephanie Grainge; a second brother, Justin; and a grandson, Jasper. His brother, Sir Lucian Grainge, is the chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Music Group.
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