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December 21, 2023 116 mins

The first half is about concert promotion. The second half is about the Grateful Dead. I guarantee you will hear things you've never heard before.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:08):
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome back to the Bob Leftstar Podcast. My
guest today is John Cher. John, what's the status of
the independent concert promotion business today?

Speaker 2 (00:23):
Post a pitiful Live Nation overwhelmingly dominates the entire concert business.
I believe they are monopoly. So far, the Justice Department
has not said that AGE is a much much smaller competitor.

And then there are you know, literally a handful of
of independent promoters. Really only a handful of ones that
were once major promoters as we were. I mean we
were for many many years OP ten promoters. One or
two years, we were the biggest promoters in the country.

But what's happened is, you know, Live Nation. Look, their
model works for them. There's there's no question I did.
I didn't. I wasn't a believer. They tried to buy
me a couple of times, and I was not a believer.
I see now how they've been successful, and uh, you know,

you got to take your hat off to Michael Rippino,
who you know, is running a public company that, despite
the fact that many people, including myself, think it's a monopoly,
is is doing pretty well. So you know, it's very hard.
I don't think somebody young in the business could repeat

what I've done or what any number of other major
promoters Jerry Michaelson, Greg Proolf and Jerry Wasserman the few
of us that are left, but do it.

Speaker 1 (02:03):
Okay, what is the status of your promotion business at
this point?

Speaker 2 (02:09):
You know, it's pretty good. We've become a small hale
theater company. For the most part, We've got only an
occasional arena show. We've got two sold out Tool shows
at Madison Square Garden next month. But arena shows, where

I used to do fifty sixty a year are down
to a handful. So you can't make the profit and
nor therefore be able to support the infrastructure that you need.
So you know, over the last ten years or so,

we've gotten smaller. We're still doing about one hundred shows
a year, but almost exclusively anywhere from five hundred seaters
to six thousand seaters.

Speaker 1 (03:04):
Okay, so you say you have Tool at Madison Square Garden.
How did you get that? As opposed to Live Nation
or aging.

Speaker 2 (03:13):
Pure loyalty by the band in their agent. You know,
something that something that existed for most of my career.
If you play the act when they're small and you
keep doing a good job. They stay with you, especially
over the since the Ticketmaster merger with Live Nation, that

just isn't the case. I mean, I'll give you a
good example. I played Iron Maiden from the very very
beginning up through and including selling a mat at Madison
Square Garden and in the Meadowlands in a Nasau Coliseum
three tours ago. I got my Madison Square Garden date,

but I came to discover that I was one of
only two promoters in the country that got an arena.
Live Nation got all the rest of the dates. So
we did the show. It sold out. A couple of
years later, my phone rings and it's Rod Smallwood, who's
the manager of Iron Maiden, longtime manager, all right, and

he calls me a note the agent didn't call me.
The manager called me and said, I'm really sorry, but
I can't give you a date on this tour. And
I said, did we do anything wrong? Said no, You've
always been great. But Live Nation made a point of
saying that if they don't get New York, they're going

to change the offer they made and it will cost
me millions of dollars. So I'm sorry, John, You're a
good guy, but we can't play for you anymore. So,
right there, on a given Iron Maiden tour, which would happen,
say every two or three years, I'd usually get four
or five such shows New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany,

those kinds of places. Now I've got none.

Speaker 1 (05:14):
Okay, let's do the math here. You're saying. Rod Smallwood
said if he didn't go with Live Nation, he would
lose millions of dollars. Now, if you look at all
the markets you were in, why couldn't he make those
millions and add them in to Live Nation? Where would
Rob have lost the millions?

Speaker 2 (05:37):
Live Nation would have changed. I don't know what ultimately
they paid him her show or per tour, all right,
but he indicated to me that the offer that he
had if if they if they gave us New York,
and there's a promoter since passed away in Florida, he
got Florida John Stall, that they would change the deal

to to lesser terms.

Speaker 1 (06:04):
Wow, so Rod called you. If you have this conversation
with other managers or agents, well.

Speaker 2 (06:12):
In this case, the agent did never even called me.
Maybe Rod told him he called and and and that's
why I've had similar conversations, uh, with with the managers
and agents, you know, absolutely, you know, if it's an
act that we've had a long history with. For example,

I played Peter Gabriel a lot of times early in
his career and actually promoted the first Genesis tour ever
in America. You know, I when when I saw he
was putting a record out, I called his agent, John
Marks and at w A and I said, I see
Peter's putting an album out. You know he usually tours

behind albums. I said, can we talk about some dates?
And he said nope. I said, uh, why not? He said,
We're going with Live Nation. I said, what if I
could put together a consortium? Nope, we did the last
tour with Live Nation. We're gonna we're gonna do it
again with them.

Speaker 1 (07:19):
Just to stay on your point, how difficult would it
be for you to put together a consortium?

Speaker 2 (07:27):
Modestly difficult? You know. Uh, there's four or five independent
still that you know. I know we'd join together another planet,
jam Niederlander, Danny's Alasco. Uh, so yes, we could put
it together. We couldn't snap our fingers like Live Nation

and aeg can you know they can just snap their fingers,
you know, and in an hour put together a tour.
But you know, given a little bit of time, we
absolutely could do it.

Speaker 1 (08:02):
So let's say you put together the consortium, you put
together twenty five dates. Do you believe your offer can
be as good as Live Nations in raw dollars?

Speaker 2 (08:15):

Speaker 1 (08:16):
And why is that?

Speaker 2 (08:18):
Because? First of all, they try very hard to lobby
acts the only tour in America between like late April
or early May to maybe October, early October. Because they
own or control ninety maybe ninety five percent of all

of the amphitheaters. So when you get an act to
play their amphitheaters, besides the ticket sales, which famously some
acts have gotten one hundred percent of the ticket sales
and amphitheaters, they have all the ancillaries. They have sponsorship,
they have food and beverage, they have merching, and they

have ticketmaster fees. And so at the end of the
day they can break even at the door, even maybe
lose some money all rightum, and still make a lot
of money. I'm told from my deep throat in a

Live Nation that they average about thirty five dollars ahead
in ancillaries. So you know, let's say the average amphitheater
show does ten thousand people. Due to multiplication, they don't
need to make any money at the door.

Speaker 1 (09:43):
What if the act wants to play inside?

Speaker 2 (09:46):
They buy tours that all the time that do inside. Now,
they don't have as many ancillaries, but they certainly have
Ticketmaster and when they put a tour together intoor or
they do everything they possibly can to only play buildings
that use Ticketmaster. And probably I don't know this, but

probably they have deals with certain arenas that they go
to with a lot of shows, so they you know,
they probably have a rebate situation.

Speaker 1 (10:21):
Okay, if you could snap your fingers, what would you
like the live music business to look like?

Speaker 2 (10:31):
Well, I think there's a couple of things wrong. I mean,
the monopoly, the live nation monopoly is the first thing
that's wrong. You'd like to believe that the promoter in
a given market that can do the best job and
or has a relationship with the act and has played them,

would have an opportunity to promote them and at least
match it. But the other issue that's very important is
that ticket prices have completely guns you know.

Speaker 3 (11:08):
Walkers, you know, the average arena or stadium P one
ticket prices.

Speaker 2 (11:18):
Top ticket prices are pretty normally close to one thousand dollars.
So what's happened to our concert industry is two things. Obviously,
there's a lot of rich people in North America, so
you know, it's it's a trophy. They can tell their neighbors,
the neighbors that you know, they're sitting in the fifth row.

And then of course the average fan all right, who
probably can't buy the P one tickets, but you know,
when the when the P two, P three tickets are
down at you know, a couple of one hundred dollars,
they can buy them, but they probably can't go to
a couple of other shows that they would during the year.

So I think that this monopoly is endangering artists development terribly.
I think there are a lot of good young promoters
who promote in clubs in small halls, but they have
little chance of being able to expand their businesses beyond that.
They basically have two choices. Stay modest, can make a

decent living in clubs and small halls, or try to
get Live nation or ag.

Speaker 1 (12:31):
To buy what do you say to Live Nations claim
that their market share is somewhere in the neighborhood of
sixty I'd have to look. I think they say fifty something.
What would you say to that, Well, the question.

Speaker 2 (12:50):
That's most relevant is what percentage of arena and stadium
and amphitheater headliners did they control? All Right, I've got
to then believe that that number is seventy and that

AEG's got another twenty or twenty five percent. It is
very rare these days that arena sized headliners, amphitheater sized headliners,
stadium headliners don't play for one of the two of them.
Tool is Is is a great example. They've stayed oyled
to me and they've stayed oil to you know, a lot,

a lot of independence. Diana Ross has stayed very loyal
and last time ran in New York, they made a
real run at Diana Ross, who I've been promoting for
forty years, and it forced me to have to, you know,
pay a larger guarantee. But it's all out, so you know,

it was fine, all came out in the wash. So
but at the end of the day, uh, you know,
when when the when when the Justice Department first investigated
Live Nation, they claim that yes they are and then
they owned a lot of the amphitheaters. Now they own
almost all of them. Uh. And they they claimed that

the acts could always choose to play indoors. But as
I've explained a minute ago, it's not there. Because if
I do a show at the Prudential Center in New York,
Madison Square Garden, uh, you know, Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, any
any any of the venues that we were going, I

don't get any of the ancillaries. The buildings keep the ancillaries.
Did they give you? You know, the buildings try to
give you a little taste usually they do, but not
a big taste versus Live Nation can say wait until May,
all right before you go out, or maybe end of
April and start down south and and you know, we'll

give you one hundred percent of the box office. Given
ninety percent of the box office, whatever it is, that's
nothing that you can do indoors.

