Dave Brooks

For this installment of the newsletter, we talked to Dave Brooks, who covers the concert business for Billboard and has organized its Touring Conference.

NACPA is neutral to all media, from trades like Pollstar to CelebrityAccess to Billboard. In fact, the Executive Director has worked for two of the three and has worked with several of the talents, from Ray Waddell to Andy Gensler to Deborah Speer to Ian Courtney.

Yet, we only thought it would be of value to share with readers the background of someone from the media, someone who may be calling soon, and Dave fits. Many times we pick up the phone and talk to someone without knowing the other person is as real as you. I can say that I’ve been fascinated by someone, yet they had no idea that I have fascinating stories, too. We hope that this helps give people a background on that mysterious person who calls you once in a while, and we hope this can be extended to ALL media personalities.

Brooks’ background includes his own e-zine, Amplify, and the daily email blast The Real, along with experience at Venues Now and Pollstar. He’s also moderated dozens of panels worldwide at various live industry conferences.

The interviewer has known Dave for years yet did not know his history, from his relationship with reporter Gary Webb (played by Jeremy Renner in “Kill The Messenger”) to his time exposing corruption in the community of Watsonville, Calif., to being administered a lie detector test by his father.

Where did you get your start? Do you have a degree in journalism?

I think of myself as a good writer and a great reporter/investigator. I should say I’m most passionate about investigating and finding things out before anybody else. How good I am at it is subjective.

But I got that from my father, Chuck. My parents split when I was young and I spent a lot of time with him. He’s an investigator with a degree in criminology.

He probably imagined he was going to go into the FBI, like a lot of young people do. But after a few years working for the government, busting welfare fraud or whatever, he arrived at the private side of the business and started working for retailers, catching shoplifters. For a while he worked for a company called Service Merchandise that had offices all over the country. My dad became a polygraph examiner. Sometimes he’d hook up a polygraph to the company’s own employees to find out if they were stealing.

I was always fascinated by the machine. Its outer case looks like a briefcase and you literally snap it back together at its half. You just go on your way; nobody knows what’s in that case.

My dad taught me a lot about how the machine works. He’d hook me up to it for fun and say, “Go into the other room, pick up a red ball or a white ball or a blue ball, put it down and come back.”

He’d ask me questions. I really thought that was fun and cool, and he was so good at it. He’s a master at detecting deception.

It eventually was outlawed in court. I asked my dad if that made his job harder or easier. “It makes my job so much easier,” he said,  “because all that stuff is a distraction.” He’s more comfortable going with his gut instinct.

He taught me a lot about how to deal with people in those situations – how to seek the truth. How to build rapport. How to sense if someone is being honest. Also, how to think logically. We used to watch the show “Unsolved Mysteries.” There’d always be something about aliens and my dad would say, “Fake!

People don’t have the skills to say, okay, did an alien intend to kidnap these people, like how to deduct that it’s BS. It really had an influence over me and how I approached my job.

And tell good stories.

Does that mean you have a BS Meter?

I do think so. What I’m good at is analyzing the facts. If someone tells me something, my BS Meter can tell me if I’m being fed a line, or if this is spin, or if it’s not realistic. It’s just based on the facts being presented to me.

What I struggle with is detecting if somebody is being deceptive about something that could or could not be true.

My dad says there’s a lot of disagreement in criminology about the tells of deception. I try not to rely much on stuff like body language because I haven’t been trained in that. Besides, journalism is different than criminology. I’m trying to get to the truth but I’m not trying to prosecute.

Don Henley has a song lyric that goes there are three sides to a every story – yours, mine and the cold hard truth. A local newspaper might paint someone as a bad guy but a simple phone call can reveal a little truth on both sides of an issue.

Exactly! Especially those stories involving assessing blame when things go wrong between promoters.

Until you hear one person’s details and delivery it’s easy to convince yourself that person is the good guy and the other is the bad guy. That’s so rarely the case. People are complicated. They have different motivations. Most people operate under the pretense under they’re doing the right thing. Also, a lot of times it has to do with money but it’s because they want to do the right thing because they deserve something for themselves. It’s rare that there are people completely motivated by greed and malice.

How often do you get the casually threatening suggestion of “If you report x, we will respond with y?”

More often than I like. A couple times a year. To me, that’s the worst tactic to take. It just lets me know I’m over the target. That means there’s no debate left, no explaining. You’re just going to go to a threat? Okay, well, we have counsel and, second, I know my rights and a decent understanding of libel laws.

I just don’t worry about it. But I try to be careful and, if I do, I know I’ll be ok.

It’s nice to publish something on Friday and know that nothing will happen on Monday.

Right? That’s the thing. You struggle with that sometimes. I’ll write a big story and, after a while, nothing comes of it. That can be frustrating if you think something should be done.

But I tell people that I don’t operate on outcome; I just want to share information. Now, if I think something is scandalous, I clearly want something to happen but that’s how I bring myself back down to earth. When I’m disappointed from a reporter’s standpoint, if nothing happens, it’s ego. I don’t see much upside in ego as a motivator.

Have you ever anticipated a big problem, and it turns out the explosion comes from something small, like a misspelled name in the tenth paragraph or misquoting an offhand remark from a fifth party?

Totally. Sloppy work. That’s on our shoulders. That’s not fun. That really sucks. It’s happened to me and will probably happen again. I hate it.

Fact check and challenge your assumptions. I try to do that a lot. You really have to break down the obvious assumptions and ask yourself why 1+1=2. If you don’t do that you can make mistakes. It’s embarrassing, especially when you’re about to put somebody on blast and you’re the one who’s wrong. Not only is that not fun, it’s not a way people should operate. It’s irresponsible.

Going back to your childhood. You were under your father’s wing until you were an adult?

I was under my parents’ wing the whole time. I was born in Iowa then mom and dad moved to Texas. When my mom met my stepfather, also a very influential man in my life, they moved to northern California when I was about 7. My dad stayed in Texas. It was school year with my mom and stepdad, summertime with my dad. I did that until I was 16 and had a license to drive. Then I basically stayed home and did teenager stuff.

My mom died of cancer during my senior year of high school. I had a 16-year-old sister and a six-year-old sister and I was really worried about them. I was still a dumbass at 18 and not emotionally prepared.

I didn’t know how I felt about it until much later in life. It was absorbing. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t even really deal with it. That was a mistake. I don’t think I was emotionally equipped. None of my siblings were. I compartmentalized it. I put it in a box and set it aside.

There was a lot of shame. My family was totally screwed up by religion. Irish Catholic. There’s so much more anxiety when it comes to death in the Catholic church. I’m not religious but I’m the most religious non-religious person you want to know.

So you go into college. Did you go into the sausage factory, with the background of your dad and polygraphs, expecting to be ground out as a journalist? Or did you just look at General Ed?

Yes. Yes I did. I loved newspapers. Always had. I read the Contra Costa Times. It was a great paper. I wouldn’t say he was a mentor but a very influential in my life was a reporter named Gary Webb.

Gary Webb? I have a buddy who worked beside him. Go ahead…

Did he work at the Mercury News? That’s where Gary did his best stuff.

I was introduced through a mutual family friend. He would spend time with me and talk to me at family parties. It wasn’t like I wanted to be a journalist; it was that I wanted to hear all the behind-the-scenes stuff, the way the world really works.  I loved that.

My stepfather was very liberal, my mom was really Catholic, and we would talk about the war on drugs, when I was at a very young age, just telling me how stupid it was. Gary’s best work was about the connections between the government and South America and cocaine trafficking. He knew all the people; it was so fascinating. I was, like, 14, and he wanted to tell me about drug dealers in Panama and the Sandinistas flying coke for Pablo Escobar. Hell yeah, I was totally into it. I loved it.

He felt bad for me because of my mom. She was sick a long time before she died.

Then, when Gary killed himself, it was really, really fucked up. I was hurting when that happened.

I remember it being acutely painful, unlike my mom’s death because I knew was going to die. I didn’t know what to do with the pain I was feeling.

He influenced me and I had a small personal relationship but I wouldn’t say he was a mentor necessarily. There were others.

At one point I worked at a newspaper that had the same partial coverage area as the San Jose Mercury News and I was super excited because I would work with Gary – because I didn’t know how shit really worked. By then he had already left. He was in his downward spiral which I didn’t even know about until long after his death and the book came out. He was basically betrayed by the entire journalism industry. I had no idea; I was a young dumbass.  But a fuckin’ cool ass guy, man. What a legend. Everything about him epitomized what a journalist should be. I think he’s awesome.

So, originally, I wanted to be in the Foreign Service. I didn’t even thing about being a journalist in college as a job. I wanted to work for the State Dept. I was also a newspaper reporter in high school. I just did it because I wanted extracurricular activities to help me get into college. I thought it was fun but my goal was to join the Foreign Service, take the exam, and I was studying Spanish, in Spain, partying my ass off.

Finally, I enrolled in a program called UCDC. A semester in Washington DC. I interned for the Atlantic Council, which is now a huge conspiracy theorist target. People distrust it. But it’s the most ineffective place I’ve ever been in. They couldn’t do anything right. QAnon calls it part of the New World Order. And I hated it. I hated DC. I hated the people. I totally changed my mind about being in the Foreign Service. I was a California guy.

I was challenged by really competitive people operating at a really high level and it was my realization that I wasn’t the shit. I just went back. I came back to Santa Cruz to probably bum around Europe. But someone from the paper at UC Santa Cruz got a job at a tiny little newspaper in Watsonville, about 15 miles south. I applied and became a beat reporter for the Watsonville Pajaronian. That’s when I became a professional journalist.

More there in Watsonville than cabbage, eh?

I just knew I could do this as a job as opposed to how I had treated it before, more of a social, fun thing. A lot of people take Drama for four years but don’t expect to become actors. It’s what you do for a hobby. That was my scene. A lot was about chasing chicks.

The way local governments are set up, people aren’t set up naturally to handle power. People are not equipped to purely serve the public good so there is always ego and scandal. I’ve always treated everything as if it was the most important thing going on in the world. Fights about building a Home Depot on whatever road. Farming issues about water. There was crime. Immense poverty. Some of the poorest people I’ve ever met. Then there were people preying on them. A guy with a dilapidated house with 50 migrants living in it. Is that unethical? I dunno. You could find stuff. It’s also where Cesar Chavez organized the UFW.

There was some cool shit going down. There was a group called the Brown Berets. They were the migrant Mexican group who wanted to be in the vein of the Black Panthers. They were militant. I found stuff.

I did some great work there. I revealed that the mayor of the city, who was 26 years old, was going out at night and getting in bar brawls. Straight up fist fighting people. Going out, getting drunk, hitting on a wife, then challenging a husband to a fight in a parking lot. A whole cadre of wannabees covering for him. I won an award and it’s basically how I got to the Los Angeles Times. Yeah, there was plenty to report about even if it was a sleepy place. That’s where I became the Dave Brooks that I am now.

I don’t know this progress. From there to the Times.

I graduated in 2002, wrote these stories, got a lot of recognition and Times had an opening in its community news division and I took it. I moved down to Huntington Beach.

Back in 2004, the Times was really invested in local news. They would do all these inserts for the various cities and I covered Huntington Beach. Most of my stuff would be inserted into the section every Thursday. I covered mostly government. I then got promoted to the Orange County bureau; now I was in the California section of the Times, covering Orange County. My area was mostly business in Newport Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa.

I did that from 2004-2007. I didn’t realize that was when real estate was booming and when the meltdown happened. Many of the mortgage companies were based there – Nationwide, Countrywide. I had no idea what a default swap was or derivative financials. I didn’t know shit. I didn’t know anything about the financial housing market but I did know there were kids my age who were complete dumbasses making $300,000 a year.  I really questioned at times my pay. I think I was getting $13 an hour.

I just didn’t want to work at the paper anymore. It wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be. I saw a listing for Venues Today and I applied. I met Linda Deckard and started working for her. It was a very small company. I started when there were three people. When I left there were seven or eight. By year four I was contributing to every part of the business. It was really interesting. I learned more there than at any other job I ever had.

So, you got into reporting on the music business just like any other reporting gig: you had no background, but you learned.

Exactly. I love music but I didn’t know anything about trade writing. I didn’t know what a fuckin’ trade publication was! I didn’t know anything about the live music business.

But I knew how to do reporting and writing. I just happened into it at the right time. There were no raises there, only cuts. I learned from Linda how venues worked, how businesses worked. How concert arenas and stadiums have cyclical calendars. The IAVM crowd of people, our core.

There was always a back and forth with Linda. We did not see eye to eye on certain things. I viewed it could be done more artistically or in a different voice. But it was Linda’s magazine and I accepted that early on and did it how she wanted – folksy and informal. Linda has a detailed way of explaining things. It was written as if you were explaining something to a 65-year-old; I wanted it to be cool.

It wasn’t sexy but it was cool to go to concerts and travel. I wasn’t writing about the coolest bands; I was writing about how Feld was going to create ice faster.

But the readership was interested.

Yeah. It took me a while to understand that. It took a while to understand what we were doing. I disagreed with how things went down but I understood it was hers, it wasn’t mine. I just focused on what she wanted. She deserved that. It was her publication and I learned a lot from her – who the readers are, where the business came from. She’s a really nice person and this was her life.

