NYC Dance Music Industry Veteran Judy Russell Has Died

judy russell downtown 161 vinylmania

New York City’s dance music community is mourning the passing of Judy Russell (pictured above left). The cause of death is not yet known.

Russell, a Bronx, NY native, was part of the inner circle and the volunteer staff at the legendary Paradise Garage. After working at now-defunct record shop Vinylmania, she went on to work at two seminal (and also now-defunct) NYC dance labels, Nu Groove and Movin’ Records.

Russell later took an influential position at Downtown 161, running the label and distribution arm of the business.

Last spring, a group of friends banded together to launch a fundraiser for Russell, who had fallen on hard times. Russell had been in and out of the hospital, became unable to work and had been struggling financially. Tony Humphries and DJ Spinna played a benefit party on April 12 at the Panther Room at Output on her behalf.

Former Vinylmania owner Charlie Grappone remembered Russell on Facebook: “We first met Judy Russell when she came into Vinylmania and bought General Johnson’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ off the wire for $20. She bought it for Manny, who Bobby Shaw recommended for employment with us. I hired Judy later on and they were our Paradise Garage connections and brought us into the world of Larry Levan. She was a key part of Vinylmania’s success. Worked the floor, the register, mail order, the label, she did it all. Judy was with us for the births of our children and loved by our parents and families. After vinylmania, we continued working with her and Linda at Downtown 161. She was part of our lives for many years and will be greatly missed and always remembered. RIP Judy.”

Close friend and colleague Manny Lehman shared fond memories of Russell: “They say people come into your life for a reason … some people come and go and some people stay with you forever. Judy Russell came into my life like a force of nature and bought so much music, fun, life and laughter. Her passion for music was unrivaled. Her friendship unwavering. Her love of life was limitless. I will miss her tremendously and I celebrate all the wonderful moments we shared together. Our musical memories are the stuff of legend. Thank you Judy for being all you were to everyone, especially to me. You can rest now. Say hi to Larry for me! Love you forever.”

A host of industry icons and labels have also taken to social media to express their condolences.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

Darren Ressler

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