Joseph Fields happily juggled life as an influential record label executive on the jazz scene with his role as a Munsey Park father of four. He shared with them a love of music, a strong work ethic and a sky’s-the-limit attitude.
“He was a pretty cool dude,” Fields’ daughter Suzanne Fields, 63, of Maui, Hawaii, said of her father.
Fields died July 12 of natural causes at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn after a 12-day stay, his daughter said. He was 88.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1929, Fields was raised in Brooklyn where he attended John J. Pershing Junior High School and Erasmus Hall High School. He was a citywide athlete and won the New York Journal American Lou Gehrig award, while working several quintessential New York jobs, including driving a cab, pushing a rack in the Garment District and selling newspapers. He attended Syracuse University on a football scholarship, but transferred to the University of Bridgeport, where he was the captain of the football team his senior year.
At the university, he met and married Joan Nancy Boyd. The couple moved to Munsey Park in March 1957.
Fields’ affinity for music began when he started selling records to music stores in Brooklyn in the late 1950s before he was hired by London Records to pick singles for the U.S. market, his family said. He went on to work for MGM, Verve, Prestige and Sue Records before becoming national sales manager at Buddah Records, where he started its jazz division, called Cobblestone Records.
Fields acquired Cobblestone from Buddah and renamed it Muse Records, marking the start of his first record label, which pumped out successful artists including Pat Martino, Houston Person, Cedar Walton, Charlie Earl, Larry Coryell and Woody Shaw. Fields in the 1980s acquired two labels: Landmark Records and Savoy, which had recording artists Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dexter Gordon, among other influential stars in the early years of the Bebop era.
Fields’ son, Barney Fields, helped him launch HighNote and Savant Records in 1997, which signed musicians such as Kenny Burrell, Wallace Roney, Eric Alexander, Freddy Cole, Russell Malone and others, who continue to release new jazz recordings.
Suzanne Fields recalled celebrity moments inspired by her dad, such as when he took her and her friends to see performers such as Steve Wonder, but it was the female empowerment he instilled in her that she carries with her to this day.
“In the late 1950s in Manhasset, there weren’t any dedicated girls sports. There was a lot of Police Athletic League boys sports, but nothing for girls,” she said. “My dad started a girls softball team for all of us, my sisters and our friends.”
The girls would play at Munsey Park School every Saturday morning, Suzanne Fields said.
“He taught us a team sport, how to play fair, and the lessons we got from that obviously carried over to the rest of my life,” said Suzanne Fields, who added that her father’s teachings led her to play ultimate Frisbee for more than 40 years, during which she helped start a women’s division at the national championships in 1981.“This was pre-Title IX, so my dad was really ahead of the ball.”
Joseph Fields was a founding member of the Manhasset Lacrosse “Day of Champions” and the Police Boys Club lacrosse program. He was also an avid runner.
Fields and his wife, Nancy, of Manhasset, had recently celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. The two still lived in their home of more than 60 years where they raised their family.
Fields is survived by two other daughters, Christine Jenne of Huntington and Laura Tralongo of Manhasset; a granddaughter; and great-grandson.
A service was held July 17 at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington, followed by burial.