Speaker 1 (15:15):
Okay, let's just nail indoors, because certainly there are a
lot of tours that go out during the winter or
even play arenas during the summer. So you compare the
economics of an arena date that you promote as opposed
to Live Nation promoting well.

Speaker 2 (15:37):
An arena date that an independent like us does. There,
you know, are basic expenses, the guarantee to the act
first and foremost, the expenses of doing of doing the show, rent, advertising, staffing,
et cetera. All right, so you've got to pay to

guarantee put tickets on ill. You got to pay the
guarantee first, and you got to pay all the other
expenses and after. At that point you start to potentially
make a profit. And often the artist makes percentage money
at the amphitheaters. They don't have to do any of that.
They don't pay rent to themselves.

Speaker 1 (16:17):
No, no, no, no, I got that. I got there.
But Live Nation also plays dates in arenas, yes, like you, Yes,
So tell me where the economics differ there.

Speaker 2 (16:29):
They own ticketmaster.

Speaker 1 (16:33):
Okay, let's let's stop for a second. If you could
snap your fingers. You claim that Live Nation is a monopoly.
If you were to break up a monopoly, what would.

Speaker 2 (16:48):
It look like? Well, you know, only the only one
who can really break up a monopoly is the government.
What would it look like? You know, they would perhaps
be forced to sell off a certain number of amphitheaters
that people like me could could pick up. Actually, there's

two amphitheaters that we built that they that they have
now one outside of Buffalo, one in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Uh
so that that you know, that's that's number one, uh
number number number two. Uh the whole uh guarantee idea

of what percentage of the growth they can they can
uh they can give the act, all right, you can't,
as I just explained, you can't do it indoors, all right.
So uh if they got broken up selling off say
half of the amphitheaters to other people. Number one number two,

I don't want them to. You know, they don't have
to uh divet from Ticketmaster. They simply have to uh
let in in you know, the with buildings that they
have exclusively Ticketmaster, which are a huge majority of the
arenas in his country. They and they are exclusive. So

if I go to Madison Square Garden with two sold
out tools shows, the Ticketmaster fees are enormous. They scalped
their own tickets. They have this thing called t M plus,
but they've also been caught scalping their tickets. So uh,

you know, if if I had the freedom, I would
go into Madison Square Garden or the Prudential Center or
or any other venue, and I would use a different
ticketing company. There are a lot of them right there,
all right, but none of them have anything close to
the volume that that ticketmaster has. So those are the

two main things. If we can be entrepreneurial with with
with the ticket providers, and if uh we can break
the the sort of uh gatekeeping of the amphitheaters, uh,
you know, that would make a business such as mine

much much healthier.

Speaker 1 (19:30):
Okay, let's say you do a date a building that
has an exclusive ticket master contract? Don't you share in
the fees?

Speaker 2 (19:40):
Very rare?

Speaker 1 (19:41):
If you do share in the fees, Why would that happen?

Speaker 2 (19:47):
Well, it hasn't happened in a long time. I mean
you know there there. You know, there was a lot
of years that we would do and in the main
AMP in the main arenas that that we worked at,
you know, fifteen twenty shows a year. We essentially were
a franchise. And so if you guarantee a lot of

shows like I did at the old Meadowlands Arena for example,
all right, you had a leverage so that you could say, hey,
I need a piece of you know, I need to
bring my own ticketing in or I need a piece
of what you're getting kicked back, all right, So you know,
but I can't do that volume anymore. And so the

arena is that I, you know, used to do that
with I. You know, if I'm doing two, three four
shows a year versus twenty or twenty five, I've got
no leverage whatsoever. And then you know, the contract with
almost all the buildings includes the use of TM plus,
all right. Every single show that we do, we tell

the buildings we don't want TM plus. But what I
found out a number of years ago was even if
we and he acts, as long as the agent or
the manager will will confirm in writing that they don't
want TM plus, all right, they take it down except
for when the show becomes ninety five percent sold out

or some number like that, and then without your permission,
they put it on on Ticketmaster on TM plus. And
suddenly where sometimes you look at a show that you
know was almost sold out, and there was only saying
a given arena with a capacity of let's call it

fifteen thousand, and you only saw as a tool right
now that there's a few hundred tickets left in each category.
Once they turn on TM plus, all of a sudden
miracle of miracles, there's two thousand tickets available. Now. They'll
tell you that independent scalpers, and it may be, but

it's also them. It's also them. And they, you know,
they've got court scalping tickets. I mean they, you know,
they got caught with Metallica, which you know, you could
you could have knocked me over with a feather when
I found out that that Metallica was complacent with Ticketmaster
scalping tickets. You know, two best managers in the business

as far as I'm concerned. You know, I don't think
they had a lot of control over their clients in
this regard. So you know, you simply can't compete with
the money they make Ticketmaster. And look, when I first
got into the business, actually when I first got into business,
there was no computerized ticket in at all. But early

on there was ticket tron and I you know, I
done off the top of my head, but I think,
you know, the ticket tron feed was probably a buck,
you know, maybe it was two bucks all right. Now
it can be twenty five dollars of which the promoter
gets none up. But if your ticketmaster, sometimes they'll make

more money on one of my shows than I will
on the show at no risk.

Speaker 1 (23:14):
Okay, let's stay with your tool shows. Ay, do you
have any idea with the off the top of your
head what the fees are on the tool tickets?

Speaker 2 (23:24):
I do, but not off the top of my head.

Speaker 1 (23:28):
Okay, let's put it this way. Of the shows that
you do in an arenas of the overall price, what
would you say your fees percentage was.

Speaker 2 (23:40):
The ticketing fees? Yes, I'd say somewhere between ten and
twenty dollars. And for bigger shows to hire the ticket
prices to hire the service charges, which makes no sense
from a business perspective except for them. But for a fan,

Ticketmaster does nothing more to sell a fan a ticket
if the ticket's twenty five dollars or whether it's one
thousand dollars, same process, same computer use. But the industry
has let them get away with it, and there's no

looking back right now.

Speaker 1 (24:32):
Okay. Ticketmaster might say that the majority of the fees
go to the building, that's something you agree with.

Speaker 2 (24:43):
I don't think it's reasonably close to the majority. I
think the buildings get rebates, no question, the buildings get
huge advances, and especially when they're you know, municipally owned
buildings or state owned buildings, they often need the money,

so they basically get bribed into making a Ticketmaster deal.
And that advance is against a certain percentage of of
the service charge. But I would not think it was
a majority or even close.

Speaker 1 (25:20):
A live nation would say otherwise, But we don't have
the facts in front of us, so let's move on
from that. How do you feel about these exclusive deals
with buildings with Ticketmaster? To begin with?

Speaker 2 (25:33):
I think it's terrible. I think it's it's it's it's
you know, helping towards the ruination of of of the
of the marketing of the concert business. You know, if
we could, if if if a promoter could come into
a building and use somebody other than Ticketmaster, all right,

Number one, the service charges would be less much less,
all right? And number two, I think the TM plus
and the scalping would be reduced tremendously.

Speaker 1 (26:06):
Okay, you mentioned these municipal buildings that need the money,
So if we get rid of the advances, what are
these buildings going to say? If we got rid of exclusives,
we're taking money directly out of the bottom line of
these buildings.

Speaker 2 (26:23):
Yes, but you see, they still can. In other words, first,
if they were opened, if the if the ticketing was
open to the promoters, all right, certainly Live Nation would
use Ticketmaster. Certainly AG would use their system, all right.

But the independent promoters, all right, would probably go to
other independent companies, all right, And the buildings could say, Okay, look,
we get x amount of dollars from Ticketmaster, not from
an advanced point of view, but from a per ticket
point of view, and to let you use your own

ticketing company, you've got to match that. Now, I'm not
sure that would be legal, but at least it would
be something.

Speaker 1 (27:14):
Okay, let's go back a step. Yes, like with Taylor Swift,
they said they turned off TM plus. You know from
personal experience that when you and the act have told
them to turn off TM plus, they have turned it on.

Speaker 2 (27:30):
At the end. Yes, I don't know whether they did
a Tails Swift because I didn't promote any I've thought.

Speaker 1 (27:36):
Always said, I know the only reason about Taylor swhich
is I know that she said to turn it off.
I can't tell you what happened there, but I'm using
an example. You have done shows where the promoter in
the act, usually the acts and control anyway, saying no
TM plus. And there has been TM plus.

Speaker 2 (27:53):
Yes, not from the beginning, always towards the end, always
towards the end.

Speaker 1 (28:02):
Now this is something theoretically you could document.

Speaker 2 (28:07):
Oh yeah, oh absolutely. Look I'll go back. I'll go
back to uh Diana Ross. About five or six years ago,
we're playing Radio City. We say no TM plus. Diana's
agent puts into writing no TM plus. Show sells very

very quickly, and we're holding the next day for a
second show. Right, we're now ninety five percent sold out.
They turn on ticket man, the ticket TM plus. I
you know, I jump up and down screaming, yel all right,

they do it anyway.