Working for her was worthwhile. I got an education in the venue world. It would have been impossible anywhere else. Linda was always an insider. She was not peering in from the outside, and that was important to her. I learned so much about how venues were operated. I also met all the people who ran the arenas, convention centers and stadiums of America.

I regularly attended 15 conferences a year. I even went to Australia. I thought I knew it all. Once I left, I really quickly realized there were large swaths of the business I did not know, especially the agency business and to some level promotion. But, at Venues Today, I saw what we weren’t doing as an opportunity. I had a vision. I just wanted to create my own thing, to do it my own way, to use technology. I think technology quickly hastened the divide at Venues Today.  My view was that I could compete by using technology in a way that would close the gap much faster than anyone expected.

What’s funny is that I told a friend of mine what I wanted to do and that friend told Michael Roth (spokesman for AEG), who told Linda. I had to make a decision right then and there. I decided to go.

I pushed every button that I could. A lot of people asked me why I was messing with them. I would say it motivated me. I regret it. Somewhat.

You were growing up.

Yeah, I wanted to be my own guy. And I thought it could be cool. It’s the business of rock ‘n’ roll. And there was all this scandalous shit happening. I think I emailed that I was on a fact-finding mission. I ended up on the model of The Real, the email newspaper. I had all kinds of ideas. A concierge service! Anything that could make money.

But after a year I was done trying all this other shit and focused on running the newsletter. Make it a must-read for gossip and news nobody else had. I’d look at what people clicked on.

When you were putting it together did you have Billboard or Pollstar in the future?

I didn’t even know who Ray Waddell was. Pollstar? Up until the launch I didn’t know who a Gary Smith was. The first issue was August 2014 and by September I was at a panel where Smith was on it. He asked people about that album U2 uploaded to iTunes libraries. He asked who had listened to it; I raised my hand. He said, “Well, of course you would listen to it,” which acknowledged he knew who I was.

He sort of became interested in me. We went back and forth and it was a weird courtship. For all I knew he was a billionaire.

I ended up paying $600 for a subscription. I thought maybe they could buy me out or something. The Garys started to do some kind of dance. They wanted to be interested but not spend any money.

They paid me $200 a column. I made $800 a month, paid my office. I remember Bataclan happened. I called Gary B. He said that we were going to use the wire reports rather than original reporting. That disappointed me.

There was another story. The illegal venue that I exposed. It killed me. But they stood by me on that. And they didn’t have to. The Ghost Ship fire had just taken place. The band that played there the night before played this illegal venue. I tried to get them to talk. I wrote an email to them “Exposing you tomorrow you’re running an illegal venue.”

I got death threats. “I hope you die.”

It was just a low moment. At one point I was reporting on a panel where a member came up to me, “Hey, I want to talk to you about the damage you’re doing to the LGBTQ community.”

I was stunned. He rode my ass for 10 minutes. For the first time I heard, “You cis-gender, alpha male piece of shit.” What does that even mean?

I made a lot of mistakes. Would it change a lot of my personality? I had to overcome a lot of things.

How about your relationship with Michael Rapino?

It’s been really interesting getting to know him. Regarding Ticketmaster, I think those outside the business say things flippantly that are unfair. It doesn’t acknowledge the realities of what’s happening. But I’ve noticed with him that there’s this increasing lack of tolerance for “towing the line.” They do things that I deserve a lot of scrutiny. And I’ve noticed the expectation of loyalty and the demand to be given the benefit of the doubt.

I did a story on Michael Rapino’s pay. During the pandemic he was not going to take any salary. A year goes by and that was the assumption. Then the disclosure comes out covering the past year and, six weeks in, he started getting half salary. And they made a lot of money in stock options. Pointing that out drew all this intense rage. “The headline should have been How Much Money He Left On The Table.” No, it shouldn’t have been. That’s not how any ordinary person would ever view it.

Rapino has always said in interviews he has a fear of losing touch with the common man. He was the common man and if he really lost that he was done. I just see increasing evidence he doesn’t know what it’s like out there for most people.

You had mentioned the controversy regarding Morgan Wallen.

Cancel culture. Who is canceled and what does that even mean? And what Morgan Wallen did.

It’s an interesting thing. All this debate with what he did. Using the N word. And how long should he be canceled?

I noticed nobody every bothered to ask Blacks what they thought about Morgan Wallen drunkenly calling his friends the N word. What do they feel in general?

To me, I thought it would be a reasonable question to ask how long to cancel someone and to what severity. That said, he was canceled during a real demand for his music. He was canceled when his album was No. 1, he had airplay and it was interesting watching WME join in the initial reaction, dropping him. Slowly people changed their behavior and wanted to go see him.

Kevin Neal’s son, Austin, was basically booking shows for Morgan “off the books.” He wasn’t doing shows while representing WME but, you know, but he was doing it with their quote-unquote blessing. An independent promoter like Outback would pick up some of the shows. OK, it did OK, under the radar.

Then Live Nation decides to do his tour, but it’s couched cautiously, not mentioned like it would normally be, but they’re doing it. You gotta really wonder how these calculations are made. Like, what areas of the country want to see Morgan Wallen and don’t care and won’t raise a stink. It kind of goes around that. They’re already booking his tour dates and he’s making a comeback without announcing.

What’s your take on it?

I spend time at a local sports bar and when “Whiskey Glasses” comes on, guess what? Nobody cares. Nobody is upset, nobody stands up in support. It’s just a song and people are worn out. Lots of fatigue.

I agree. People are just worn out. Either they did it on purpose to float the reaction or somebody was not thinking. Right or wrong, it’s going to get a substantial negative reaction. It’s so weird to me. What is the end goal for Nashville? What are they trying to say? Are they trying to move on from past sins? Are you saying Morgan Wallen can’t apologize and be forgiven? That seems to be lost in all of this.

This whole idea of being canceled. Saying something racist, homophobic or transphobic will always be hugely problematic. It should never be done. Everyone agrees on it. But what does cancelation mean? People don’t really know. More broadly, domestic issues this country has been through that I don’t think there’s an upside to saying something political on a domestic issue because people are very hard to change their response to it. Can you be political anymore in music? I think the answer is no. There’s no upside. If you believe in it, will you make a statement about it? You’re not making a moral statement; you’re signaling an ideology.

I wonder if that’s brave or what the point is. I think music will become political again and it will be authentic. I think there are things to protest, especially authoritarian governments. It’s happening abroad.

A great example is China’s repression of Hong Kong. I can’t see a lot of people arguing that’s a good thing. There’s so much authoritarianism and so many totalitarian leaders over the world that, basically, there are interesting things to talk about. Human rights abroad. Issues like killing and tyranny. To me that’s what people should look at. Not domestically; that just makes things worst. The right is not going to take it like they have before.

Regarding Morgan Wallen and alternate routing ideas, Louis CK recently put out an advertisement where one can pay to watch a full performance, in front of a full theatre, via his website. It’s almost as if “life finds a way.” Louis CK may be “canceled” but he’s found a way to get to his audience anyway.

Right. I don’t like the phrase “life finds a way” as much as maybe “supply finds a way.” If there is demand for something, entrepreneurial people always find a way to meet it. If people want something, somebody will find a way to get it to them. And people always want their music.

That’s the underlying issue, right? People are always going to find a way to give people what they want. It’s like the failure of the War on Drugs. People want something, someone will get it to them. If Morgan Wallen was “canceled,” and people still want his music and be around him as an artist then, well, he didn’t really get canceled.

He could apologize and fix the situation but he’s going to have to determine how to do it. Nobody is going to defend what he said drunkenly to a bunch of white people but if they still want his music, the ruling class can’t really determine that he’s canceled.

For me, I think the wrong conversations are happening.

Charles Johnston: Select Artists Associates

Charles T. Johnston, known to his many admirers as Charlie, has been a staple of live entertainment since the ‘60s.

Much like the iconic Barbara Hubbard, his visibility and affability belie a storied history. Few, if any, can claim starting out in the biz by promoting a Rolling Stones concert and, along the way, disobeying direct orders from Frank Sinatra and having Little Richard play piano in your house for Thanksgiving dinner.

That’s just the byproduct of spending more than 50 years in the business. Johnston’s main contribution to live entertainment is taken for granted: sports event performances. Sure, halftime shows at the Super Bowl are part of American culture, with marching bands since 1967 and Carol Channing taking the field in 1970. Yet, Johnston and his company helped solidify the culture in the mid-90s with staging that could be moved on and off the field in minutes and was used for a pre-game show at Super Bowl XXX for the Doobie Brothers.

His company, Select Artists Associates, has worked with the NFL for 16 seasons on the production of pre-game, halftime and post-game field presentations. It has staged on-field shows for every MLB All-Star Game since 2003. It has produced more than 150 post-game shows for MLB including 18 at the New York Mets’ Citi Field. The company’s credentials also include NASCAR, the PGA, Major League Soccer, the NCAA and special events for clients like GoDaddy. It also produces Devilpalooza and InfernoFest for Arizona State University. Staging is also used for events like trophy presentations for the College Football Playoff National Championship.

NACPA’s interview delves into all of it, along with answering the question why a production company has a name that sounds a lot like a music agency.

First of all, how’s the day going?

I see business starting to pick up.

How would you define your company?

A production company. Sports and entertainment production. We purchase the artist, we put the package together. We create the show and it’s a one-stop shop.

But you do what a promoter would as far as the actual show goes?

Right. In fact, we did a show at Ak-Chin Pavilion for a client. He was promoting the show, but we booked all the artists and did all the production. He just paid us to do what we do. We haven’t done many of those because when you look at the Live Nations of the world, they do all their own stuff.

But you’ve worked alongside such promoters as Messina Touring Group.

Nov. 10 was the start of my 55th year in business – and there’s no book. A CPA has all these rules and gets licensed. In this business, there are no controls. It’s all about ethics, relationships and integrity. I take a lot of pride in having strong integrity and tremendous relationships. That’s what’s making it all work.

This shakeup with the pandemic has been an interesting thing for all of us. Look how many people have changed from big agencies to starting their own to just getting out of the business altogether. And look at the acquisition of ICM by CAA, which is a huge deal.

Let’s go all the way back. Your career and my life sync up. I’ve been on this planet 55 years, and so has SAA.

I started before ‘66. I started as a musician. I knew in the third grade what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to be a musician. I taught myself. My grandfather gave me a trumpet. I got good enough that I got myself a full-ride scholarship at Arizona State.

While I was there, we won the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival in 1964 and I started booking bands. I’d see a band and say I can book them; I’m booking mine. I was doing that while I was in school and I was playing five, six nights a week while booking other bands. I graduated and I went to graduate school, Then I went to law school. I taught myself how to do this.

I didn’t finish law school. I came back, got myself an office and the first big show I did was April 24, 1969 with the Rolling Stones at Phoenix International Raceway.

People say how did you do that? Well, it was a whole other world back then when you made phone calls. I worked with GAC, their agency and I had the balls to make the phone call. I had no idea what I was doing but I made it work. That was the beginning.

Music has been my life. I love it and I’m glad to say that. And I was a fairly good musician.

Do you still kick around with the trumpet?

I do and I learned how to play bass and I also play keyboards. I have a grand piano in the living room in the house. About five or six years ago I did a halftime show for the Sun Devils and I had Little Richard come in. It was for the UA game. I had Little Richard and his band at my house for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll tell you what: he got on the piano and he was singing. They’re great people. He was just coming to my house. You’re traveling, you’re working with me, you’re coming to my house for Thanksgiving. I had it catered and they had a hell of a time.

GAC – who was the Stones’ agent? Frank (Barcelona) was everything back then.

Chuck Barnett. He’s still in the business. He’s managing. He was pretty young at the time. His dad was a jazz player I think and that’s how he got in the business.

How did the Rolling Stones go?

It was a great night. It was two weeks after Altamont Racetrack with Hell’s Angels and the murder. Hell’s Angels showed up at my show. They were following the Stones around.

Then I got into lounge acts. I could control them, rehearse them. At one point I had 35 acts out on the road. Working places like Reno, Tahoe, Vegas, nightclubs all around the country.

So, you switched from being a promoter to an agent. Did you continue to promote during that transition?

Yeah, I did shows at the Celebrity Theater. We did some really interesting shows there. I did Jose Feliciano, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors at the Coliseum. Janis Joplin at the Tempe ballpark. When it started to change, I just did my own thing with my own groups. When the ‘80s and disco hit, that was another change because now the club owners were having a DJ come in rather than a 10-piece band. We started doing special events.

I came up with the idea of putting sports and entertainment together. I started to design these roll-on stages and audio systems. I went to an engineer, and we designed a stage. The first place we used it was the Dallas Cowboys/Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl here in Phoenix at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996.

Diana Ross came in on a helicopter and we had The Doobie Brothers on a roll-on stage for a pre-game show.

That was the first act under the new model, and the first booking.

I got the booking because I was producing entertainment for the Cardinals and when the Super Bowl came into town that year, they had a production meeting. They were having a conversation about wanting The Doobie Brothers for $15,000. and I said I could make that happen.

I’ll never forget. Bob Best from the NFL looked at me and said, “You’ve got a week” – as if to say, “What are you even doing here?”

The meeting was on a Saturday. On Sunday I went to my office and said, “I know I said that for a reason, but the Doobie Brothers are getting $100,000 to $150,000 a night.”

