Cletus Anderson, center, standing with the Jacksons. Photo courtesy of VIP Records.

Members of the music industry, especially local fans and artists, are mourning the loss of VIP Records founder Cletus Anderson — a visionary who helped shape the West Coast music scene and created the chain of shops that became a breeding ground for Long Beach’s musical talent.

On Sunday, Jan. 28, surrounded by his children, his wife, family, and friends in his home in Mississippi, Cletus Anderson lost his battle with gallbladder cancer, passing away peacefully in his sleep at 82.

Anderson opened the first VIP Records in 1967. In 1978, he opened the Long Beach location on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

VIP Records founder Cletus Anderson. Photo courtesy of VIP Records.

He eventually sold that location to his brother, Kelvin Anderson Sr. By the 1990s, and with continued influence from Cletus Anderson, VIP Records became a haven for young people who wanted to escape the violence in the neighborhood by focusing on their musical talent.

With a studio in the back of the record store and a strong presence in the community, VIP Records became the birthplace of the G-Funk era, propelling artists like Warren G, Nate Dogg, and Snoop Dogg to the national stage.

From left, Kelvin Anderson, Mayor Robert Garcia, Cletus Anderson and Councilmember Dee Andrews outside the VIP Records in Long Beach in 2017. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

The musical credibility of Long Beach, especially in the world of hip-hop and R&B, can be traced back to the vision of Anderson, a man whose legacy is far more than being the founder of a record store. Anderson was a beloved family man, a mentor and a friend to many in the industry.

“Cletus taught me everything I know,” said his brother Kelvin Anderson. “When I started in 1972, he took me under his wing and taught me how to create relationships with people professionally and personally. I will forever hold him up as the greatest music retailer. Most of all, the best older brother.”

“He was the type of man that wanted to elevate his family,” said his niece, Tenisha Anderson. “His vision created possibilities for all of us. Without him, we wouldn’t have left Mississippi. It is important to continue his legacy of God, family and music.”

VIP Records founder Cletus Anderson (left) and current owner Kelvin Anderson (right). Photo courtesy of VIP Records.