Speaker 1 (28:56):
So I see that.

Speaker 2 (28:57):
Suddenly they're all a lot more tickets available. All right?
Where did they come from? I can't tell you. I
can't document, But suddenly there's more available, all right. So
now I have to go to Diana Ross and her
agent and her lawyer and say, look, here's the problem.

We add the second show. All right, all the potential buyers,
fans that we're going to buy off of TM plus
for inflated prices, are going to first try to run
to buy the best tickets for the second day, and
we were only like three weeks before the shows. So

I said, it's very possible that the first show we'll
have a couple of one hundred empty seats right up front,
and that's not a good look. And I don't, you know,
I can't recommend to to Miss Ross that that that
we do that She and her her advisors agreed we

didn't add the second day. The Madison Madison Square Garden executives,
who are pretty good people to work with, you know,
tried everything they could to get us they add the
second day, but it didn't make sense. Manna Ross is
a legend, she's a superstar, and she shouldn't play a

show that there's you know, two hundred and fifty or
three hundred empty seats in the first ten rows. So yes,
I gave up a second show that I could have made,
you know, a good profit in. But you know, as
I've always tried, and I try to protect the act.
The act gives you the ability to promote them. You

do everything you can to help that act. I mean, Bob,
I've been doing this for nearly fifty years. I've never
scalped the ticket for one of my own shows ever.
And if you think about my representation of the grateful dead,
how many millions of dollars I could have made scalping
those tickets? All Right, all you can say is I'm

a schmuck.

Speaker 1 (31:16):
Okay, all the shows you've put on, have you ever
found that you're the managers or the ask themselves have
scalped some of the tickets that they'd been allotted?

Speaker 2 (31:32):
Very rarely. There are two instances in the eighties when
the Meadowlands Arena first was built. You know, I was
in business probably for about ten years before that arena opened,
and you know, we owned a Capitol Theater in Passaic,

and you know, did hundreds and hundreds of shows there,
but there was no arena in New Jersey. I used
to do some summer shows at an old Triple A
baseball park in Jersey City, some very famous shows, but
you know, I'm waiting for an arena so it gets built.
It was an industry that was still, uh, you know,

very personally involved. That loyalty was pretty much there all
the time. So as acts that I've played before and
even acts that I that that I didn't. I was
the logical promoter. Our company was the logical company uh
to get to get those shows. Now there's there's a

there's a whole long story about uh my, my relationship
with Royan Dell's no over that. But it's neither here
nor there.

Speaker 1 (32:46):
Wa whoa, whoa what? Just give us a little taste
of that.

Speaker 2 (32:51):
When when I had a good relationship with ron all right,
I stayed in Jersey, he stayed in New York. You know.
I did hundreds and hundred shows in Pasake and Hasbury
Park and Jersey City and stuff like that. When the
Middle Ends Arena was starting to be built, Ronie asked
me out to lunch, and uh like, I said. We

were pretty family in those days, and I said sure.
So we went to lunch and at lunch he says
to me, John said, they're building this new arena, right,
And I said, oh yeah, I'm you know, I'm real involved.
I've been been involved in the you know, in the
ployment and all the pulminary stuff with the sports authority.
You know, I can't wait. He said, well, you know what, John,

I'm going to lose some shows. I said, uh, you know,
because the most acts were playing two shows at the Garden.
There was no New Jersey show all right. So I said,
you're not going to lose them all, you know. So
he says to me, well, we and I we should
be partners on those shows, all right. So I looked

at him and I said, Ron, I, I'll tell you what.
Let's go back to nineteen seventy one when I opened
up the Capitol at age twenty, and let's go back
to whatever that date was in the eighties. I'll show
you my books. You show me your books, all the

money that you made at Madison Square Guard, and you
write me a check for half of it, all right,
and we can be partners on everything. So he lost
his temper a little bit and he said, listen, if
you don't do this, I'm going to put you out
of business, all right. And I said I don't think so.

I'm pretty confident. So the meeting ended. One of the
guys who worked for him at the time, guy named Jonathan.
Sure really good guys, passed away, hung back and said
to me, John, the acts and the agents love Ron.
He's gonna put you out of business. He's not kidding.

And I looked at him and I said, Jonathan, no offense,
I'm not worried. So when Herina opens. For the first
number of years, we basically do every single show, all right,
except for two. One Rod Stewart, the other Madonna. Rod

Stewart's manager and Madonna's manager at the time was Freddy Demand.
In each case asked for something like five hundred tickets
to be held for them. It was obvious what they
were going to do. They didn't say, We're going to
scalp them. They just said, and I turned them down. Uh,

and then I didn't. I didn't get those shows. Delse
New got those. That was the first shows that Delsne
ever got there. So you know, you know what, I
can look you in the eye and I can say
I've been really pretty pretty straight across the board. And

I'm more I'm a schmock. I've told you that before,
all right, I said, I never scapped any tickets. I
never did any funny business with the books. And it's
it's what I thought, you know, A one can just say,
it's the way my folks brought me up. But it's

also early in my career. The most significant or one
of the most significant relationships I developed early on was
with Frank Barcelona, all right and Premier Talent, And you know,
there's never been anything like Premier Talent, even as huge
as CIA and WM and some of the other ones.

Premier probably represented more than fifty percent of the headliners
in the business for a long time. And I was
sort of the youngest guy to get in on the
you know, on the Barcelona gang, all right. You know,
people like Don Wung, Larry Maggott. You know, we're at
least ten years older than me. Graham was twenty years

older than me. And it changed my life, obviously. And
you know, Frank didn't want to hear about people scalping
tickets now, so you know, between my upbringing and Frank's
guidance and Barber's guidance, I never scalped tickets. And I

and I you know, I stayed away from the managers
who did.

Speaker 1 (37:42):
Okay, let's just go back to uh dellsoner, how come
you got all the dates?

Speaker 2 (37:49):
I got all the dates because for ten or twelve
years before that, I would be doing probably fifty or
sixty shows a year at the Capitol and Convention Hall
in Asbury Park, all right. Doesn't ever tried to do
shows in New Jersey, all right. And I worked really

hard from the day I started to establish Jersey as
a separate market from New York. All right. Now it's
even more separate because of financial reasons. But uh, you know,
it's it's you know, I've said this a thousand times.
There's six million people that live in the what was

the old two to oh one area code, so the
northern part of New Jersey. It's the second most densely
populated state in the country, and I think it's the
second highest per capita income. It was a market just
in need of a city, all right. And when I
was little, Newark was a big city, right, and a

lot of act played Nework. There was no arena, but
you know, every played, from everybody from Lawrence Welk to
the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan played Symphony Hall in
New York. Then there were these nineteen sixty seven riots,
and it wiped Nork off the face of the earth,
and still to this day hasn't completely recovered. It's come

a long ways. You know. There's two great facilities there
in a Prudential Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Uh,
and still symphony holes there. But for a long long time,
York was wiped off the face of the earth. But
the Metropolitan Nirk was a huge, wealthy market, and I

grew up there and I understood it. Uh, And that's why,
you know, no one was trying to book the Capitol Theater.
You know, nobody was trying to book Asbury Parker ventional
I shouldn't say that. There was a guy named most
SEPTI very nice man who in the fifties into the well,

I don't know about the fifties, but the sixties into
the early seventies book shows at Convention Hall. He knew
nothing about rock and roll. He was a classical music
promoter and he just believed whatever the agent's told him.
But then when we came on board and started to

look to do shows. At the time, we knew what
we were doing. You know, we knew that the band
who he never heard of, could sell three thousand tickets. Yeah,
you know, So we competed for about a year, year
and a half, and then finally he was a very
nice man. He called me up, said let's let's have lunch,

and he said, I'm going to give you my contract,
all right. I can't compete with you, all right, And
he admitted, you know, he knew classical music inside out,
but you know what was happening is we were we
were booking the shows down the other end of the
borderwalk at a place called the Casine Arena, all right,
and we were you know, we we we knew what

we were doing. You know, it was of our age.
I mean, we were kids. You know. One of the things,
you know that was so much fun for me was,
you know, while my friends were in graduate school, you know,
I was out there promoting concerts with acts that we
all loved. So he saw the handwrite in the wall,
like I said, he was a very nice man, and

he said, stop down the other end of the board walk.
I'm going to give you my contract, set you up
with the town in the city. And so for probably
close to twenty years we did all the shows in
the summer in Asbray Park.

Speaker 1 (41:44):
Let's go back to Frank Barcelona. You and me know
a lot about it. A lot of people don't. So
tell me how you got included Frank and how he
kept everybody in their own area.