I looked them up. The leader of the band is Tom Johnston. But his first name is Charles.

Charles T. Johnston. I looked at it and thought, that’s why I did this. So, I called their manager Bruce Cohn and said, “I’ve got a Super Bowl gig for you guys.” He said, “Who is this?”

I said, “Charlie Johnston from Phoenix.”

He goes, “Really! My daughter goes to ASU.”

I said I was a graduate. We cliqued. It was one of those moments and I made it happen. I never looked back.

Was there another carrot other than cliquing with the manager and having a common name with the leader of the band? I figure exposure, for one.

Exposure was phenomenal! They were guaranteed broadcast time live to 300 million people worldwide. We’ve done a ton of pre-game Super Bowl shows after that. We were primarily doing pregame because our equipment didn’t damage the field. We’d take a big production out there, on and off in, my gosh, two minutes.

Can you please tell us how you first met CAA’s Rod Essig?

I had all these lounge bands working and I traveled a lot. There was a bowling alley in St. Paul, and I had a band working in that area. I went there and there was a kickass band playing with a black drummer who was named Moose. The whole band was about him. He was phenomenal. So, I’m talking to the band, and he walks up. It was his band! I ended up stealing the drummer. I bought him a ticket, flew him to Phoenix and built a band around him. That’s how I met Rod. He was the agent for the band that I stole Moose from.

He was a lounge agent. That’s how he started. I talked to him twice today. We booked a couple of stadium shows today – post baseball game shows. He’s one of my best friends.

We never had a hatchet to bury. We are both still here doing it. And where’s Moose?

What were some of the lounge acts? You had 35.

I had a group called The Gringos. Calliope, Southern Flavor, Phoenix Express. I can’t remember all of them. A lot of horn groups. There were a lot of places to play.

But disco ended all that.

That’s why I came up with sports & entertainment. In 1994, I ended up bidding on a management contract for Chase Field for all the non-baseball events. It was an RFP process and we won it. I had Chase Field for 20 years. Then the Diamondbacks got involved with politics and a new board of supervisors. They said they would leave town unless they took over booking. They said they could do a better job. They haven’t done anything.

So, Select Artists was established November 1967. You just transitioned it from an agency to what it is today and kept the name.

I have a company that runs our warehouse and our office building called Beans & Roses LLC. It’s named after two of my dogs. I’ve got another company, Mountain High Staging and Production. That’s an LLC that owns all the roll-on stages and the semis. I have a deal with a company out of Porterville, Ind., which supplies drivers. We’ll schedule their pickup and delivery times.

What was the history of employment throughout all of the incarnations of SAA?

I started with four employees. We went up to six and now I’ve got 12.

The importance is – and I’ve done the last 20 All-Star Games for MLB – I can walk onto the field and say, “There’s my guys!” And the MLB can say, “Well, I don’t have to worry about this!”

It’s good business. And these people have been here a long time. They’ve been here when it was good and I’m not asking them to take any risk.

Twelve people. Must be lots of subcontracting.

We have an audio company that we use. Believe it or not, they’re out of Greensboro, N.C., called SE Systems. I’ve been using them for 22 years because they get it. I’d rather pay the extra trucking. They’ll be doing the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. They’re coming from Greensboro!

You know there are plenty of sound companies in LA that can do the All-Star Game. But we’re using SE because they’ve done 20 of these games and this is 21. I’m going to have my crew there. It costs a little bit more but there is no margin for error because all of this is televised.

Your client list: What is the background?

We have a long-term relationship with the Angels. Nets. Pirates. Nationals. We’ve done a couple one-offs with different teams. Might do something once then, again, a couple years later. We’re very proud of our 23-year relationship with the MLB.

We still do some of the football teams but not nearly as much as with baseball. There, they rope off the infield, we’ll put something behind second base and put about 1,000-1,200 people on the base paths. The team might mark something up as VIP. It’s a nice promotion. Think about it: “Gee, I’m going to go onto the field and I’m going to see this great band.” It’s a nice experience for the fan.

How many Super Bowl Pre-game Shows have you worked on?

Probably 18 to 20. It’s our equipment and just being a part of it. We haven’t been involved the past five or six years but different levels of involvement because we know everybody.

So business is picking up, you said.

Yes. NCAA. Shows with the Angels and with the Pirates. We’re in talks with several other teams for the season. We’ll be doing the All-Star Game again at Dodger Stadium. I’ve got a number of corporate clients like a huge country club operation in town we’ll be doing shows for. Some repeat stuff from the past couple years. I’m working on a deal with the Miami Marlins. We don’t have that deal yet, but I hope I’m going to get it.

How quickly did things change for you when the lockdowns hit? Was it a 24-hour period?

Some of it was. We had a huge event booked at the Glendale Arena on March 27 and the governor shut everything down on March 23. It was 18 to 20 months. Nothing postponed; all canceled. Every day was something else.

Now look at a football game and how many people are wearing masks. Nobody. It’s coming around.

What are the mandates in Arizona?

They have some but people are pretty much ignoring them. I think the general population has had enough. Of course, there are some mask-wearing for doctors’ offices and Starbucks and whatnot.

The political component of the whole thing is frightening.

You’re doing work with Texas A&M.

Yes, we won an RFP as the company to book and produce shows in College Park. We’re just taking those opportunities and turn them into new business.

This has to be massive.

It’s Kyle Field. 102,000 seats. They haven’t had musical events for the past 15 years, only football, so we’re looking at this as possible dates in 2022. We’ll wait and see what happens.

Meanwhile, the World Cup is coming here in 2026. I’ve seen what we’re doing and I’m quietly positioning myself as this event provides a great business opportunity.

For the rest of us, 2026 is so far away.

The folks from Soccer United Marketing came here to meet with us and we let them know that SAA is serious and would like to be on the radar.

Is it that unusual to plan four years in advance?

If you want to get it, you better look for it. I don’t know how many people think that way, but I do, and I know if it’s going to be here, let’s be the guys.

There have got to be 50 years of stories to tell.

Oh my, and a lot of good ones. People can focus on the bad but there are a lot of good stories. Dealing with Paul McCartney was a joy. The first time I dealt with Paul we did the Super Bowl pregame show following 9/11, in New Orleans in 2002. Two years later he was in Jacksonville. I had nothing to do with it, but I walked into the tent, and he yells at me.

I’m probably thinking he remembered the white hair. But it blew me away. “It’s Charlie Johnston! Come over here! Have a Coke!”

Chuck Berry never pointed a gun at you?

Nope. He was great to book. You paid him $25,000. He got a white four-door Lincoln and a driver, a Fender Reverb with two 12-inch speakers, and you provided the band. That was it.

Dick Alen, his agent, said he was the most literal client he ever worked with. He would do whatever was in the contract and nothing else. If the contract said it was 45 minutes, that’s what he’d play.

Yup, not 46. Dick Alen was a terrific guy.

Anything else?

I had a funny experience with acts that opened for Frank Sinatra at Caesars. Jose Feliciano was one and a singer out of Phoenix, Lee Meza, was the other. Jilly (Rizzo, longtime Sinatra aide) comes up to me and says, “Each of dese guys getz two songs, got it?”

I said OK. I sat down with Lee and Jose, rehearsed them and said we were going to do two medleys.

They went out for the first night and did two medleys which was, like, four songs for Lee and five for Jose in a medley format.

After the show, Jilly comes up to me and says, “Frank wants to talk to you.”


I’ll never forget this: They walk me into the dressing room. On either side – it’s gotta be 75 feet – was a table. Red shag carpet about an inch and a half thick. He’s sitting at the end.

I thought, I gotta walk down and see the King?

They walk me down to him and say, “This is Charlie. He’s the manager of those two acts.”

Frank says, “Who’s idea was it to do those medleys?”

“It was mine.”

He says, “You’ve got some balls. I like you.” And he hugged me.

I about shit my pants.

Then we sat down and had a drink, and then I left.

That’s nuts.

I also handled the Righteous Brothers before Bobby (Hatfield) died. I have a picture here with Bobby, Bill (Medley) and my three daughters. My youngest daughter was six; she’s now 40. It was that long ago. We did a bunch of stuff across the country with them. Quality people.

That alone – working that long with the Righteous Brothers – is worth a book.

Here’s an example of what we deal with. I did a show with 50 Cent. This is for the Mets. I’m sitting with owner Jeff Wilpon. He says, “I want a younger crowd. I want 50 Cent.”

I say, you mean Fiddy Cent! I told him I’d book him but I’m putting an indemnification clause in the contract because you’re going to hear M-F- all night long.

So, I booked the act. We do the rehearsal. Halfway through the first half I walk into the dressing room, I give him the balance of his money and ask to see his song list. I say that the game will probably be over around 10:30 PM and we’ll need an hour of music. We want to be offstage by 11:30 PM.

He gives me the song list. Thirty-eight songs.

“Fiddy! You can’t do 38 songs in an hour, man. All I need is an hour. I want to get out of here before midnight. It’s a Saturday night.”

“I’m gonna do it! I’ll get it done in an hour.”

Well, I know he won’t be able to, but my only other option now is to turn the power off or just eat it. And what the team is eating is 1,116 employees that will be paid overtime.

Fiddy comes out. I’ve got a hand clicker. First song he says muthafucka 87 times. I showed Jeff.

“I had no idea!”

I said this is what I do. You run a major construction company and a baseball team. I do this.

So Fiddy plays all 38 songs. He gets offstage at 1:20 a.m.

So, 1,160 employees got paid overtime because they went from Saturday to Sunday.

You go through those stories and try and tell people what to expect. Country artists will do what they’re asked to do. I’ve worked with Garth, one of the biggest artists there is and never had a problem.

Speaking of Garth, he came to Phoenix when I was booking Chase Field. I got a call from his manager who said Garth likes to do a baseball camp for underprivileged kids and asked if I could help.

I said that I couldn’t give the building away. So, I sat down and worked out a Rental Agreement for $1 for Garth’s Charity.

It’s not a comp. I paid a buck. So, I gave it to him and then I went to the Diamondbacks and said we’ve got Garth Brooks coming into the building. I think I can get photos for you and maybe an endorsement of the team or whatever, but I need gloves, balls, bats and maybe some jerseys.

The Diamondbacks gave us what we needed. I gave it to Garth. He shows up and we had about 130 underprivileged, 15- to 16-year-old kids. None of them knew who he was. Garth starts to play ball with them, running bases, and he stops about an hour in and sits on the pitcher’s mound. He says, “Come up around me. I want to talk to you.”

He said, “I want you to understand how we’re doing this. There’s no I in team.” He goes through this whole thing; I’m watching him and I’m thinking it’s pretty cool. They’re not here because he’s a star. They have no idea who he is.

He goes out and plays ball another hour and a half. They’re on the field three-and-a-half hours. At the end he sits them down again. “You guys got to understand another word that’s important in life: Love.”

He does a whole other thing on that. They leave. He comes to me, and I have my daughter, Jessica, who was taking pictures. Garth suggested dinner before he did his show.

Those kids never knew who he was! But that’s what you’re dealing with when it comes to some of these people. It’s really fun stuff and interesting.

Going back to 50 Cent, I was under the impression that it would be difficult to get a hip-hop artist to play the allotted time, much less do a marathon.

You’re right! But think about it. It’s 30,000 people. What I’m doing now for an artist – I have a nontraditional production. I don’t care who the artist is, I’m going to put your artist in front of 30,000 people. You can’t do that with most artists. They’re going to be in an amphitheater, an arena. Seventeen, 18, 20 thousand. I’m going to do 30,000 at a stadium. There’s so much value in that, with good sound and production that it’s a classy boost for the artist and if it’s one coming out with new product it does nothing but help.

We have not had an issue with production, or being able to get it done, something failing.

No wonder you want to keep the same crew.

No issues. These guys: I love them. And they understand that word. We talk about that kind of stuff. We need to take care of each other. When you see this age of rage we’re living in, you’ve got to stop that!

That’s our attitude and, boy, does that work.

Meanwhile, considering some of the tragic situations that have come with staging, that is not part of the formula.

No. There’s no roof on at all and we do ground support if we have to do lights, which we can roll out. Basically, it’s a quick on and off, plus we have floor lighting on it. Plus, we’ll do three or four long throw Follow spots on the 200, 300 level of a stadium. Like I say, it’s a nontraditional presentation. It’s not all the bells and whistles you might get from a normal show, but it’s real and it works.

We’ve had U2 on it, McCartney, Mariah Carey. We have had the biggest acts in the world on this staging. We did the Super Bowl in Detroit (in 2006) – we had the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. You want to talk about a show? Whoo!

Well, at least one of those artists was known to have some eccentricities with live performance, but I assume most of the people who play at this level consider these to be “just another show.”

I had Steve Miller Band when it rained. We were doing a stadium show in Pittsburgh after a Pirates game. It poured, but nobody left. They were all soaked, and they still talk about the night with Steve Miller.

The owner of the team would say, “I was standing there with you, and it was raining like crazy.”

Steve’s production manager was yelling at him to get off the stage, but Steve said, “These people came to see me, they’re going to see me. If they’re not leaving, I’m not leaving.” And he kept playing.

What an attitude.

Considering the vast majority of artists are professionals, any stories about the exception to the rule? Any “Sly Stone” moments?

I have to think about that. Well, I did a show years ago at a theatre we were booking. This comedian was an opening act and he had to have three or four bourbons before he could go out on stage because he didn’t like crowds. I can’t think of his name. Oh, yeah: Don Rickles!

Don Rickles? Don Rickles didn’t like crowds? Vegas staple Don Rickles didn’t like crowds?

Yup, so, I got him the bourbon and we had a great show.

Select Artists Associates is available at https://selectartists.com/

Chris Semrau: A Venue Perspective

As the U.S. events return with or without restrictions, NACPA decided to take a look at how our friends in facility management are handling it. Chris Semrau is the GM of the once-named Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, a venue that was recently renamed Paycom Center and is home to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.  It was an SMG-managed building until that powerful company merged with AEG Facilities to become the venue’s facility manager, ASM Global. Paycom Center can house up to 16,591 for concerts and has 18,203 seats in its basketball configuration.

Chris, can you give us a brief background?

I’ve been in this business for over 20 years now. I opened a building in Grand Forks, ND, called the Ralph Englestad Arena, the most palatial, unbelievable hockey facility in the country in my opinion. Mr. Englestad hired me right out of college back in 2000. I was part of building and opening that facility and was a tremendous experience to have my first job to be one of constructing and opening a brand-new arena.

I opened and worked at a new facility in Sioux Falls, SD, called Denny Sanford Premier Center, which is managed by ASM Global. I was there 4.5 years. Whe the opportunity was offered to come to Oklahoma City and work at the NBA facility and I jumped at that chance. Three years this month I’ll be in the market and we couldn’t be happier.

How is the NBA scheduling looking for 2021-22?

The NBA schedule for the most part will get back to the original cadence that we were used to prior to the industry disruption. That schedule will come out  in August and the NHL schedule just came out as well. It looks like we’ll be back on the October-through-June cycle.

It is anticipated that the NFL, NBA and NHL will all be 100 percent capacity when they resume their schedule this fall.

Do you have additional dates set aside in case of a virus impact?

We are not holding a secondary set of dates in anticipation of the season being pushed back once again. We are targeting the normal schedule approach from the NBA and are hopeful and confident that we will not have to revise that.

Two seasons ago, of course, the home schedule was cut short prior to the bubble and last year we had to push the season back. However, we believe this year we will be back to a normal approach for scheduling.

What is traffic looking like for next year?

It is significant in 2022. I think many tours have pushed back to play in 2022 and others are looking to resume in that time period. So, next year will be a very significant year for tours. Hopefully ’22 and ’23 will be a renaissance for live shows.

Do you have multiple holds for many dates?

It is not uncommon to have dates with several holds deep, which is great but also causes some logistical challenges as well. I think we’re somewhat in a holding pattern for a little longer before those holds convert over to confirmations or dates are released.

As the professional sports schedules continue to come out, that will help in clearing up some of the date availability and you will see tours starting to make their final decisions very soon.

Are you currently in the position of needing to turn away artists or is the question premature?

We’re not turning down artists. Rather, we’re trying to be creative to supply decisionmakers with options to play the market. If the target date or window does not make sense or isn’t available, we’re trying to work with them on what else could be beneficial for their tour.

I think it is key to offer additional information so that the decisionmakers know which days are more likely to clear and which ones will have more challenges associated with them. It’s important to be as helpful and transparent with the agents and promoters as possible so they understand you’re looking out for their investment in your market.

When do you think the schedule for next year emerge, for the most part?

I think the NBA schedule will   be released in August and, post Labor Day weekend, you will see an onslaught of shows beginning to go on sale. That will also be the time period where much of what is on hold for 2022 will be cleaned up and determined.

Have you heard any significant discussion regarding another lockdown?

I haven’t heard of any relevant discussion about lockdowns or closing the industry once again. I believe events are going to take place. The question is what parameters would be associated with producing and attending those events, i.e., vaccinations or negative tests within 72 hours, which may be likely for the foreseeable future.

I think much of that is yet to be determined in the coming weeks.

As we have been building this interview, there has been a significant uptick in Proof of Vaccines and/or proof of negative COVID testing. Where do things stand with your building, where are they heading, and what is the reaction with patrons?

Obviously the landscapes continues to evolve and we engage in daily communicate with industry and local leaders. Proof of vaccination or a negative test have become a common approach over recent weeks. We currently do not have any policies in place at our venue as prerequisites for attending events, but understand this may change with influence from the NBA, tours, or local officials.

Are you working with the new convention center?

ASM Global has just opened up a state-of-the-art convention center in downtown Oklahoma City. It’s very unique to build a brand-new structure from the ground up in the middle of a downtown major market. It is adjacent to a brand-new OMNI Hotel and a park, which makes it a tremendous destination in the middle of America.

It has 200,000 square feet of flat-floor space in their main trade hall, which is significant along with multiple levels.

ASM Global manages that convention center as well as the Paycom Center. I do not day-to-day manage the convention center. It’s a separate division but it’s still part of ASM Global.

Anything else?

The sports and entertainment world came to a grinding halt on March 11 when we had a player from the Utah Jazz test positive for Covid 19 and we had to stop the game just before tipoff and usher the players back to their locker rooms and egress the building. That was the tipping point of closing down the industry. So we were Ground Zero for the start of the pandemic in our sector and therefore it’s going to be so much more gratifying when we fully return to hosting events and guests in our facility remembering how it all started.

It’s been a beyond-challenging year and a half but now it’s as much about communication as it is about implementation to elevate the guest experience while keeping the safety and security at the forefront of what we’re doing. Everybody is implementing technology and new policies and hopefully providing new experiences for guests.

I think the public will prioritize entertainment high on their list once again once we ‘return to live.’

Dick Alen: Chuck Berry In Paris

The following is the second installment from an unfinished autobiography for legendary William Morris agent Dick Alen:

Back in the relative quiet of Los Angeles, I had work to do for my new client.  It was nothing unique.  Artists like Jerry Lee have common expectations.  They assume that if you sign them on March 1, they’re going to be playing in front of an audience by March 3.  Truth is, the first gig they get is in September. The agent needs lead time. We need to put a tour together; we need avails.

         And I needed to see what Jerry’s last agency already had on the books.  I asked for all existing contracts and the agency, as an order of business, gave them to me.

         There was one existing contract that stood out.  It was good news for Jerry: a traditional rock ‘n’ roll show.  It was a big one, too. It was a festival. One that drew 100,000 people.

         And that festival was in France.

         This was a good thing.  Maybe the U.S. wasn’t into the roots of rock and roll music, but Europe has always embraced it.  It’s no secret how much artists like Keith Richards has adored and was influenced by the pillars of rock like Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.  And it just so happened I was representing all of them. This was also a good time too for Berry, who was still celebrating his first and only No. 1 single, “My Ding-a-Ling,” which topped the pop charts in 1972 and was recorded live in England.

         I had already booked Berry to close the same festival.

         I took a close look at Jerry Lee’s contract. Jerry Lee was also contracted to close the festival.

         It was already enough to know that Chuck Berry was going to be headlining to 100,000 drunk and sweaty French in August. Add to that I was now going to need to play liaison between two of rock and roll’s most famous intransigent artists wasn’t making things any better.

         And, according to rock legend, Jerry Lee and Chuck famously didn’t get along and the movie “Great Balls of Fire” didn’t help any.  But it’s not exactly true.  The two have always had a respect toward each other professionally and personally. In fact, back in the early days, they toured more than 50 dates together without incident.

         The festival, the Fête de l’Humanité, was tied to L’Humanite, the country’s Communist newspaper.  The paper had been a French institution since the turn of the century. It had seen its rises and falls but, in the early ’70s, it was still an influential voice for the country.

         Fête de l’Humanité began in 1930 and originally drew about a thousand people sympathetic to the communist cause.  But by the early ’60s, the festival became a tradition and the audience didn’t need to be Communists to enjoy it.  It kept a permanent residence at Parc Departemenatal de La Courneuve, a massive public park about 15 kilometers north of Paris.

         Jerry Lee’s contract had been drawn up by the office of Albert Koski, France’s main promoter for rock acts, bringing in everyone from Neil Young to Stevie Wonder. He was the festival’s promoter at the time. As late as 1981, he worked with the government to bring the Rolling Stones for its first-ever stadium-sized show in France.

         But there is no way to sugarcoat it: Koski – or at least his company – made a big mistake. Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee had identical contracts. The saving grace was they were already paid their guarantees.

         Berry and Lewis were set to close a festival one year after The Who. Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle were on the eve of Quadrophenia when they headlined the event, starting off their echoing set with “Summertime Blues.”  About 100,000 French rocked out while, in the background, the disinterested rode the park’s Ferris wheel and were plied by vendors along the midway. Political speakers lectured them inside tents. Johnny Hallyday was a repeat performer, and Joan Baez and Pink Floyd were also headliners.

         I made an international call to Koski’s company, KCP.  Koski answered the phone and I told him I had in my hands two contracts promising two difficult people the same thing.

         Not to worry about it, Koski said. He would take care of it.

         In those days, was complicated to take acts overseas except, obviously, Chuck Berry. It was Jerry Lee I was concerned about. Because I handled Chuck Berry all those years, I knew the different talent buyers who liked the original rock and roll so I was able to sell Chuck to Europe often. Chuck, of course, has always traveled cheaply, going everywhere with just a suitcase and maybe an ES-355, recruiting whatever local artists were willing to be in his pickup bands. He’s played with 16-year-old nobodies to an undiscovered Bruce Springsteen. It’s just a matter of calling them into the dressing room, asking them if they know “Maybelline” and if they say yes, it’s a go. He’s always said that if you don’t know how to play Chuck Berry music you shouldn’t be playing rock and roll. And he’s right.

         He’s made a lot of money that way – to this day he still drives the lawnmower at Berry Park. 

         So Chuck flew alone. That wasn’t going to be the case for Jerry Lee.

         Jerry Lee was accustomed to traveling with 20 people. There were three or four first-class seats, 16 in coach and a whole bunch of equipment. That’s relatively easy to do in Tennessee when Jerry Lee, his band and his entourage is just taking a bus from Memphis to Nashville.

         There were also hotel accommodations. Jerry Lee needed a three-bedroom suite at one of Paris’ more famous hotels, the George V.

         I, too, had a room at George V. We arrive the same day as the festival, which began at noon with some local acts. Chuck and Jerry Lee were to go on around 8 p.m., after Alan Stivell, a Celtic harp player, and French folk singer Catherine Ribeiro.

         Chuck had landed that morning.

         About this time, Koski came to George V.  I opened the door to a tall, darkly tanned man with a mop of long blond hair. He had something to ask me, Judd and Jerry Lee. We met in Jerry Lee’s dining room and pulled pull up some of the hotel’s provincial chairs.

         Koski calmly explained the situation to Jerry Lee, that he and Chuck have identical contracts. Would Jerry Lee be so helpful, he asked, as to be the second-to-last act that evening.

         Jerry Lee took a sip of his brandy and cocked his head.


        There was nothing to do but look at each other and listen to the ice rattle around in the glasses of Jerry Lee and Judd.

         The phone rang. I walked across the room and answered it.  It was Chuck Berry.

         I held the phone and turned to Koski.

         “What are you going to do about this?”

         “Please,” Koski said. “Ask him if he’ll go on first.”

         I talked to Chuck and turned back to Koski.

         “He’ll do it,” I tell him. Koski exhaled.

         “He’ll do it for more money.”

         Koski shook his head no.

         There was a heavy price to pay for Koski’s decision. Berry hung up and we spent hours in the hotel room, waiting for calls from Berry each half-hour as he drove around the city. He would call from different phones, not telling any of us where he was at.  If he did, we’d be able to track him down and negotiate. 

         Judd and Jerry kept drinking, and Koski kept saying no.  By the time I took Chuck’s fourth call, I had to step over a passed-out Judd to get to the phone. 

         Noon had turned into the afternoon. And the afternoon turned to early evening. We still needed to travel congested boulevards to the dusty field.

         During one Berry phone call, Koski relented. He’d find a way to pay Chuck, stood up and headed back to the fairgrounds.

         Chuck Berry was still on the line. “Be in front of the hotel in five minutes,” he told me.

        I walked out in front and he pulled up in a rented Chevrolet. I get in; there was no seat belt. He had a map of France, inked with a route to the park. I get into the passenger seat and Chuck floors it.

         We were barely out of the city before traffic slowed.  Apparently not all of the 100,000 concertgoers were at the fairgrounds. The line of cars stretched 10 kilometers.

         When it comes to contracts, Chuck Berry is the most literal client I’ve ever known.  He may have delayed all day but now that the contract is in place, and he knew what conditions needed to be met, nothing was going to stop him.  He was late getting to the stage. He yanked the steering wheel to the left, turning the car into oncoming traffic. We crossed the lane and hit the shoulder. Chuck took the shoulder the rest of the way, rumbling past hundreds of cars. It was one half-hour after starting time.

         We reached the fairgrounds and were met by police.  One leaned in our window.

         We talked in English but there was one problem: they didn’t know who Chuck Berry was, and didn’t know that they were talking to him. More arrived. There was more argument. It was now an hour past starting time.

         The hot August sun was still shining; the sun would not set for several hours.  In the background I heard a crowd of young, drunk, mad working-class people.