Speaker 2 (41:57):
Well, let's start with the second part. Frank envisioned the
concert business almost like pro sports, almost like the major leagues.
All Right, everybody had a franchise if they did their job. Well,
they were professional, innovative, all right. They got all his acts,

all his acts, all right. And I, you know, I,
like I said, I was a generation or a half
a generation behind when that first got set up. But
when I started and I started doing shows in Jersey
while I was in college and then you know, so

it was hard in those days when the Fillmore East
was still open. Graham had an exclusivity that was like
one hundred miles or seventy five miles around New York.
So you couldn't get very many acts to play Jersey
except for mostly the American acts, all right. I used
to play Mountain a lot because you know, you know,

uh and and so uh. In the case of Mountain,
Frank was their age, all right. So when I found
the Capital, and I had a partner in those days
when when when we found the Capital, I you know,
I went to Premiere and went to you know, my
agent there and got in to see Frank and Barber, uh,

and I told them what I wanted to do. They
gave me the blessing. We opened the Capital with Humble
Pie in the Jay Giles band instant sell out. You know,
Frank was there, uh and uh you know, from that
point on, the Capitol was a massive success for its

size in the day it opened. Uh And so you
know what that proved more than anything else was. You know,
it proved me right about the market, all right. Pasacica,
Jersey was a little run down on industrial town, all right,
no place people were going to hang out. But you know,
we did a lot of set out shows. We did

a lot of enormous shows. I mean the Rolling Stones
played there, The Who played there, Springsteen played there, Billy
Joel played there, and in many of those cases way
after they became a renax. So uh, you know. And
and Frank, Frank was really once he got past meeting him,

he's an incredibly nice, friendly guy, as his wife June
is uh. And so I got close with him, and
then I started to to to manage some acts. And
the first considerable act that I that that that that
I managed was Renaissance, all right, and uh I signed

him the premiere and they were, you know, that had
about a ten year run where they were really successful.
They were selling out three thousand seaters, a couple of
gold and platinum records, and the relationship just grew and
grew and grew from there.

Speaker 1 (45:20):
Okay, So let's say you wanted to do something in
Pennsylvania fifty miles from Philadelphia. What would Frank say, that's
Maggot's territory end.

Speaker 2 (45:35):
If it was fifty miles, which is why eventually I
built an amphitheater in scrant all right. Nobody was doing it,
all right? If you could find a market that nobody
else was putting shows into, and there was another market
to be added to a tour, instead of thirty dates,
there could be thirty one dates. Frank and the other agents,

you know, we're fine if I wanted to go to
Cherry Hill or Camden or something like that. Not a shot,
you know, Larry Maggott and Allen speedback all the way.

Speaker 1 (46:10):
Okay. What about Jerry Weintraube when he wants to be
the national promoter and also Bill Graham when he starts
promoting the seventy four Crosby Stills, Nation and Young tour.
What'd you feel about that?

Speaker 2 (46:24):
Well, early on, before my relationship with the Grateful Dead,
Jelled Graham was my hero, all right, and you know
I could fall follow along like a puppy dog, and
so Chrisby, Stills, Nash and Young seventy four. We got

the show at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, and actually
it's a very famous show in that it happened the
night that Richard Nixon resigned, all right, and it was
you know your four Yeah, Jerry wan Troupp, I guess
before I was in in the business, I think he

you know, he did most of the Elvis states, if
not all of them. He did led Zeppelin dates and
oh and Sinatra dates. All right. So here's an interesting story.
When Giants Stadium was first built and it opened a
year before the arena opened, I was working with the

Sports Authority and the shows, the Sports and Exposition Authority,
and you know, I was going to promote the opening
show at Giants Stadium, which was actually in year two.
They didn't want that. They barely finished the stadium for
the Giants to open in September. But in year two
they were ready to do concerts, and there weren't a

lot of stadium concerts in those days. So you know,
I went out and tried to put a show together
and did Beach Boys, Steve Miller Band, Pablo kuz all Right,
so we're holding the date talking to the agent, Wan
trap is the manager of the Beach Boys in those days,

all right, and although they were big, he wasn't promoting
all of the dates. So you know, I'm patiently waiting, waiting,
waiting for the dates to get confirmed. And I get
a phone call. I'm one of the guys who runs
the Sports Authority, guy named Lauris Smith, who's passed but

very important guy in my life. And he, you know,
he ran the stadium in the Arena for a long time.
So I get a call from Morris and he says
to me, tomorrow morning, I want you to be in
my office at nine o'clock. I said, what's up. He said,

you'll see when you get here. And he was a
bit of a wise guy. Great guy, but a wise
guy all right. So you know, I picked my ass up.
I went got to his office and he was sitting
in his office with the chairman of the Sports Authority,
so his boss operationally, not but his boss. And they said, uh, John, Uh,

I'm gonna walk into another office, all right, and I
want you to there's somebody in there and I want
you to talk to him. So we got up, we
walked into the other office and there was Dave Ferana,
worked for Winehop in contract Twist at the time, and
Lauris walked me in and then left and just left

the two of us, all right. So I said, Dave,
what are you doing here? And he, like, you know, stammered, said, well,
you know, you know, Jerry's decided we're gonna Jerry and
Tom Mulett decided that, you know, we're going to promote

the show. And I said, do you see what just
happened in the last five minutes? I said, I don't
think so, all right, and you know, the light bulb
went up in his head. You know, he saw the
way they played it. I got the show, sold it out,

and I got a phone call from Winetop. I can't
remember if it was before the show or right after
the show, but he was laughing. He got a huge
kick that I stared him down, huge kick out of it.
And from that point on and the same thing with

with uh uh Tom Mulett and Terry Bassett, all right,
they almost always found uh, you know, a show or
a half a show for me with all the stuff
that they that they would doing. So you know, uh
it was you know, listen, I was I was a kid,

I was maybe I was thirty. Uh so you know
that was great. Now that led to another great story,
which was you managed the Moody Blues, not just whole
their whole career, but you know, in the latter part
of their career for a long time. And he played
for me in New York. It is after I went

into New York and uh he he uh. I get
the date from the agent and the phone rings and
it's Tom Eulet and he's hysterically laughing so much, and
I couldn't understand what the hell he was saying. He
was just belly laughing out loud. So I finally said,

come get a hold of yourself. You called me right,
So he did, and he said, you know what I've
been doing for the last twenty minutes. I said, I
have no idea, he said, getting screamed at it. Bill
Graham for giving you the Moody Blues. All right, I said,
Did he want it? No, he didn't want He wanted

me to give it to dells Ner. Now, now this
is a whole other, huge part, you know, of my story.
But Graham and I eventually became, you know, bitter enemies.
More on his end in mind. But he hated me
so much at that point because of the relationship I
had with the grateful dead that he actually tried to

hurt me, and and Tom thought it was so he
thought it was the funniest thing he ever heard in
his life. All right, So of course I got the
date and you know later that day where that night
is what Graham died in the helicopter crash. So the

last thing to Build did that I know of, was
try to fuck me. So and you know what I
can say, truthfully, in many ways, he was my hero
when he started, you know, this this sort of war

with me. You know, I learned a lot about him.
I learned a lot from him. He was a great showman,
no question, but he wasn't quite as squeaky clean as
as he would have had you believe that that he was.
I didn't want to fight with him, you know, there
was no reason to fight with him. He's more successful
than I was. He was a lot older than me,

but uh he you know there. You know, there's hours
of stories I can tell you about our interactions over
the years, but that was one of them.

Speaker 1 (53:54):
Okay, let's go back to something you said earlier that
the tickets are so expressed that it's hurting artist development. Now,
I would say the tickets are so expensive because of demand,
that's what people want to pay for them.

Speaker 2 (54:14):
Well, look, we will see in a couple of years,
all right. There's no question at post COVID the the
you know, there was an enormous amount of pent up
excitement about going to live shows again, all right, and
I don't think we've seen the end of that. I

think that there's no question that that ticket prices for many,
many many years were undersolved. All right.

Speaker 3 (54:45):
Underpriced, yeah, underpriced, yeah.

Speaker 2 (54:49):
But should they have dreamt to six hundred, seven hundred,
eight hundred, one thousand dollars twelve hundred dollars? No.

Speaker 3 (54:59):

Speaker 2 (55:00):
A friend of mine the other day told me he
found an old ticket stuff of an Eagles show that
I did in Rochester, New York, and the ticket was
seventy five dollars, and he remembers me going, and I did.
I was at the time very friendly with Irving, and

I said to you nuts, you know, because he averaged
p one ticket price then was probably forty maybe fifty dollars,
And he said there's a demand, and he's right, there
was the demand. But now that seventy five dollars is
probably five hundred dollars, and the ticket prices across the

board for the major acts is way beyond five hundred dollars.
So I think what happens is I think the superstars
will still continue to get those prices and still do
great business. But I think somebody who pays five hundred,

seven hundred, one thousand dollars for a ticket, that's a
middle class person, won't be able to go to a
couple of other shows that they'd like to go see
where the ticket price top ticket price might only be
eighty or ninety dollars, right, But if you're spending seven hundred,
you know, the next month or two you're not You're

saving your money, you know. Now, Look, there's a lot
of rich people in this world, and in America especially,
so you know, rich people are gonna pay whatever they
want because it's a certain trophy. You know, it's you
know those some people are all driving Lamborghinis and porches.
All right. But I think it's going to hurt going forward,

and I think it's already hurt the rock business. As
you have written. I'm sure there's not all lot of
rock acts anymore, you know, all the old ones are
still there all right, but it's very rare that you
see a new rock act really really top off. There's

probably more Americana acts that have grown into being arenact
and straight ahead rock and roll bands.

Speaker 1 (57:23):
And you think that's because the prices for the so
called heritage acts are so expensive.

Speaker 2 (57:29):
Yeah, I do, I do, And look, you know it's
it's it's a with a lot of these acts, well,
the heritage acts. Psychologically, even if they don't say it's
the last tour, everybody thinks it's the last tour, you know.
I mean this was on a what eight year final tour,

and I still don't believe they won't get back together.