         Chuck Berry turned the car toward the main stage. We could see thousands pressing toward the front of the stage. And the math was easy: in a crowd of this size there were a good dozen assholes already causing serious problems.

         We reached backstage, parked and went to Koski’s on site office. He greeted us and, along with the newspaper’s publisher, we sat down at a table. I probably should have expected it: Koski pulled out a check.

         He pushed it over to Chuck.  There was one redeeming factor: it was for the full amount of Chuck’s request. Two bad things: it was a check, and this was Chuck Berry.

         To Chuck’s credit, he said thank you very much. Then he pushed the paper back and said what I knew he would say: “I only take cash.”

         Koski tried to persuade him. The box office was back in Paris. There were no tickets sold on the fairgrounds. There was no cash here.

         It’s the 1970s; Chuck Berry does not take checks. The IRS would eventually make sure he’d pay for that but, for now, Chuck Berry just went to his dressing room. The crowd waited.

         Koski needed cash fast and the nearest source was right in front of him. But  L’Humanite’s publisher would have none of it. So Koski started yelling at me.  I just yelled back it this is his fault; he should never have signed identical contracts. This was his problem, not mine. I was trying to appease everybody, but I represented Chuck Berry.

         Finally, the publisher looked around, grabbed a wastepaper basket and took off. There was nothing for me to do except to wait. I spent my time trying to keep Chuck happy.

         We were now well two hours past starting time. Jerry Lee and the band he brought with him probably pulled in around then, and probably found their way to whatever dressing room was assigned to them.

         The publisher, panting and sweaty, returned with the basket filled with cash. He somehow strong-armed the vendors into contributing into some kind of an impromptu benefit. The three of us go to the dressing room where Chuck Berry is waiting patiently. He took a look inside the container. He didn’t bother counting it. Instead he said, “I can see that you’re trying. I appreciate that.”

         And with that, he headed toward the stage in his silky red shirt and yellow pants, between three and four hours past starting time. The stage is filled with bottles and trash. The front row is police, keeping the crowd away.

         Berry tossed an ES-355 around his shoulder, walked onstage, flicked on his amp and turned to the musicians. 

         “Watch my feet for the pace,” he said, “And watch my guitar for the stops.”

         He began the riff for “Johnny B. Goode.” For his contractually obligated hour and not one minute more he ran through his usual set. I want to say Berry turned the crowd into a dancing mass of happy French. That’s never the case for people who’ve waited almost four hours. But at least they stopped throwing stuff.

         Minute 59 came to end. Chuck Berry turned off his amp, leaned a guitar against it, and then walked off the stage and toward me.

         “OK,” he said. “Let’s go.”

         And that was it. We got back in the car, just us and a wastepaper basket of money, leaving behind an exhausted promoter, and traveled down the dirt road, looking for an exit. 

         Behind us was the familiar sound of a bass drum as Jerry Lee’s band tested the stage sound. Soon I heard the tinkle of piano keys. Koski’s voice came over the P.A, introducing Jerry Lee.

         “Mmmmmmm,” Jerry Lee said. “You better open up my honey, it’s me who’s a knockin’.”

         Like it once was, Jerry Lee was no longer country. I imagined him kicking away his piano stool as we reached the gate.

I was exhausted. Alone in my room in the George V.  Chuck was long gone, catching a flight to another country, another show. It was 11 p.m., still August, still hot.

         But it was Paris. The city is was still alive, and I was hungry, and I had friends here. There was no way I wasn’t going to leave without getting a good dinner.  I called a few friends I knew here and we met nearby, at a packed bistro.

         It was one of hundreds of the best restaurants in the city, which meant it was one of the best in the world. We found a table near the bar and waited for our server.  I lifted my head and looked around. Through the crowd I noticed a shock of blond hair.

         Koski. A very tired Koski. 

         He left the same time I did. The headliner was on, the security was in place. To Koski, the show was over.

         I reluctantly put my napkin on the table, stood up and took a long slow walk around the tables. Koski was with his wife, film screenwriter and director Danièle Thompson, who may have been better known than her rock and roll husband.

         “Albert,” I said, holding out my hand. Koski couldn’t have been more concerned about his dinner.

         “It’s been a long day, hasn’t it?” I asked.

         Koski snuck a look at his wife, equally blonde and quiet.

         I dropped my hand, turned and went to my friends.

         It was his fault.

A Touring Hospital: Interview with Entour Med’s Jeremy Pinyard

As founder of Nashville-based EnTour Med, Dr. Jeremy Pinyard has developed a concept that one would assume would be more common: getting touring artists a home base for medical treatment.

Yes, A-list musicians may have their “Rock Docs,” and movie and television stars their equivalents, but not every artist can afford to have a doctor with them 24/7. EnTour Med works to fill the gap.

Pinyard began the company, currently staffed with four doctors plus nurse practitioners and support staff. Traveling musicians don’t have the luxury of keeping their medical records in the van.

I’ve said if I could write a book about this, I’d call it, ‘Artists in Their Pajamas’ or ‘Rock Stars in Their Underwear,’” Pinyard said. “When I see them, they’re not the people you see onstage. They’re just human beings, in front of us, in trouble.

“And I’ve been in rooms with my idols. People I’ve listened to my whole life. And I’ve thought, OK, you’re just as sick as everybody else so maybe I can get you feeling good again and that will be my little bump to contributing to your life and moving forward.”

EnTour Med could be defined as a worldwide PPO composed of doctors with whom EnTour has developed relations.

What’s your background?

I come from New Jersey. I went to the University of Tennessee where I studied biochemistry then got a graduate degree in neuroscience. After that, I went to Northeastern University to study music business. I thought I wanted to make a radical departure because I was unhappy with neurobiology research. Well, I get up there, liked the music industry but always felt like medicine is more my calling. I thought, how could I swing it and get back into the entertainment industry?

Five years ago, I fortuitously landed this collaboration when I moved to Nashville.

I didn’t know a soul. I moved here from my ex-wife’s job. What I found out is that it is such an approachable city and I just started calling people I read about, people in the music/entertainment business, medical field, biotech, the head of Nanotech Institute. I would introduce myself: “I’m a medical doctor, I’m new to town, I’m not trying to sell you anything or buy anything. I just like what you do and wondered if you’d like to have a cup of coffee.”

Pretty much everyone said yes. I started building this network of great people.

I was working as a critical care doctor. My background was in intensive care. Ultimately, as I moved my way into the entertainment space, I got a phone call on a Wednesday evening in November from somebody I just met.

“’Hey, we have a Grammy-winning artist that’s in town that’s sick. They’re supposed to be in the studio tomorrow. Would you mind coming and seeing this person?’”

I said sure. Management – from a London-based firm – called and gave me a cloak & dagger thing: “Go to the hotel and give them this fake name and they’ll take you up this elevator and you’ll go see this person.”

I thought, what am I getting into?

I get there. The concierge is waiting. They knew who I was so I got upstairs, met the artist, got them all sorted out and they were back in the studio the next day.

About three days later I get another phone call. They heard I saw that other artist and wondered if I would mind seeing this one.

This just kept happening, every couple of days! “Go in the studio!” “Go into this house!”

I kept thinking, where are the doctors here? Where are the people taking care of these artists? Surely, they have their own heath care team. But they didn’t!

That’s where the idea began. I realized touring artists, especially country artists, spend 70-80 percent of their time on the road. If they’re living in a regional healthcare system, they are isolated by that system when they’re not home.

How so?

For example, if someone is attached to Vanderbilt University Health Care System, which is a big one here in our area, and they get sick in Iowa, they’re shit out of luck. There’s nothing that can be done as far as communicating medical records. If they land in ER and something goes wrong, it’s up to them, their staff or management to convey the medical background or what’s going on.

You probably know as well as I do that when you’re in an emergency situation and your memory is not good, you don’t know what medications you’ve been prescribed. You don’t know where you’ve been. You just know you’re not feeling well.

Starting about five years ago, we lost several artists to overdoses as the opioid epidemic was coming into play. They were traveling around and getting prescribed high amounts of opioids for different issues. Some of them would use their celebrity status to manipulate these prescriptions.

As I began to realize this, management was getting me involved to see how we could stop it.

I said, “Well, this is easy: You have a phone, I have a phone, let’s just make it a thing.”

The company began to take shape as a tele-health company. Someone might get sick somewhere, and I or my staff would get on the phone with those doctors. We’d find medical help. We began to be the liaison, the coordinator for what’s going on.

The idea was to keep the artists from having to go to those walk-ins, having to go to those hospitals, having to go seek help because, instead, they could pick up the phone and call.

We really started to manage and solve this increase where people started booking more shows. We had an artist here two years ago – big celebrity – who booked a show at Bridgestone Arena. He got sick the night of his big show and we not only got him to perform, he added two more shows because he was feeling so great – all sold-out.

We began seeing this response that we called the EnTour Effect. The EnTour Effect is the artists are getting healthier, they’re feeling stronger, more empowered, performances are going up, they’re recording better – all this stuff that started to bloom.

Why hasn’t this been done before?

The answer was, it was really difficult. And getting into the entertainment industry is very laborious. We had to come at it from a place where we would never take anything from these artists; we’re not here to be your friends or fanboys. We’re here to take care of problems for you.

And the Nashville scene is especially insulated. It’s tough to break in.

Los Angeles is a little different; people there were really receptive to us. But here, one of the first artists I picked up was through referral and I started working with him and ended up getting an email from someone in management wondering who I was.

I remember going to a conference room and there are, like, five people looking at me at the other end of the table. They’ve got my resumé, they pulled up my LinkedIn. It was like an interview process! It was really awkward; I felt like I was in the principal’s office!

Also, there was this looming Imposter Syndrome going on. Who am I to be here? I’m just a guy who showed up and started asking questions. I didn’t feel I had anything special to offer; I’m just here.

It took me a while to accept that this was really valuable, I’m valuable, the service is valuable and it’s worth talking to people about. As I became more confident, these conversations got a lot easier and I didn’t mind being interrogated.

Any interesting stories?

I met an artist early on that had been working on losing some weight. The CMAs were coming up. He went through this long history. He had probably been to 17 different physicians around the country – people giving him hormones and all kinds of stuff. Diagnoses left and right, up and down. All sorts of treatments, all sorts of side effects.

He had a basketful of prescription medications that I could barely wrap my arms around, finger to finger.

We started breaking it down; I started digging into his medical records. It turns out that the gentleman was just diabetic! He had never been diagnosed because no one had ever taken the time to really do the basic medical-school work to go through it. You know, when you go see a hormone doctor, they’re going to put you on hormones!

I told him, man, let’s get rid of all of this shit. He came off of it and lost all of the weight.

That is the value of having a good primary doctor: to say this is getting crazy. Let’s get rid of all of this. And that’s a scenario that plays out over and over.

How does this confusion happen?

It’s not a failure of the doctor. It’s not that they have bad doctors here. When artists are busy and touring that much, they just don’t have time to see a doctor. That’s the main thing.

If you’ve been in a doctor’s office lately, it’s a half-a-day affair just to check in, for someone to take a look at you and to come back when the lab work is ready. You just don’t have the ability to waste six hours out of a day and to come back later.

So, they just avoid that and the avoidance is what has caused all these issues. Then they’re feeling bad and someone just recommends a visit to a friend in Colorado who does whatever. Or they’re coming out of drug rehab and get sent somewhere. They just get shuffled around and nobody is the quarterback. Nobody is saying, “I don’t think this is a good use of your time” or “We’ve got someone closer to us that can handle this sort of thing.”

One of Nashville’s main features other than entertainment is healthcare. You can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a doctor’s office. It’s very easy to get to a doctor; it’s just the time it takes.

I feel like that’s a big issue in our country right now. We avoid doctors because it’s not a good experience. It takes too long.

In that last example, though – how many wrong turns had to happen to have 17 misdiagnoses?

In this artist’s case, he had been in drug rehab in Colorado, was having some issues with his health, he saw the psychiatrist that was there and basically was diagnosed with a psychiatric issue. He was put on more medications to help.

When he was released, he got a referral to another psychiatrist here in town when he came back home who continued that diagnosis but then he was complaining about fatigue, which he thought was a side effect. They sent him to Florida to see a specialist. Then he was up in New York, then someone in Seattle. He was just getting pushed around. Bless his heart, super nice guy but the status of his celebrity also kept him from taking a hard look and saying, hey, this is ridiculous.

I see that a lot, especially when artists are hospitalized. When someone is in the hospital, they get put in with VIP status and basic steps get skipped. Little stuff gets missed and they turn into big issues. It’s just doing the sequence of work, doing the pattern, doing what you’re supposed to do to make the right diagnosis.

When I looked back at the original psychiatrist’s notes, it was there. The diabetes was diagnosed: the hemoglobin numbers showed it. She just didn’t look at it.

So now you’re getting doctors treating the side effects of other doctors. Suddenly it’s out of control.

Everything seems so specialized when it could be simple.

The term we use is holistic medicine and that doesn’t mean herbs and Eastern stuff. It’s looking at the patient as a whole person. The UK is very good at this in their system, which is socialized. I had the privilege of training in the UK when I was at Cambridge.

You go to a primary care doctor first that’s in your town and because they’re government employees, the government is able to control how many doctors per capita. The area is never really full. You see your PC doctor and if they can’t figure it out, they’ll refer you to a specialist. It’s a proper channel where you can’t just show up at a specialist, say you have a headache, and they fix your testosterone level. You miss the forest for the trees.

Here, we have such high specialization, everyone is isolated, working in different groups and nobody is communicating. It makes it really difficult to practice if you’re someone that’s moving. And for patients who are constantly moving, it’s very difficult to have access to your healthcare. Here and in other countries too.

It’s a mess!

So, what’s your recommendation for artists and touring managers? How do you correct something like this?

Well, hire us! You probably have a PPO. You may see your doctor; you may see someone else but the notes should be standardized and you get homogenized care. But that’s not always the case.

What happens after hours? Your practice should have someone on call. But you call, they’re closed, and you go to the emergency room. Those doctors have no idea what’s going on. They just do their best to get you back on your feet. It’s called, “Treat ‘Em and Street ‘Em.” They get people back out there and tell them to go see their doctor tomorrow. That’s not good enough if you’re on the road.

You need a tele-health system. Tele-health docs can get on the phone with you, manage the issue, make calls on your behalf where you are. If you have to get a specialist, we’ll call the cardiologist office in the middle of the night, wake the doctor up, bring them out there. We’ll talk to the ER doctor if you have to so you’re facilitating care that’s moving through so you’re giving the right information so the doctors on site can make the best choices and not just guessing.

Everybody wins: the doctors taking care of the patients like it, the patients like it, we like it because everyone is working together.

So, for traveling artists, they need to be attached ideally to a practice that has the facility and the ability to have someone on call 24/7 when they can pick up the phone, get on Facetime with somebody, show them what’s happening, get the right care that they need and have access to those medical records.

How many people in the entertainment know about you? What’s the percentage?

Ah, not many. I work mostly with artists here in Nashville. I’ve got a couple in Austin and a couple in LA who happen to be moving through. I don’t do any press or outreach. It’s just word of mouth.

That’s largely by design so we can maintain our focus. I’m not ready to scale to a capacity where we can land all this stuff.

But this is my fifth year doing this and it takes a while to get this running. We’re getting faster now. With Covid, we had to pivot, step back and see what was going on. Ideally, I would like to offer services to anyone in the entertainment space. I would like to develop a film aspect, have medical care for someone on set.

We had an actor who got hurt two years ago while they were filming in Namibia.

Being able to interact with staff and people when they’re in foreign countries, to me, is the favorite thing to do. Using Google Translate, figuring this out, getting drugs, working in different languages.

Again, it’s just about being able to take your doctor with you. If you have a phone, it’s all set.

Does this mean you travel as well as have a network?

Both of those things happen. I’m traveling to go to see an artist – to set things up for the first time or they’ve been hospitalized. If they’ve been hospitalized, we’ve been on the phone the whole time working that and I’m on a flight to get them in and out of a hospital quickly. All those boxes get checked.

You would be surprised at how many misses happen in a hospital. It’s crazy.

With the goal of getting that artist back on the road (because that has insurance issues) it becomes a snowballing effect. The artist must stay on that schedule.

Now, when I’ve got someone who’s been injured in a foreign country I’m definitely not flying there. That’s not a good use of my time. I’m finding staff that’s on the ground there, working with local doctors. If they have EMS on site, we’re coordinating with them. All the information is coming back to me or my staff in real time so we can coordinate the care. We want to get out of the way of what people on site are doing. We’re just making sure no mistakes are made.

But I assume you have a staff and a network – people in certain cities who do certain things. They’re not on your payroll but it’s like your own version of a PPO.

Correct! I have a full-time staff here, four docs who work with me. We rotate calls. We’re basically a Big Tech company. We have our technology staff that manages our EMR and financials.

Here’s an example about being out of state: We had an artist who was coming back from vacation in Mexico. They had to land the plane because he was having chest pain. Turns out the artist was doing a lot of cocaine while on vacation and was having a heart attack.

They landed in Iowa. Now we’re working with the airline support team to make sure EMS is on the way and I’m speaking to the on-call cardiologist at the hospital. We are giving the background.

So, now, we have a doctor that’s in this town that is familiar with our work. In situations like this, we’ve naturally grown our network.

I tell you, everyone I talk to – docs on call in the middle of the night – are always happy to help. The number one question I get, always, is how did I get this job?

It is a very natural, organic process where we have a lot of docs that I’m now familiar with in New York City – we can refer people out, they can come to the hotel, come to their house. It’s building this national, globalized network that we can put people in place.

And, if they want to get paid, I’m happy to pay them.

Then, doggone it, how wide is this network?

We had to work with a doctor in Singapore two years ago.

Would you say the 48 contiguous?

For sure. We have someone in Anchorage that’s seen patients for us.

OK, well, what about here in Fresno?

In a case like that, I would hope somebody in the group would have my number and dial it immediately, first call. While we’re talking, my staff is calling 911. We’ve got the GPS location from the phone so we can direct EMS. We’re on the line with EMS while they’re approaching. We’re manipulating the situation from afar. If somebody partied too hard, EMS can administer something for chest pains, something like a beta blocker, a first-line treatment. Unless there’s cocaine on board. You never want to give a beta blocker where there’s cocaine so this is very important information of what the artist is actually doing to precipitate the event.

After EMS, it’s on the phone with the hospital with the ER doctor who’s going to be receiving. They have all the information. We’re faxing things that they need. When the plane lands, we should be prepared to get them, stabilized and out of the hospital as quick as possible.

Then we’re dealing with the management. Coordinating all the moving parts.

But you say “we” and you recently said four doctors who work with you. This sounds like support staff.

We have managing support staff also. There are nurses, a couple PAs and nurse practitioners who work with us. They’re typically handling that work. The physicians are always interacting with the patient. Nothing bothers me more than wanting to go see a doctor and you’re stuck with a nurse practitioner or a PA, someone you don’t want to talk to and can’t make decisions on your behalf.

You should be super popular by now.

Well, one of the reasons I’m not is because doing this is really expensive. They ask why they can’t see their regular doctor. Well, where was your regular doctor the last time you were partying in Fresno?

We try to find the price point that makes sense.

When we first conceptualized this, I really had limited insight toward the entertainment space. I assumed all artists were rich and famous. That’s not the case. These are all hardworking people, grinding it out, barely making a living most of the time. The ones that rise to the top are a small minority. We deal with people who are just like us: blue collar.

I work with a couple of nonprofit organizations here. We do free medical services for people, especially during Covid when they’ve all lost their jobs.

How big do you want to get?

That digs into my own pathology. One of the things I really love about this job is helping an artist do their job. It’s an amplification of my own work. When I work in ITUs I see one patient at a time so it’s this outcome-driven situation where I began to feel that I had so much more to offer that I can help way more people but had to figure out how to do that. I get a multiplier effect if I can get this artist back onstage and he or she can broadcast out to their fanbase.

My pathology is I want to help as many people as I can. How big do I want to grow? I don’t know! There’s a tipping point where it gets too heavy and the quality of work starts to diminish. We’re not there yet. With Covid we were able to restructure, clean up some of the bullshit in the company and focus down. Now that we’re seeing this 2021-2022 rise, we’re now looking at how many more artists, what quality we’re looking at, how we make ourselves available.

There are plenty of doctors that would love to come work with us. The work is nice, it’s easy, good clients, it’s interesting. It’s a good quality of life. I’m doing gardening in the afternoon; that doesn’t happen when you’re on call at a hospital.

I would love to see this entity spread but I’m not the person to grow it.

Confidentiality must be especially difficult at times.

I can’t say who my patients are and that can be difficult in the entertainment industry, where you’re driven by, “Oh, I’m working with this artist” and you build your reputation with who you’re working with. We don’t have the luxury of doing that. We have so many high-end and low-end artists but we don’t get to tell anyone who they are. Confidentiality is incredibly important.

It is frustrating because there are a lot of great stories.

How many people total?

Before Covid, close to 700 patients. With Covid, we moved everybody to a free service. I’ve probably kept track of maybe 100 to 120. Now, we’re looking to scale up fast because everyone is looking to get back on the road.

NIVA: Now What?

The National Independent Venue Association was one of the few positive byproducts of the Covid-19 pandemic. As businesses shuttered, NIVA, under the auspices of First Avenue Productions’ Dayna Frank among others, was formed to lobby Congress for emergency relief for independent venues. The association eventually built coalition of more than 3,000 members from all 50 states, Washington DC and Guam.

With the efforts of NIVA, the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Program was signed into law in December, allocating $15 billion in federal emergency relief via the Small Business Administration. NIVA also raised more than $3 million in relief independently.

This was the motivation behind NIVA’s formation. What does one do now with a trade organization? We asked that question to NIVA spokeswoman Audrey Fix Schaefer

One could say that the National Independent Venue Association has achieved its stated goal, having received government funding of $15 billion. So now what?

Right. NIVA is a 501(c)6. It’s a trade association but the trade org has a 501(c)3, the National Independent Venue Association Foundation, or NIVA Foundation. Underneath that umbrella we have been raising money for, and distributing money through, the Emergency Relief Fund.

It was taking Congress a long time to pass the bill and venues were going under as we waited. We created a fundraiser with YouTube, the Save Our Stages Festival. That was a major contributor to the money we were able to raise. There were others: Jägermeister and other individuals who have donated. We’ve gotten more than $3 million distributed to about 160 venues across the country, giving them a lifeline as they wait federal funding.

Thank goodness we now know that April 8 is when the Small Business Administration is going to open up application processes for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. We cannot wait for that day when venue operators and promoters can get the emergency relief they’ve so desperately needing since last March.

In the meantime, we’ve been readying ourselves as a full-fledged trade association for independent venues, promoters and festivals.

Before, we weren’t together on anything. But it was clear we had to fight for our own, individual business survival and each other’s to be successful. We’ve established loyalty and comradery.

First, we survive, then we thrive.

So what does the future hold?

We’re working on reopening assistance. Venues and promoters can find the most up-to-date literature at our website.

We are also focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for members. While we have been shuttered, a lot has gone on in our country to put a spotlight on our ability to do even better in that regard on DEI. We have a committee that is providing guidance for members on that.

Where exactly can one find the literature?

Members have access to a member portal that includes reopening guidebooks. We get information from all sorts of resources across the country on best practices.

It’s a fast-moving environment right now. Thankfully, the vaccines are coming more quickly and they can’t come soon enough. This is now a post-vaccine industry.

NIVA can be contacted at https://www.nivassoc.org/

Interview: Mark Geragos

There are several significant names in the fabric of American life that have a background in music promotion. We can start with film entrepreneur Jerry Weintraub. There are others like Roger Ailes, who produced Broadway shows. There are yet others that nobody wants to talk about anymore.

Then there is one of the most significant names in criminal defense, Mark Geragos. He has spent 40 years building a formidable reputation as a defense attorney, representing everyone from Gary Condit to Wynonna Ryder to Scott Peterson. Those in the music industry recognize his name for his defense of clients Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and Nate Dogg.

However, what few probably know is that he began his career as a concert promoter, turning a restaurant called Perkins Place in Los Angeles into one of the hippest joints in the market. The building began in 1924 hosting opera and vaudeville and was, at times, a movie theatre including for porno.

One person who never forgot is “Poorman,” the online persona of Jim Trenton, a DJ at KROQ who wrote the following:

“Perkins, originally The Raymond Theatre, became the destination for live shows by all the new bands KROQ played, including Oingo Boingo, X, the Go-Go’s, Romeo Void, Adam and the Ants and plenty of punk shows.

“The promoter of Perkins, to this day, was the best I’ve ever seen,” Trenton wrote. “He was a swashbuckling, skinny, loud-spoken, quick-talking guy about to attend law school … . You might recognize his name: Mark Geragos.

“He could have gone in a different direction and become the greatest concert promoter of all time. He promoted these shows in cooperation with the station. The way listeners won tickets was to bring in a bag of 100 soda and beer cans to the station for recycling and they’d receive a pair of tickets in exchange. You can probably imagine the mess! Trash bags filled with cans were everywhere in the KROQ building.”

This was 40 years ago. Mr. Geragos can be forgiven for not recalling the details but he can be applauded for remembering so many. And, yes, it is entertaining to hear him list off punk bands.

There’s plenty of information out there when it comes to your history as an attorney but not much at all when it comes to your history as a concert promoter. What got you involved?

I was going to law school and I had done some concert bookings while I was in college. It was interesting. The guy who I had worked for when I was in high school as a waiter had purchased a theater and I thought it would just be a perfect venue to do concerts. We did a couple, starting off with Smokey Robinson, I think. Then we did one other.

I had buddies over at KROQ and all of a sudden it occurred to me we could be doing festival-style shows downstairs and spotlight bands starting to make it in the New Wave scene. We took bands like Oingo Boingo which, at the time, was playing high schools. I like to take credit as the first person to put them onstage on Halloween. I think we did that two years in a row until the Universal Amphitheatre stole them from me and sold it out at its 6,000-capacity.

Then we did bands like The Ramones, Gang of Four, 999. We used to break bands that were being played on KROQ. I had the DJs there as my announcers.

We would also throw comedians up. That was a scary thing for a comedian with these kinds of crowds back then. I used to laugh, saying it was feeding the Christians to the lions, to put a comedian up in front of people waiting for Siouxsie And The Banshees.