Speaker 3 (57:53):
I agree, yeah, you know, uh, the Eagles, you know,
this is the last tour.

Speaker 2 (58:04):
Maybe maybe I think if gunn Fry was alive, it
wouldn't be. But I think that that Henley knows he
can go out on his own and still draw pretty
big crowds. Not as big as Evils, but pretty big crowds.
And the pop and hip hop acts that have exploded,

you know, with few exceptions, I don't think they have
a long career. There are some exceptions, no question. I
mean Beyonce and Taylor Swift. I think forever. But and
there are a couple of hip hop acts that that
will probably have a long, long career. But if you

look back at hip hop twenty thirty years ago, the
acts that were really big, Toy Hell, Cool Jay, they
can't sell any tickets anymore, all right. Snoop Dogg, you know,
I did you know. I think there's a resurgence for Snoop.
But I did Snoop a bunch of years ago and

couldn't sell out the Apollo. So it seems to me
that while hip hop is enormous, it doesn't seem to
be creating long term careers. I could be wrong, you know,
I could be wrong.

Speaker 1 (59:23):
But let's go back to what you said. We have
the COVID build up. Some might say that the concert
business will rage forever because it's unique experience in the
world where we all have the same items, we have
the same phone, we have this and that, and it's
a once in a lifetime maybe experience. Do you think

that the business will fall off in a few years.

Speaker 2 (59:49):
I think the prices will fall off in a few years,
all right. And I think if the price is fall off,
then the business will still stay very healthy. It is
a unique experience, all right, and even to me, and
I'm sure you at the right show, they are in

the back of your next still stands up, you know.
And I've seen thousands of shows, you know, so there's
nothing like that except for maybe, you know, championship sports.
So no, I don't. I'm not predicting the demise of
the conceptist by any way, shape or form. You know.
What I'm predicting is that I don't think it can

sustain these crazy ticket prices over the long haul. Some
of them will be there as long as there's a
super superstar, they'll be there, all right. But I think
the crazy ticket prices will will will have to come down, right,
and we'll have to give the audience a more reasonable

reason to go to shows, to go to acts that
you know, that that that they're not quite sure they
love what they like. And like I said, in the
Americana World, look, you know, Mumford and Sons, Luminears. I mean,
you can go on and on and on. You know,
some of those actually become a renact. You know, ten
years ago there was no such thing as an American

act becoming an a renact, you know, So you know,
I think that's you know that that that is uniquely
American to the American upper middle class, well educated person.
All right, I think they're you know, they're they're, they're
they're listening to these acts, whether it be on their

computer or whether on what little radio is left, and
and the acts are getting big.

Speaker 1 (01:01:45):
Okay, let's say you're talking about these tickets five hundred
to twelve hundred dollars. How can you control prices today
when the demand far out rips capacity and people are
willing to pay much more than the face value.

Speaker 2 (01:02:07):
Well platinum tickets. You know, it's one of the things
that that ticketmaster was good at creating platinum tickets, taking
a certain amount of good seats and basically put them
up for auction so that the heavy hitters, you know,
will be able to pay, you know, higher prices than

the average punter.

Speaker 1 (01:02:35):
What about the secondary market.

Speaker 2 (01:02:38):
Well, I've been fighting this bob for forty five years
and beating my head against the wall. You know, I
was successful at one point in getting New Jersey to
put together an anti scalping law. It was a good law,
all right, except for law enforcement wouldn't enforce it, all right,

And you know. I remember sitting down once with like
a colonel from the New Yorsey State Police and saying,
why aren't you It's the law. It got passed, the
governor signed it, and he was pretty simple. He said,
I'm worried about killings and rapes and grand grand last larceny.

I get no time chasing after a ticket scout, so
you know it eventually, you know it went away. So
you know, I think that if you take complete greed
out of it, there's a way that the industry can
modify scalping all right, with something like platinum all right

and come back down to earth. You know. I speak,
you know, reasonably often at colleges, and I even for
one year toward a course at Syracuse. A lot of
kids these days, college aged kids, which should be the
heart of the music business, don't go to shows. They

go to clubs. They don't go to shows. I've lectured
at NYU a year or two ago. Probably there were
forty kids in the class. Maybe twenty five percent of
them went to shows. They all went to clubs, all right.

Speaker 1 (01:04:28):
Just to be clear, you're talking about a club where
there's a DJ and bottle service and all that.

Speaker 2 (01:04:33):
Stuff, or or even a band, but the ticket price,
the admission is ten dollars, you know, or they passed
a hat. So it's not a lack of interest by
young America in music, you know, it's that they can't
afford to go to the big shows, and certainly can't
afford to go to many of them. You know, we're

going to see We're going to see next year an
annoy or miss rolling Stone tour, biggest ever, all right,
probably as big as it possibly can be, because now
they don't have to say it's going to be the
last tour. The average person's gonna say, they're eighty years old.
How many more times can they do this? I better

go see it, you know. And who aren't far behind that? Yeah,
and look at you Look at the Genesis tour. You
know Collins couldn't couldn't stand up, he he you know,
he performed and sang reasonably well, sitting down. All right,

these acts are going to fade away, you know, and
and and uh, you know, some of them are retiring.
You know, some acts that you know that I did
a lot of business with over the years that we're
still doing great business. Retired Joan Baez retired, You know,
last time she played in New York, I sold that
three shows at the Beacon with her. She retired, all right,

Paul Simon Bass retired, all right. He might do a
date now and again, but he's not gonna tour again.
So you know, some of these acts, you know, are
gonna drag their asses out on stage until they drop.
So you know, we still got, you know, probably a

few more years of the Warhorses, but then what happens now?
Of course? Also I think that you know well, is
country's mainstream. Country was never mainstream in most of my career, never, never, never, right,
And as a matter of fact, very few big country acts,
big country acts ever played New York. All right, will

he always played New York. Will He even played stadiums
for me in in in New York and in upstate
New York. But you know, the mainstream big country acts
didn't play New York. Johnny Cash played. I played Johnny
Cash a couple of once at Carnegie Hall, an amazing shop,

all right, but they just didn't come. And I used
to argue with some of the agents I knew in Nashville.
Is okay, let's say you can sell out an arena
in forty of the fifty states. You can't in the Northeast,
but come and play at theater and I'll do something
to try to build your business. But of course, in

most of the Northeast there was not and still isn't,
any country radio. But the big country acts have basically
become mainstream rock bands, all right, And with all you know,
with all the things that go would be in a
big time mainstream rock band.

Speaker 1 (01:07:50):
Well, how'd you beat the Grateful Dead?

Speaker 2 (01:07:54):
I met the Grateful Dead by booking a show in
the early seventies. He's at this Triple A baseball park,
Roosevelt Stadium, and I booked it just from they had
an agent for one tour. Other than that, they never
had an agent. And a friend of mine named Ron

Rainey was the agent, and he sold me a show.
I don't remember what guarantee I played, but I knew
they were big enough to sell a lot of tickets,
and so I played that first show. I got along
with him. Well, it was a craft to be able

to get along with them, because of the zoo that
surrounded them roadies at all, all right. But you know,
I was a tough little kid, and you know I
took those ship and gave it back home.

Speaker 1 (01:08:51):
So can you give me an example of taking their
ship and give a get back to him? Oh?

Speaker 2 (01:08:56):
One time, one time when they're doing the sound check,
I'm on stage, I think it was up in Rochester
and Kid Candelario of one of their roadies. All right,
I'm standing on the side of the stage, and all

of a sudden, he throws a full can of soda
all right at me, whizzes by my head. It hit me.
It would have killed me probably or damaged me badly.
I didn't say a word. I turned around, I picked
it up and heaved it right back at it. They

respected me for that, you know. And the other thing is,
you know, they were very wary when I first met him. Now,
I wasn't around in the sixties, so all I know
about the sixties, which is a very cold period for them,
is what they told me. All right. But by the
seventies they didn't trust agents, they didn't trust most promoters.

And you know, I developed a nice relationship with you know,
doing a few dates, and then one day, I think
it was probably seventy four seventy five, I get a
phone call like two o'clock in the morning, from Rock Scully,

who was, you know, one of the characters in their
lives and was their road manager at the time. And
he called me and I woke me up at night.
I said, you know what's up? He said, Garcia Hunter
got busted. I said, okay, what do you want me

to do about it? He said, they need to get
bailed out. They're in I think was Mount Holly, New Jersey.
I said, okay, how much is the baill I think
they said two thousand or three thousand dollars. The capital
in those days had a safe with a fair amount
of cashing it always, so said, okay, give me the

address where it is, and you know, I'll go to
the capitol. I'll get the money, and I'll go bail
them out. What he didn't realize was this town was
about half an hour outside of Philadelphia, and I was
way up in Northern Jersey, all right. He didn't bother
to look at a map, because the coolie should have

made with Larry Maggott, all right, but he didn't. So
I jumped in my car, I had a friend with me,
drove for two hours down there, bailed them out of jail,
drove him back to New York and hung out with
with Garcia Hunter till you know daylight, and uh, you know, Garcia,

I can tell you it was one of the smartest
people I ever met in my life. He's up there
with three or four other people, none of whom were musicians.
And we were friends, you know, I can say that,
not the brag, but we were friends. See that picture
right there that I'm portant.

Speaker 1 (01:12:13):
To, well, we're audio only.

Speaker 2 (01:12:17):
Oh okay, you show you cancer me. Okay. So he
painted me a picture, all right, and it's sitting on
my wall. Nobody in the Grateful Dead ever got a
picture from him, all right. So I you know, I
had a very quiet, very interesting relationship with him. And

one day they toured and I played him at Rosloe
Stadium again their Wall of Sound tour, and technically it
was a complete disaster. Sold a lot of tickets, but
complete disaster, and they decided to get off the road
for a while, all right, try to figure out that

the whole sound thing, et cetera, et cetera. So they
filmed the last dates of those tours, which were at Winterland, right.
So you know, I'm sort of staying in touch, you know,
but they're not on the road, not much to do.
Phone rings. One day it's Jerry, and you know, I

basically said, what's up. He said, I want you to
fly out to LA to meet me. I said, okay,
you know what's it about. He said, you'll see when
you get here. So you know you're not going to
say no to Terry Garcia again. In uplone, I fly out.
He picks me up at the airport and I always remember,

this is the first one I ever saw, the two
thousand and two BMW, which was like the starter BMW
in those days. And we went to a studio where
they were cutting the film and they had a rough
cut of the film. He said, I want you to
see the film. So I sat there for whatever it

was close to two hours, I guess, and it was great.
It's still great. It's still one of the great rock
and roll movies of all time. And he said, you
like it. I said, yeah, I think it's fabulous. He said, okay,
let's go. We're gonna have dinner at hal Kant's house,
which is their lawyer, the Dead's lawyer. He's passed away,
but very interesting guy. He was the Dead's lawyer and

he was also a world poker Champion champion, and so
we had dinner, and at the end of dinner we
went and sat down in the living room and he said.
I said to him, Jerry, the movie was great. I

really enjoyed it. Could you tell me why you wanted
me to see it so badly? All right? He said, oh, yeah, sure,
you're going to distribute it. I said, Jerry, the only
thing I know about movies is that I go to
them once in a while. I don't distribute a movie,
all right. He said, that might be true, John, but
you know more about how to promote Grateful Dead than

anybody else alive. So the vote of confidence that you
can't beat. So I learned, and my staff learned very
quickly how to distribute a movie and it was unique.
We forwalled the best sounding theaters, and I think we

ended up playing thirty maybe forty cities one at a time,
a week or two at a time, and brought in
sound systems so that because in those days movie theaters
the only sound was behind the screen one giant speaker.
So we did that, and you know, it was successful.

And then I helped him make a deal with a
distributor to do all the secondary markets and stuff, and
you know, I talked to him nearly every day, and
he had actually, Jerry had a manager, guy named Richard
Loran at the time, who's a very good guy, still
a friend of mine, and he was very instrumental in

all of that. So you know, that's happening. And then
when that's over with, I don't know how long, but
you know, not long after that, I get a call
from both Jerry and another one from Whir and said,
we're thinking of going back out of the road. I
want you to come out and meet with us. So

you know, sure, I jumped at it.

Speaker 1 (01:16:35):
Just before you meet, it's The Grateful Dead. Did you
make or lose money on the movie?

Speaker 2 (01:16:42):
The movie made money. Didn't make a lot of money,
but it made money.

Speaker 1 (01:16:45):
So your flo They say where, and Jerry say come out?

Speaker 2 (01:16:50):
Yep. So I come out and we go to Weir's house,
which is the ultimate bachelo pad at the time, all
right on top of one mountain, and Marin and yeah,
and we sit around for a long time, you know,
probably six seven hours, and basically what they all say

is we want to go on the road. They haven't
figured out how to really play arenas yet all right
where it would sound good see to them. The reason
I think that their career is second only to the Beatles,
that they were the most significant sociological act of the
rock era was because they really gave a shit about

the fans right, and they didn't want up having failed
with this wall of sound, they wanted to figure out
a way to be able, and then they weren't going
to go to bigger places, especially indoors, until they could
get the sound right. So he said, we're not playing arenas,
so you know, what do you think? John? So it

sort of just sort of fell out of my mouth.
It wasn't really any stroke of genius. I said, let's
pick ten cities. Let's play three days in each city,
and you know, the theaters that you would normally play
because at that point they were only playing like single
nights in places. I said, and and you know, let's

you know, let's get get get the buzz back. Uh
and uh they said, uh, okay, but you know, won't
they were very self aware of how big they were.
Uh they said, uh, how are we gonna how are
we going to distribute the tickets? You know, because there'll
be more people than tickets available, and they they didn't

want to do it. I don't remember if there was
Ticketmaster yet or there was ticket tron still, but they
didn't want to do that. So I said to him,
we'll do lottery. How do you what do you mean
we'll do the lottery. I said, We'll put the word out,
give them a post office box, let them, you know,

write a ticket request with money order, and we'll film
until we're sold out. And I like that idea. So
they said, who's going to do that? I said, I'll
do it all right. So I had a little office
in Jersey that was the second floor of a building
that was an insurance broker on the first floor. Anyway,

So we put the word out and it was a
dead head hotline, and two dead head hotlines, one in
San Francisco, one in at the Capitol got the word
out and it was an amazing response. We got hundreds
of thousands of requests for tickets, you know, and the
average seat was probably seventy five hundred and eight thousand

tickets three days in the theater. And the first amazing
thing is they started to come in is the envelopes
almost all of them had really intricate artwork on them.
So you immediately said, Okay, I know they're a great band,
but this is something really special, you know, for the

fans to you know, draw other stuff. So we did.
We did the whole country, twenty four hours a day,
three shifts of people. I lost my lease, I got
thrown out of the office, but we pulled it off.
It did well, had a good time. And over those

few years, uh, they you know, the sound companies were
getting more and more sophisticated. Uh, and you know they're
there sound people always were, you know, really on top
of things. So first I introduced them to Claire Brothers

one or two tours. They were the real state of
the art at the time. And then slowly but surely
they're techies took over it and built their own system
all right. So we started to play arenas, and they
put speakers not only on the stage, but they put
sound like speakers in the back of the arenas all right.

And they put small clusters of speakers in the hallways
all right. So wherever you were, if you were, if
you were a dancer, you were out in the hallways
spinning away, all right. And the music was right there
for so, like I said, they cared about their fans
more than any act I've ever even imagined. All right,

So you know at that point they said to me,
you know, you booked the tour, and I said, uh,
I can introduce you to some pretty good agents. No,
we don't want an agent. You booked a tour. So
we made a deal. How can't attorney was was involved,

and sort of standard deals in those days were guarantees
in eighty five fifteens, all right, So we made a
deal that i'd co promote with local promoters because I
always believe that was best for them, and I always
did that with all my management acts. All right, you

know you don't want you know, you want somebody on
the ground, you know. And so they made those dates
eighty twenties, and I split them with the local promoters
except for the dates in the northeast that I would
normally have promoted anyway. And they became eighty five to fifteen.
And the only thing they didn't want me involved in

was the West coast. They still wanted Graham to do it.

Speaker 4 (01:22:49):
They loved Graham, but they didn't trust Graham. Why did
they trust Well, I think they suspected that he wasn't
giving them suspected that he wasn't giving him a fair count.

And then I found out more this. This went on
for a number of years, and you know, once I
was really established as their guy, Graham got angrier and
angrier with me, all right, till finally one day they
called and they said, we're playing Spartan Stadium.

Speaker 2 (01:23:33):
I think it was San Jose all right for Graham. Well,
we want you to negotiate the deal. I said, are
you fucking mind all of you guys? I said, this
guy will put a hit out on me. They said, no, no,
we're going to talk to him about it. He's going
to be okay with it, all right. Said you know

you're not. You're not getting any piece of it. You're
not promoting it. You just you you cut the deal
because you know we've exammed over the years, we've examined
your deals. They're right, very righteous deals, et cetera, et cetera.
So a day or two goes by and trying to
remember who called me, it's either Bobby or Mickey called

me and said, okay, the deed's done. We've told Graham
he's accepted it. I said, you sure, said yep. Absolutely.
So I called Graham and I said, Bill, you know,
the dead telled me that that you're fine with me

doing the deal with you. He said that's right. I said, okay, great,
So I said, do me a favorite, you know, send
me your proposed deal, the you know, the expenses, et cetera,
et cetera. Let me look at him eighty five fifteen.
No problem, you know, I'm not I'm not involved financially.