For that show – Siouxsie And The Banshees – we had a moshpit in the front and that place got crazy! At one point people were spitting on her and she didn’t take lightly to that and I think concked somebody over their head with her guitar. The Pasadena police arrested her right after the show.

I thought it was the guitarist.

It might have been. I thought it was Siouxsie. I don’t remember! It’s been 40 years. Until I talked to you, I didn’t realize it’s been more than 40 years.

(Editor’s note: Siouxsie once said, “John McGeoch got arrested in Pasadena. Some girl was getting beaten up in the audience. And John, being a fiery Scotsman, just went and whacked the man on the head with his guitar. The man had the nerve to file a complaint against him for assaulting him with the guitar! It was an acoustic guitar as well, it wasn’t a *heavy* one.”)

I remember, whoever it was who got arrested, my father, who had just left the DA’s office, represented them and got it dismissed.

  • This is taking me down memory lane too. Gang of Four would have been my band in junior high.

Yup! And The Waitresses we did there. Romeo Void. The Go-Go’s. Oh geez, the English Beat!

The highlight had to be when we did a surprise show with The Pretenders. They had already sold out four nights, I believe, at Santa Monica Civic and this was a surprise show on the fifth night. And who walks in but Bruce Springsteen! He gets on stage with Chrissie Hynde and they do Jackie Wilson’s “Higher & Higher.”

I said to somebody, “I think this is about as good as a way to go out on promoting rock concerts as I’ll ever have.”

  • So this was 1979-1982. If I know my history, that ended because you, well, just wanted to go into law.

Right. I always wanted to be a lawyer but I loved music and I had a bunch of friends at KROQ. There were great synergies. It was a magical time in rock ‘n’ roll.

  • That seemed to be a lot of hipness for 1980, to be honest.


  • … That was the hair band era. You’d be more excited to have people excited about Night Ranger than the Violent Femmes, at least where I came from. But clearly you had enough successful shows to keep going; you had a crowd for it. But of course, we’re talking Los Angeles.

It really was an incubator at that point. KROQ was coming into its own. We just caught a wave, if you will. It was a magical period of time.

  • Online you can still see Perkins Place itineraries and they lean more toward old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll like Paul Stanley’s solo project.

Those sort of came after my time. But I do remember a few shows that stick out. George Thorogood & The Destroyers was not one of our typical acts but I loved the music and he did 50 States in 50 Days and we were the 50th show.

Then, also, we did The Plasmatics for three or four nights, then I took them down to the Olympic Auditorium and we tried to blow up a bus onstage. I was not selling my third show with the Plasmatics so what we had to do is I announced on KROQ that I was going to have Wendy O. Williams blow up my partner Jim Perkins’ Lincoln Continental if we sold out. Well, that sold the show out and she did. She blew up Jim’s Continental onstage.

It’s ironic because I had a rather fractious relationship with the fire department back then. Now my law office is in a rehabbed fire building.

  • Do you recall working with agents at the time?

I do. I recall Ian Copeland, who was the brother of Stewart Copeland of The Police, who ran the FBI (Frontier Booking International). Then we had a contact at William Morris and another person, Rick Olson, that I bought acts from. For a while there, Copeland and FBI was very, very tight with us.

  • I know this person who worked at a record company at the time as an intern and loved making deliveries at FBI because it had the cutest receptionist.

(laughs) Right!

  • … who one day became famous as Courtney Cox.

There were two other guys I worked with. One was about my age, who worked for Bill Graham and we coordinated because they were up in San Francisco. Talk about a Concert Promoters Association! [editor’s note: we called around and the person was likely longtime BGP exec Danny Scher].

There were certain synergies. Elmer Valentine was still alive at the Whisky. He was legendary.

  • Do you think this part of your life, and the interactions you had, helped inform your relationships with future music/entertainment clients?

I don’t think there is any doubt that having dealt with talent in a high-charged situation builds a skill set.

Perkins Place shuttered temporarily in 1984 after Geragos joined his father’s law firm and Avalon Attractions, which picked up where Geragos left off, grew weary of neighbor’s complaints. It wrapped with a show by The Cult in 1984 and reopened in 1987 with the help of Pacificoncerts, run by former Avalon exec Roger Shepherd.

Note from the Executive Director

As executive director of the North American Concert Promoters Association, I would like to briefly introduce myself and associate director Linda Moody.

I have been involved in the concert business since the mid-90s when I began a career at Pollstar Magazine, which started in my hometown of Fresno, Calif.  My original career path involved education. My father was the superintendent of the Herndon School District and I was expected to become a high-school English teacher. 

However, one thing they tell you in the state teacher’s credentialing program: There’s a big need for teachers. One thing they don’t tell you: Nobody’s hiring.

At Pollstar, I initially had a data-entry position that helped pay off my school debt.

From there I learned not only the basics of the concert industry (what an agent, promoter, and manager do) but also important names of businesses and individuals involved in the industry.

My introduction to NACPA came through the Concert Industry Consortium of 1998 when it sponsored the keynote address by Tom Ross, the head of the CAA music department.

Over time, I was promoted to national news editor of Pollstar and noted how NACPA continued to play its vital role in the concert industry. My knowledge grew as did my contacts. I rode elevators with Sharon Osbourne, was told by Frank Barsalona why he never smiles (he fell out of a tree as a kid and paralyzed his face), got chewed out by the important people by rites of passage, and met some of the coolest people in the world. I watched my life get immersed by The Station fire in West Warwick, R.I., reported on the the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster and saw the head-scratching emergence of e-sports. Along the way there were numerous interviews with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Dan Aykroyd, Taylor Swift, Michael Bublé and many others.

As time presented, again, a change, I left my position to take care of my aging mother up to the time of her passing.  In 2019, my career path went full circle when offered to take up where Cynthia and Ben Liss left off – to continue the legacy of NACPA. It’s understood that’s a big assignment.

Alongside with me at NACPA is Linda Moody.  Linda is a longtime associate who has an extensive background in banking and office management. We look forward to working with all of you as the concert business begins to reopen later this year and the years ahead.

Interview: Brent Daughrity, partner, Anderson Benson Insurance

Brent Daughrity is a partner at Anderson Benson Insurance and Risk Management, leading its Entertainment Practice Group.

In this role, Daughrity works with clients across multiple genres, ranging from baby acts to superstars, providing strategic counsel and tailored coverage solutions to protect artists and their interests. During his tenure Daughrity & team developed a Music & Social influencer program and were named Lloyd’s Coverholders. 

He is a current member of the CMA, ACM, Recording Academy and AIMP and sits on the board of Horton’s Helpers, a charitable organization providing financial assistance to deserving Autism programs focusing on the growth, development and adaption of individuals in the autism spectrum.

NACPA asked him about cancellation insurance and in the process the discussion soon incorporated Cyber Security insurance and an effort to get the word out on the newsletter of Michael Strickland, founder of Bandit Lites, who is lobbying DC on behalf of the industry.

Is event cancellation insurance the top conversation you’re having right now with clients?

I think there are a lot of questions that are swirling out there but event cancellation is a big one. Talking about the cancellation market, most of the risks are underwritten in London at Lloyd’s of London by a continency syndicate. Basically, there are eight syndicates that are individual insurers that will accept a risk. For example, if there is a tour and the artist is asked to perform 75 shows over 12 months for a $10 million guarantee, the promoter wants to make sure the advance is covered in case of a death, accident, illness, travel delay, communicable disease like Covid 19, terrorism, civil commotion. I place that risk in the London marketplace.

Again, you have eight syndicates that will take a piece of that $10 million. There will be a lead syndicate that’s 33 percent and the rest will follow. The market is very small. There’s not a lot of entertainment syndicates in London.

Does this mean the eight syndicates will pay out 100 percent to a max combined total of $10 million if the insured risk occurs?  


What if five agree but three do not? Is the slack picked up and paid by those five so they end up paying out far more than their initial percentage?

All the syndicates have to follow the lead syndicates’ decision.

What is an example of when a claim was denied for cancellation – when the show did not occur but the syndicate refused to pay?

There could be many reasons why a claim would be denied as any insurance policy it only covers specific perils – i.e., death, accident, illness, unavoidable travel delay, adverse weather.  Claims that might not be covered is pandemic, Covid-19, or preexisting illness that wasn’t disclosed on the application.

What is the status of the Tokyo Olympics?

It looks like it will be canceled. Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of Covid infections. If it is canceled, that would be a $2 billion to $3 billion loss to the London contingency marketplace.

If the loss occurs the eight syndicates will go down to probably four. They’ll just get out of the market. It won’t bankrupt them but they’ll just get out of the space. 

Are there reinsurers involved – meaning the eight have the frontline risk but, if they want, why not layoff some of that risk or bet on a reinsurer (who insures the insurance firm’s policy)?  Is that commonplace?

There is no reinsurance on this line of coverage because each syndicate is only underwriting the percentage of the risk they are willing to take in the event of a loss.

The cancellation market as a whole is a big question mark for most managers, business managers, promoters. All three are buying this coverage. And what will rates look like? Can you insure against Covid? Will you ever be for communicable disease or variances of Covid?

The answer, right now, is no. You can’t insure against something that is already present. I think you’ll see some aggressive markets that really try to get a lot of rate to underwrite communicable disease.

I think you will see one come into the market who’ll say, “Look, for a song and a dance, we’ll insure against variants of it,” but it’s still unknown.

There are so many pending claims. I still have tours and events that have canceled that we’re still working through. Syndicates really don’t know how big their total losses are going to be from 2020 and lingering into 2021.

What is the biggest question or top concerns the insurance companies have about paying out those Covid cancellation claims?  What is the holdup based on?

Any cancellation claim is a process. The client has to prove the extent of the loss and forensic accounting has to have all the proper documentation to calculate that loss. 

You’ll always be able to get cancelation insurance: death, accident, illness, unavoidable travel delay, cyber. You’ll be able to buy all of them. Will prices increase? Absolutely. Will promoters require the artist to carry it? Absolutely. I’ve seen several of the major promoters’ addendums and they are requiring anything and everything. They’re wanting coverages that don’t exist. The promoters are doing it to protect themselves from another catastrophic event like Covid-19. 

Regarding promoters’ liability for “causing” a so-called super-spreader event: Some say they are very much in the line of fire; others say it would be difficult to prove an event caused a contagion big or small. Where do you stand on that spectrum?

Yeah, that’s a tough one. If you read the CGL form – Commercial General Liability form – in order for liability to be triggered legal liability has to exist. It exists by the wrongdoer being found guilty of negligent conduct. The injured party suffers actual damage or the wrongdoer’s negligent conduct is the proximate cause of injury or damage.

One of the three has to be triggered in order for liability to exist. In the world of Covid, it doesn’t meet the requirements. I am of the belief that, unfortunately, on the liability portion, if a promoter was sued for Covid, the claim would be denied. 


Because it’s excluded from all insurance policies.  It would be like someone suing a promoter for getting the flu at a concert.  That wouldn’t be covered.

Actions and inactions that would possibly lead to legal liability would include if a promoter, or a client, allowed an employee who is known to be infected to continue working or if they failed to adhere to health prevention guidelines or if they remained open after a civil authority close.

What about a member of the act’s road crew? An employee of the venue? A staffer with the security company or the concessionaire?

The legal liability would be on each vendor’s employees.  If an artist allowed a crewmember to continue his job duties knowing that person had Covid, it would go back on the artist.

On the general liability standpoint, I think you’re very limited in Covid defense by way of liability if you were sued for that.

Also, there’s the staff. There’s workers compensation. For that, in most workers compensation forms that I’ve read, there is not an exclusion for communicable disease but there are two guidelines. The illness or disease must be occupational, meaning it arose out of, and was in the course and scope of, the employment and/or the illness must arise out of or be caused by conditions peculiar to the work – e.g., health workers, hospital workers.

It would be potentially tough to even claim workers comp but I find that to be a much grayer area.

Do you believe you are in the majority opinion?

I do. I think most people are saying that. To go a little bit further, there are some actions that are being discussed in Washington D.C. that could potentially hold the insurance carriers responsible. We’ll see.

They are considering passing a bill called the Liability Indemnity Act. Promoters and artists that sell out stadium tours are concerned that without the passage of this bill, there’s the potential they open themselves up to a class action lawsuit for Covid-19 related illness. Until that legislation is passed, there’s the possibility. There’s a push in the industry of having that passed. If not, I think promoters/artist will potentially steer clear of large-scale events.

Are you saying only large-scale events are in danger of class-action? What about clubs or theaters?

It should be a concern and applies to any business and any size room

I think the approach from the management side is to just not do it and see where this goes. I think all of them are saying let’s not do it for 2021 and plan on 2022.

Another year of waiting around.

Yeah, it’s sad. We are seeing just one part of the world, one industry, that is being decimated by Covid-19. I’m on the Academy of Country Music Covid-19 committee and we discuss the hurt and how the Academy can help assist people that are out of work during this time. We’re trying to lobby to Washington DC that our industry needs help.

Michael Strickland, founder of Bandit Lites, has made it his mission and has taken it upon himself to lobby for our industry. He is just a force to be reckoned with. He is staying in Washington a lot. He’s probably doing 10 television programs a week. He is communicating with them and just really trying to get the CARES Act and Safe Stages Act passed as well as the Liability Indemnity Act passed so we can all go back to work and live our lives.