So he says, uh, okay. A week goes by, Two
weeks go by, no paperwork from Graham. Another week goes by.
I called Greg Perloff, who I was friends with and
still in transfer. All right, I said, Greg, do you

have any idea what the fuck's going on? He said,
Bill is not happy that he's having to deal with you.
I said, then, why the fuck did he tell Did
he tell the dead that he would? He said, I
don't know, but he's not happy. I said, Greg, so
I don't wrap him out to the vand get the
fucking expenses and send them to me. Said okay, let

me see what I can do. A couple of hours later,
the phone rings and it's Graham and he is fucking berserk.
The only way I can describe it is he was
like a beached where just screaming at the top of
his lungs, just doing anything to get back in the water,

all right. And this tirade went on for half an hour.
I couldn't get two words, and he's screaming at me.
I've got to deal with Jersey for my band. So
eventually the coal ended. I don't know if you hung

up or just whatever. I picked up the phone. I
think I spoke the Lash and Jerry and I said
I'm fucking out, all right, I'm you know, I'm out.
I said, you know, this guy will put a fucking
hit out on me, you know. And and so they said, okay,

we'll get the expenses. We just want you to look
at them, all right, you know, and bless the expenses.
So I said, okay. So they got the expenses, they
sent them to me, all right. I look that. Everything
looked pretty much in order, all right, except for one
thing that I didn't understand. There was a fee I
want to call ten thousand dollars, but I don't remember

exactly how much was for the set that he built.
Because outdoor shows he always built, you know, pretty elaborate
scenery sets right, and he wrote it off. You know
that they cost ten thousand dollars. Nobody ever questioned them.
So when I asked the guys in the band, you know,

was this kosher? They said, We've paid for this set
three times already. He's got he's got a few of them.
He rotates them around because he does it for everyone,
not just a grateful day, all right. He paints him,
he does a little little different color here or there,
and then cycles him back around. We ain't paying for it, right,

So I said, okay, who's going to tell him? I said,
he won't take my call. Trust me, he will not
answer my phone call. So they said, okay, why don't
you call your friends? Would pearl off? Why don't you
pull him and tell him? So I did to this day.
I don't know whether they paid for it or I

didn't do the settlement. I didn't know. But this made
Bill fucking crazy, and I understand why it made him crazy,
which I said to him at first, you're nuts. You know,
the guy doesn't like me to start with. And the
relationship continued till the day Jerry died. I made the

arrest record deal for him, together with Hal can't their attorney.
At the very end of my relationship with him, with
Cameron Sears, who became their their tour manager, good friend
of mine still and John Frankenheimer, the attorney, we made
the deal at Warner Brothers, which brought the two catalogs together.

It's a monumental deal. And that was the last thing
I did for them and Jerry passed away. And the
only way I can describe it, I don't really I
managed Weir Cameron and I managed Weir for about ten
years after that, no longer. And the only way I

can describe it is that, you know, they weren't difficult.
I didn't manage them. Lots of people want to say,
I man, I didn't manage them, but I represented them,
you know, in a number of ways. And it's very interesting.
You'd go to board meetings and I didn't have a vote,

but I sat in on them, and they'd bring up
various different things, both unimportant and important. And I saw
the pattern when you Gerry was okay with whatever was
being proposed. He just sort of sat back and voted
last year next to last when it was something that

Jerry really wanted to do or really didn't want to do.
He voted first, so there was never an argument that
I saw until at one point Phil lesh we had
formed the REX. I was a founding member of REX,

and we formed REX and it was great and to
this day it's still a great charity. And Danny Griffkin,
who was, you know, one of the half a dozen
of management kind of people from earlier days, was made
the head of REX. And I had my problems with
Danny early on, but we were fine. We were great friends.

We still are. Phil marches into a board meeting with
his wife Jill and says, right in front of them,
in the whole band, I want to fire Danny from REX,
and I want to put Jill in charge. Now, Danny
did a great job, was as mellow as could be,

and they all looked to Phil like he was joking,
you know, and finally he said no, he was dead serious.
And I can't remember, but more than one of the
members said, we're not firing Danny. So that was the
beginning of the real hard feelings would Phil. He founded

his own charitable organization, his wife managed him, and it
just it got and to this day is still really ugly.
Phil in my view, decided with Jerry Kahn. He was
the leader of the band. Jerry never even acknowledged he

was the leader of the band. Just by osmosis, he
was the leader of the band. And so, you know,
it deteriorated. And then Jerry died and I met with
the band the day after the funeral. There's a funny
thing on at the funeral. I go to the funeral,

I speak at the funeral, and when we're walking out
of the funeral, I walk I'm walking out with Dylan,
and a San Francisco Chronicle photographer took a picture of
the two of us walking out. Next day. On the
front page of the San francis are Chronicle is Bob
Dylan with an unknown person leaving Jerry Garcia is perfect,

right right. And what I really remember about it is
while we were walking out, Dylan leaned over to me
and said, you know what, John, I said, what Bobby
said the guyline there, He's the only one in the
world and knows what it's like to be me, which
was pretty profound.

Speaker 1 (01:33:06):

Speaker 2 (01:33:07):
Yeah. So I met with the band the next day
or maybe two days later, and and uh, you know,
I I you know, I said to him, guys, Jerry
would not want you to break up, you know, you
know you guys, are you an extraordinary group? Sure you

won't be the same. But so Phil announces absolutely not,
and they vote to never call themselves the Grateful Dead again.
And Phil says, I don't want to tour anymore. I'm
going to write the Great American Symphony. And I think

for two years he probably tried to do that, all right,
But in the meantime we put together the Further Festival, right,
and the Further Festival was just sort of traveling festival
that was anchored by by Bob Weir and Mickey Hart
and Bruce Hornsby and a rotating set of other people,

sometimes Hart Tuna, sometimes Los Lobos, et cetera, et cetera.
Everybody did their own set, and at the end of
the show, everybody on stage jam. Phil decided in the
third year that he would go out with it, but

his conditions were, I only want one opening act, all right,
and you know, I only want to play X amount
of dates. So I booked the tour with Phil as
part of it blows up, you know, enormously. We do

the whole tour. The last two days are at Shoreline,
uh in San Francisco. So, uh, you know, I'm out
there early with the band for soundcheck, and uh, we're
hanging out backstage and one of the runners comes over

and says, uh, Phil and Jill want to see you.
So we were all the rest of us were all
in one trailer. They had their own trailer, and uh,
so you know I had I had very little relationship
with Phil, but I didn't have a bad relationship Phil,
or did I think I did? All right? You know,

most of my tenure with the Dead Phil was drunk,
all right. He was a loner and and and and
he was drunk. The one and only nice thing I
can say about Jill is she sobered him up and
and and saved his life. All right. So I go
into this trailer and I say, what's up, guys? And

they said, now now that the financials were all the
members had an equal share, and I had a share,
all right, and Cameron had like a half a share
something like that because he was still on the payroll
of the Great Gravel Dead productions. So I said, what's up?
They said, we we we see no reason why anybody

but Weird Heart and me should get you know, a share.
Everybody else should be, you know, on salary, I said,
this is the last two dates of the tour, all right,
you knew what the deal was going in. I'm not
going to these guys and tell them they're not going
to get their money now. Thankfully at the time, I
control the money. So they said, well, if they don't

agree to this, we'll never play with them ever again.
So you know, I tried my best to talk them
out of that with good reason. Hornsby had been a
member of the Dead all right, and added a lot
to it. Cameron, you know, was my partner really and

I put up all the money. I put up all
the money, and did all the booking work all right
in advance and all of that. So they said, well,
that's not acceptable to us, and go tell them that
if they don't do it the way we want it,
we'll never play with them again. So I can I remember,
just like I can see it right in front of me.
I went into the trailer where everybody else was was sitting,

told him what fit what Phil said. Mickey went fucking nuts,
absolutely nuts. Hornsby just looked and said, not fair. That's
not the deal I made, you know. And oh and
then Mickey said, Cameron's house. There was a terrible storm,
like a couple of weeks before the tour, and a big, huge,

old tree fell down on Cameron's house, broke through the roof.
So Mickey screaming, who the fuck did they think they are?
Cameron's house just burnt down. His house didn't burn down.
But that was the sentiment, and the sentiment was all
of them except for Phil, really felt like they were
a family. Right. I always describe it as Peter Pan

and lost boys. Right, Peter Pan died, the Lost Boys
were lost, you know, and by putting together further, it
gave him an opportunity, you know, to be together and
to work, you know, worked together. So at that point, Phil,
that's when Phil started to go out on his own,

despite the fact that he never wrote the Great American Symphony,
and there were years and years of terrorable animosity, all right,
and you know, he he he hired an agent, a
guy named Jonathan Levine, who you know, did really sneaky
things about, you know, around the further touring and and Bob,

we're touring and uh, you know it was ugly. It
was it was ugly and and and uh, I mean
Phil empowered Jill. First time I've ever said this out loud.
And Jill was nice enough. She wasn't, but it's just
she wasn't an expert in the music business. And she

got very vicious. They both got very vicious towards we
Air and towards me. And I remember distinctly telling Bob
what was going on, because Cameron and I were managing
Bob at the time, and Bob, Bob looked at me
one day and he said, she must be a to
suck the paint off of a battleship that he's listening

there that way. It's funny I've ever said that out loud.
And it got uglier and uglier. There were a couple
of moments that I met with them and and they

sort of begrudgingly acknowledged that I was an important part
of the history, but that never lasted more than a
week or two, all right. And then Bobby, who has
always had a bit of an addiction problem, all right,
was straight. He was doing great, and he was playing great,

and rat the band were playing great. And he calls
me one day and he says, John, I got to
tell you something that you're not gonna want to hear.
I said, uh, what's that? And he said Phil called
me and he asked me and my wife had to dinner.

I said, okay, what did you say? And I said, uh,
he said, well, yeah, we've got unfinished business together. I'm
gonna go. And I said, Bobby. Now, for most of
the post Jerry time, Bobby, when he had to play

with Phil, got physically ill and got drunk all right,
and you know, we sent him to rehab a couple
of times. He always recovered. He also every year for
the month of February he got completely sober. Why the

month of February shortest month of the year. He admitted
it all right. And when Bobby was just a casual
drinker or plot or whatever, he was fine, you know,
he was fine, but he spun out a couple of times.

So I said, okay, go to philp just you know,
be careful. So they go to dinner with their wives.
And the next day Bobby calls me and says, John,
I did something that you're going to be mad at me.
I said, what's that, Bob? He said, I agreed to

go out with Phil. And I said, Bobby, every time
you've done that, we've had to send you to rehab,
all right, So he says, well, they quandered me, and
I didn't really have any way out. Bobby is not

someone who does good confrontation. He's very smart, don't get
me wrong. So I said, what happened? Now? If you remember,
Phil had relatively recently gotten a new liver because he
was a terrible alcohol I think, actually I don't know
it's sure, but I think he might have gotten two livers.

But he was clear, completely sober. So we thought, all right,
and Bobby said, they went to this restaurant and Phil
ordered a bottle of wine, ordered for everybody, said Phil drank?
He said, absolutely, And four or five bottles later, we're
all shit face drunk. He said. That's when I agreed

i'd go out with I said, you're nuts. I want
no part of this. So he said, well, one of
the conditions is that you and Cameron aren't involved in
the tour. I said, Bobby, you know you can meet
that condition. You know I'm quitting all right. I'm not
gonna see you go to your grave, all right for

this motherfucker who you know? Bobby told me stories, you know,
from when he first joined the band. Remember Bobby's like
five years younger than everybody, so he was like seventeen
or eighteen years and they were like, you know, in
our early twenties. He said, Phil used to beat the
shit out of him. You know. There were two incidents. Once,
he said, Phil threw him down a set of stairs,

could have broken every bone in his body, all right.
And and once Phil was in the back seat of
a car that he was in the front seat and
Phil was smacking the shit out of him while they
were while they were driving. I said, you remember telling
me these things? He said, yeah, but I've got unfinished
business with him. I said, well, you're going to have
to do it without me, And then Cameron said, separately

the same thing. And of course they put the show
was on sale and it did great business, but Bobby
got shitfaced at every single shot, all right. And there's
one very famous show that was at the Capitol Theater

in Portchester, all right, where the film Bob Show played,
and Bob was so fucked up that on stage he
fell down. And this is all on videotape. You can
see this, all right. Bob falls down and Phil doesn't

even look at him, doesn't even look at him. Just
keeps playing. Roadies went on to the stage, pick up
Bob put him in a chair. All right, Phil still
hasn't looked at him, right, And the only reason I
say that I wasn't there, but I've seen the video.
It exists a little while longer, maybe half a song later.

Bobby falls off the chair, right, So this is really
fucking sad. Phil never looked at him when the roadies
came out to take them off the stage, help them
off the stage, Phil never looked at him, all right,
So deep down inside you gotta believe that he really

really resented the shit out of Bobby. Why. I don't know.
Bobby was better looking at him. He went out with
prettier girls than he did. He wrote hit songs, which
Phil never did. He sang lead on half the songs,
you know, But those were all facts. And when Jerry

was alive, you know, you couldn't tell that there was
a problem, all right. The first I knew that Bobby
had a problem with Phil was over the years he
told me about these couple of incidents. When the band
first formed, Oh Bobby did that, and then one more
time they played together. I think on this fairly well

show that was up in Wisconsin, and to the best
of my knowledge, they've never played together again. But you
know what, I wouldn't surprise if they did. Bobby is
the most non confrontational person I've ever met. I love
him to death, and it's just sad. It's just sad.
You know, he's never gotten over Jerry's death. Look at

the beard. Bobby never had a beard. He grew the
beard after Jerry died. You know, he wanted to look
like Jerry. You know. So he's a brilliant guy. He's
a sweetheart, but he's non confrontational and he's you know,
let people take advantage of specifically, Phil, Do.

Speaker 1 (01:47:52):
These guys have any money and do they have money
during the time that you worked with him, Yeah, they
had money. They didn't nearly have what they could have
had because they had like fifty people on the payroll
at real salaries, at the equivalent of you know, six

figure salaries, all right, So in that way it was
almost a commune, all right. But they made a lot
of money. Like I said, the Warner Brothers deal deal
at the end was multi multi million dollars. And I
think they were you know, at that point, I think

they were wealthy, not crazy wealth, all right, but they
owned all their own publishing, and you know, Jerry's is
obviously worth a fortune, and Bob's is worth a fortune,
all right. So you know, I always drove into Bob's
head that, you know, you know, that's your retirement, you know,

don't fuck around with it, and he never did.

Speaker 2 (01:48:59):
He never did. And actually Robert Hunter ran a publishing company. Now.
I think they're all much wealthier because I think that
Phil did very good business when he went out with
his Phil and friends for a number of years, and
Dead and Company the huge business. So you know, Dead

and Company, Bobby and Mickey and for a while Billy,
although Billy left at some point, had to be making
a lot a lot of money, you know. So yeah,
I think they were all fine financially.

Speaker 1 (01:49:36):
What's the best Grateful Dead show you ever saw?

Speaker 2 (01:49:40):
Very hard, you know, very hard. I mean I've seen
so many, so many. I think Roosevelt Stadium when they
played with the band a couple of days before Watkins Glenn.
I think the second night they played the Capitol and
that original run one the Bedheads very often sighted is

the greatest show was at Cornell. I was there. I
didn't spend a lot of time watching the show because
you've a been up to Thika. I have, Yeah, so
you know, there's all these deep ravines and stuff. So
you know, the kids were all fucking stoned out of
their minds. So you know, I spent much of that

show outside trying to keep kids from jumping into the ravines.
So uh, hey, you know it's funny, but it's true.
And and you know I've heard the show over and over,
so it was it was a great show, you know,
and and and it's interesting. You know, every show they've

virtually ever played is you know, is on tape, and
you know, uh yeah, everybody can hear it. I would
say that maybe two out of every ten were stinkers,
all right. You could tell when they were stinkers more
than you could tell whether they great or were they

very great? Right, because like any band, although you know,
they never really had any hit singles, they had one
hit single, Touch of Gray, which you know, almost killed everybody.

Speaker 1 (01:51:20):
But what do you mean it almost killed everybody?

Speaker 2 (01:51:23):
Well, what happened was they were huge at that point.
Jerry comes out of out of this coma all right, right,
touch of Gray. It's like a top five, top forty
hit right, so they were huge underground fm ys whatever.
But then it goes mainstream and so the shows get

overwhelmed with people trying to break in. I remember standing
out in the hill at sarah Tooga Performing Arts Center,
completely sold out and there there were like ten thousand
kids outside the fence, and finally they broke the fence
down and they came over. They came over the fence
like lemmings, you know. So you know, it became it

became clear to everybody we couldn't play amphitheaters anymore. And
and they never wanted to play stadiums. They had turned
me down like two years in a row to play
stadiums are big stadiums. They played like Roosevelt Stadium. But
you know, that was thirty thousand and finally, when the
last year that we did amphitheaters, it was so much

and and you know, some of the ampethsaders said, you
just can't come back. I took another shot at doing
stadiums with them, and they said, no, it's a rip
off to the fence. I said, how about this, What
if I got a support act that was big enough
in each of those cities to be a sellout one

night arena act and they opened for you. And all
we had to do was up to take a price
by five dollars because they were very every sensitive about
ticket prices too, all right, they said, can you do that?
I said, yeah, I can do it. You know, I'm
gonna have to pay the acts, you know, six figures,
but yeah, I can do it. But you'll make as
much or more money, more money actually. So one year

it was Steve Winwood, one year was Cosby Sills and Nash.
One year it was Bob Dylan and Tom Petty together.
One year it was just Dylan in a bit and
Grateful Dead backed up Dylan. So it was spectacular success,
spectacular success. Their ticket prices were still less than almost

everybody's and and uh, you know, the audience, the audience got,
you know, a huge headliner. Even with those huge headliners.
In the beginning of the show, stadiums were maybe a
third field. By three quarters of through the show, they
were packed. And they were smart enough. You know. I said,

they didn't have any hit singles, but they had their
equivalent of hit singles. Uncle John's band, Casey Jones, you know,
et cetera, et cetera playing in the band, so they
sort of recognized that and tended, more than in other situations,
play a bunch of those songs towards the end, and
so the audience went completely fucking nuts. So, you know,

in their own way, they were great showmen. You know,
they weren't you know, they weren't slick, they weren't they
didn't use a lot of tricks, but they were great showmen.
And you know, to this day, listen, I think I
could be wrong, no way to know. I think the
Grateful that are bigger now than they ever were. I

think that the entity the Grateful dead from a merchandising
point of view, From a music point of view, I
think they're bigger than they ever were. I think other
than the Beatles, not only the most sociological important act,
I think other than the Beatles are the biggest act
in the world. Well, I can't count Taylor Swift and
the biggest rock act in the world, and we'll continue

to be. You know, you talk to kids who weren't
alive when Jerry, when Jerry was in the band, and
they're absolute dead heads. So you know, it's you know,
it's a great salute to.

Speaker 1 (01:55:28):
Them, absolutely the debtor forever. We can't go on forever.
Then we'll have to do this again. John. There's so
much we couldn't even get into never mind we're dead stories.
But I want to thank you so much for talking
to my audience. No thanks, I'm happy to do it again.

Speaker 2 (01:55:46):
You bet.

Speaker 1 (01:55:46):
Until next time. This is Bob left six

Speaker 2 (01:56:10):
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