For those interested in receiving the newsletter, Michael Strickland, owner of bandit Lites and a voice for the concert industry inside the Beltway, has offered to contact him through his email, MStrickland@banditlites.com.

We’ve never had one, single occurrence of this magnitude that has affected our industry where we needed a lobbying group. There is no common voice in Washington D.C. that is looking after us as an industry. Michael has change that for the industry.  It’s amazing the billions of dollars the industry represents and we don’t have anybody lobbying on our behalf. What’s been a little disheartening but not surprising in Washington is that the perception is that everyone works for a big, rich, famous artist and we are all getting paid. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Strickland has had to educate them that it’s not the case.

Any other insurance topics on people’s minds right now?

The big three we’ve hit – general liability, workers compensation, cancelation contingency. But I will add one other thing. When you go from 10 syndicates down to four, five, and that’s very likely, you run into a capacity issue. Think about it in terms of a bank: you’ve got a billion dollars and all you can loan out is that billion. Once it’s gone there is no more capacity to loan. To go back to the contingency side, it is a really big worry that I’m talking to a lot of people about. I think we need to be smart on how place any of the risk that comes forth because, again, the capacity in the London market just isn’t going to be there. It’s already truncated because the syndicates that are still there have lessened their capacity limit, which lessens their exposure.

The last thing that is a very big topic that people are very unaware of is cyber insurance.

Can you discuss more about cyber insurance? This sounds awful but it’s a topic other than Covid.

I know, right?

I have calls weekly with London and when you hear insurers start talking about the Next Big Thing, you know there’s truth to it. Lloyd’s having offices in 37 countries across 6 continents you hear what is happening globally.

I’ve already gotten a lot of calls about cyber insurance. I believe London and others have commented that 2021-22 being one of the worst cyber warfare years the country has ever seen.

From an artist’s standpoint: say you’re set to announce 75 shows at 75 venues. The exposure is they can choose to shut down everything to a venue. And they feel it’s going to be targeted. Entertainment is a target. There are a lot of fans, a lot of people, that can be affected by it. They can show the power of what they can do through interruption. 

Can you give an example of promoter exposure?

For instance, the promoter is having a show and the hour before doors open an attack happens and the show doesn’t go on.  The promoter could be covered by business interruption or contingent business interruption which can be found under your cyber coverage.

Cyber has already become a huge conversation with artists, management and promoters. How do we insure it, how do we protect ourselves in this situation? Cyber insurance has many components but one important is Business Interruption, meaning it could pay a claim if a show went down due to a cyber-attack.

If it is something people don’t know about, they need to ask the question. It’s an inexpensive coverage that is in the client’s best interest to have.  We are seeing cyber exposure showing up on the personal side of insurance as well. Many personal lines carriers have added cyber as an added coverage.

We have seen cases where personal computers have been attacked and the attackers hold personal pictures or data ransom until they are paid.  The cyber policy would trigger coverage and an expert hired by the insurance carrier would negotiate with the attackers to get your personal items back. 

If you start reading about it, it will frighten you.

I think it’s the “c” word of 2021. When Covid is behind us, ahead of us is Cyber.


Brent can be reached at:

3322 West End Ave., Suite 500 | Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 712-4861 / brent@andersonbenson.com

Year End Newsletter

As 2020 finally comes to a close, North American Concert Promoters Association would like to wish everyone the best for next year.

Notes from the Executive Director

It has certainly been a year of transformation, and that includes inside NACPA, with the formal announcement that its leadership will transfer from executive director Cynthia Liss and Ben Liss to West-coasters Joe Reinartz and Linda Moody beginning Jan. 1.  In our next edition, we will share some information on who we are and our experience.  For now, we look forward to leading NACPA into 2021. 

Random Readings

Below are links to some articles we have found to be worth a read.

December COVID-19 Relief Bill – Shuttered Venue Operator Grants


Why rights are the holy grail of the music industry — and more valuable than ever


Here’s what’s in the $900 billion stimulus package


Michael Strickland, CEO of Bandit Lites, has always been an advocate for topics like workplace safety, and he recently testified in front of the US Senate’s Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection seeking financial relief for the live industry. Below is his testimony, among others:


By the way, for those who follow all things Lefsetz, Bob’s latest interview is with Joe Bonamassa.

The year wraps with some consistencies, namely the Pollstar Year-End charts and accompanying articles.

Meanwhile, Pollstar has ambitiously announced its annual Pollstar Live! Conference, combined with the VenuesNow Conference, for June 14-17 at The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.

Likewise, the ILMC has announced is virtual conference for March 3-5. Registration is available here.

The Legendary Dick Alen

Finally, before I took on the role of executive director for NACPA, I was a longtime writer/reporter for the music industry. One project included assisting Dick Alen, former head of William Morris’s personal appearances department, developing a book documenting his interesting life. Dick passed away recently so sadly that project never saw the light of day.  However, Alen’s contribution to music history is significant. He was essential in putting black artists in front of national TV audiences. He had a lifetime business relationship and friendship with acts like Chuck Berry, Woody Herman and Aretha Franklin. He was involved with everything from bringing Julio Iglesias to America to writing the lyrics to “Here Comes The Judge,” made famous by his client Pigmeat Markham. He offered advice to beginning agents like “Be honest” and “Your first day working with your client is the beginning of the end. They will leave you.”

He was also a man who was incredibly sweet, played a lot of tennis and loved tongue sandwiches.

Please enjoy a quick story (never published) Alen shared about signing Jerry Lee Lewis to William Morris. Some artistic liberties were likely taken:

In 1973, I got a call from Judd Phillips. Judd was the brother of famed Sun Records founder Sam Phillips had been working at Sun for many years, handling promotion.  He had also worked promotion for artists the likes of Ray Acuff and was known as a radio man.  For a short time, he even had his own record company, Judd Records.

He was now managing Jerry Lee Lewis, a position he was going to hold for many years. By this time, Lewis had patched his differences with Sam – they had a well-known fallout regarding Jerry Lee’s marriage to his cousin; Jerry Lee had thought Sam was not supportive during the crisis. That was a long time ago at this point.  Now Jerry was finding his way in country music, and Judd and I knew each other because of my relationship with Charlie Rich, and because of William Morris’s new Nashville office.

In a world filled with new rock heroes like The Rolling Stones and The Who, Jerry Lee had discovered a second career in country music. He was already five years beyond his No. 1 country single “To Make Love Sweeter For You” and had already recorded songs that would be classics like “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made A Loser Out Of Me)” and “Another Place, Another Time.” He was about to play his first and only appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.  He was a year into a marriage with wife Jaren Pate, and they had a newborn.  Within a year of Judd’s phone call, the 38-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis would lose his son, Jerry Lee Jr., in a car accident.

Judd wanted more for his client than just a country music career.  He still saw Jerry Lee as a viable rock and roll act and he thought Jerry deserved to return to that scene.

And I was willing to take Jerry Lee as a client.  Of course, we still had to go through several calls’ worth of negotiations, with Judd and I taking several long-distance phone calls between Los Angeles and Memphis. 

Contracts are simple things, on one level: an agent books dates and an artist plays them.  But every contract has variables. There are details to be ironed out. An agent needs to know the commission rate and how many dates will the client be willing to do a week. What is the pricing? What is the artist worth? Does he like to work in clubs? Does he like to play big concerts? Does he want to be on big shows? Does he just want to play by himself? 

These, of course, have to be covered in writing. And the client has parameters, too: Will William Morris make a guarantee on television? Will the agency have the client meet with the commercial department?  Will the client get a commercial? What are the chances of getting into a movie?

One of the unique points Judd wanted was television.  He believed Jerry deserved four television specials, one each for spring, summer, fall and winter. William Morris, and my connections, definitely provided the best leverage for that. Still, we told Judd that was one thing we could not guarantee. We were very happy to try but in 1973 rock music on television was not popular. People weren’t watching music and they certainly weren’t watching rock and roll – maybe Andy Williams or Barbra Streisand. But for Jerry Lee, especially 10 years after his popularity, we suggested the best thing would be to get a couple of guest spots on some major variety shows. And, at that time, most of the variety shows were gone. Johnny Carson was more like it.

So I had to talk Judd out of his request. I reminded him that William Morris was one of the biggest agencies in the country, or the world, and we had a television department of between 50 and 100 people. They were selling everything from major movie stars to movies of the week – the Bill Cosby television series, for instance. Jerry would have a better chance with us of getting some type of TV coverage than he would at some independent agent based in Nashville that didn’t have a regular conversation with TV buyers.  That’s how it works: You promise best effort. You give them a history of what best effort has done for some people. It works for some, it doesn’t for others.

Also, we’re assuming everything we say to Judd goes to Jerry Lee. And we felt Jerry Lee could upgrade where he’s playing and get more of a pop audience instead of a strictly country crowd.

Not to say that wouldn’t be difficult. In Los Angeles there was The Palomino, which was a great club that paid really well but the only people who went there were country fans. It became the first place we booked Jerry Lee, but it was so we could invite television and newspaper contacts. We knew that was a place that would be packed with Jerry’s fans.  Once we had that taken care of, the next step would be to bring him to Universal Amphitheatre or Santa Monica Civic Center – someplace more likely to bring in a pop crowd.

Eventually we reached an agreement. It was just the formality of getting Jerry Lee’s signature. 

Judd wanted a photo op for the event. I would fly to Memphis, go to his office, meet Jerry Lee, we’d shake hands, take pictures and tell each other how much we loved each other.

That was the plan, anyway.

I flew to Memphis, landing in the afternoon. I got a rental car – not only because it’s convenient but I had learned that it’s a good idea to have my own wheels in times like these because if a problem crops up, I can get out immediately. That experience was about to pay dividends.

Judd met me at the airport and I followed him to his office.  It was around 4 p.m. But, unlike what I expected, Jerry Lee was not there. Instead, I sit listening to Judd talking on the phone.  I’m told Jerry will be there at 5. Then, the story is, Jerry will be there in another hour.

“Hey look,” I finally tell Judd.  “I got to get to the hotel. I haven’t even checked in yet.” I wanted to check my suitcase, wash my face and get something to eat.

Judd understood and came up with Plan B.  Jerry was going to be at a club that night, right across the Mississippi in Arkansas.  He suggested we have dinner then drive out there to meet Jerry at around 10 p.m.

And that’s what we did. I went to the hotel, checked in and had dinner with Judd.  Then I followed him to the club and got there around 10 o’clock.

Jerry wasn’t not there. And he wasn’t there at 11 p.m., either.

Around midnight, Jerry arrives. He was glad to see me and, obviously, I ws glad to see him. We took a table and had lighthearted conversation while we waited for the next show to start.

Jerry Lee ordered up some drinks. Not for us, but for him. He’d order a Brandy Alexander and a double Tequila Sunrise. Over and over.

Now, stories about The Killer’s drinking are plentiful, and there are legendary stories about things he may have done when he wasn’t sober. But that’s not the whole story. He is, at heart, a Southern gentleman. When he was straight, he was fun, nice and very pleasant to be around. But when he had one too many in the afternoon, he could become unpleasant.

The show ended around 2 a.m. and Jerry Lee was probably had about four rounds to himself, although I wasn’t keeping track. But I was definitely getting nervous.

“Jerry,” I said, “You know, I’ve got to take a 9 o’clock plane. Can we take care of the business?”

“Sure,” he says. He wanted to sign the papers in the manager’s office.

So we go there, along with Judd and a few others.  I take the contract from our legal department out of my briefcase.

“Wait a second,” Jerry Lee said. “I don’t want to just sign it. This is a very important event. Jerry Lee Lewis is going with WEEliam MORris!”

He turned to his manager.

“Judd, go out and get the photographer.”

Judd left the office. Meanwhile, Jerry Lee turned to one of the hangers’ on. “Bring me a Brandy Alexander and a double Tequila Sunrise.”

The drinks come first and Jerry Lee didn’t waste any time.  The photographer came in and stood next to Jerry. The Killer grabbed the pen and got ready to sign.

That’s when Jerry finally got a good look at the photographer. 

“I know you.”

The photographer looked puzzled, or at least pretended to.

“I know you,” Jerry Lee said again.  “You’re that photographer from the paper.”  Apparently, it was a professional photographer from the Commercial-Appeal

“You took that picture of me drunk, didn’t you?”  Jerry Lee said.  “You took that picture, the one with that caption. You published that damned photo.”

We really didn’t know what he was talking about, but the photographer did. And the photographer was definitely not apologizing, and an inebriated Jerry Lee was not about to let bygones be bygones.  The minutes kept on clicking by.

“Hey Jerry,” I said.  The two stopped and looked at me.  “I gotta get out of here. My plane’s coming. Come on. I got to get this done.”

“OK,” Jerry Lee said, and looked down at the contract.  “OK.”

He picked up the pen again, squiggled his name on the line, dropped the pen, stood up, turned and round-housed the photographer with a vicious right.

Judd jumped in to separate them, and the rest of the room clustered around the men, pulling them apart.

I looked down at the table and grabbed the papers.  The signature was definitely on the right page. I shoveled the papers back into my case, ran out of the room, got into my car and tore down the highway to Memphis.

We look forward to 2021 as much as you do.

Joe Reinartz

Executive Director, NACPA

Linda Moody, Associate Director

Joe Reinartz