The Madison Years
THE MADISON YEARS
After my failed attempt at being a rock star I followed one of my mentors Larry Schumann, to Madison to join McMillian and Clarey Talent. MCT was one of the three main agencies in Wisconsin that specialized in original music. Sadly, I came in close to the demise of the company, but it was a wonderful learning experience.
I am not sure exactly what happened to the company. It may have been a mix of having several of their main artists break up around the same time which cost a major financial loss and leaving the firm over extended. The firm had invested in albums for these artists via their record company.
This was my first exposure to an agency that ran a management company and also had a label for their management artists, as I do now some 40+ years later..
Madison at the time was a major music market and I was like a kid in a candy store. There were dozens of great clubs, and lots of great talent. Business was booming.
Of course, all of the beautiful young college girls on State Street were a serious job perk, but I had just gotten engaged before moving to Madison by myself before my fiance followed a month later. So, I behaved myself, but I did enjoy the view, especially in spring time when I moved.
Several months after moving to Madison one of my best friends, Danny Lawton who I grew up with, and the most popular kid in my school, decided to join me at MCT.
Four of MCT biggest bands were Circus (who evolved out of Sound Street who I first saw at one of the dances at my youth center) Punch, Tayles, (who became The Beans),and Yancy Derringer who later evolved into the VERS who I became a huge fan of and represented for several years until they broke up.
They were also the agency who originally represented Clicker but at the time they were known as The Bowery Boys, who evolved into Baby Grande, and then into Clicker. I started representing them shortly thereafter.
Circus was an incredibly tasty band, very Greatful Deadish, Allman Bros, or Little Featish, very tasty and dynamic as hell.
It is poor quality but I’m surprised that back in the day anyone would even bother to record a recording session, and yes there really is more than the cowbell. Wait till you see Ray’s drum solo at the end, but I will warn you, you have to get about six minutes in before you actually see them play a song, so just scroll ahead and save yourself some cowbell.
Right before I left MCT, Danny Johnson was recruited along with Vinny Appice from AXIS to join Rick Derringer in his new superstar band right after having his hit with RNR Hootchie Coo, DERRINGER was Rick, Danny, Vinny, and Kenny Aaronson, and a year later they were playing stadiums opening for Aerosmith and Boston for several years, would record 2 albums, play two days with Led Zeppelin at Bill Graham's “Day On the Green” and go on to make history as one of the greatest guitar duos of all time and influence a whole new generation of young guitarists.
Till this day the band Jimmy Page always wanted to have open for Led Zeppelin in the US was DERRINGER and it almost happened in 2008 when both bands reunited, but Zeppelin ended up only doing the one date in London, but there were dates on hold at Madison Square Garden.
He had one song on the first DERRINGER record which Rick produced called “Sailor”.
On the second record he had two songs, “One Eyed Jack”, and “Driving Sideways“. “Driving Sideways” would make him legendary among a generation of young 80’s guitarists including one named Eddie Van Halen. Produced by the legendary Jack Douglas.
One Eyed Jack
It was not until many years later that I learned that my actions had inspired two of his biggest songs. The title to the AXIS “It’s A Circus World” album was inspired while being on tour and seeing the sign for Barnum and Bailey’s “Circus World” in Baraboo, WI, and “Drivin Sideways” was inspired by driving to Milwaukee after a Dean gig in the middle of a Wisconsin winter blizzard with Danny sitting in the backseat of a rear facing station wagon seat that they used to have way back when, literally driving sideways through a WI snow storm as they were driving down the highway hoping to survive the drive.
It was not till 32 years later when I had the band reunite to play at Sweden Rock that I saw that Rick was playing all of the licks in the background while Danny was signing on Danny’s songs.
They originally were AXIS songs which was a power trio so I had never seen them in another form, or at least not in 32 years and they are so good at copying each other’s styles that even till this day, I sometimes can not tell the difference and I’ve represented Danny for 47 years.
When they reunited for the first time in 25 years for Danny’s version of House of the Rising Sun, I guessed wrong on who was playing what.
AXIS “It’s A Circus World” Produced by the legendary Andy Johns
Sadly my stay at MCT only lasted about a year or little more and the financial instability of the company led to my departure. Prior to leaving Larry would again introduce me to another artist that I’d fall in love with and would go on to represent in multiple capacities on and off for the next 35 years.
At the time they were called Rory Slick and the Roadsters who later evolved into just Slick. It was comprised of a bunch of UW Madison students who would later change members and become YIPES led by one of greatest songwriters and best frontmen i’ve ever represented and one of the most brilliant lyricists I know, and I’ve worked with some great ones.
During my tenure at MCT I had purchased a 5 bedroom home in the country with 10 acres of land and Danny Lawton and I left and started Progressive Entertainment and Creative Artists Management.
Madison was a mix filled with both ups and downs. I had my first major success, and my first encounter with evil which taught me that when you represent other people, your actions carry consequences, and when you make mistakes, you can hurt the people you love and respect.
My first mistake was introducing Clicker to a guy who was trying to do some management with Danny Johnson so they invested some money into him to assist with shopping a record deal. Well he disappeared with their money so they drove down to Texas and found him lounging poolside at a hotel. Needless to say they got their money back, so all was forgiven.
It was my first exposure with a conman.
My biggest successes at the time outside of Clicker was a tour I did with a new band I was introduced to called Captain Beyond. Like many of my artists, I knew nothing of them until our introduction. They were a super group comprised of the bass player and guitar player from Iron Butterfly, the drummer from Johnny Winter AND, and the original lead singer from Deep Purple, who sang “Hush”. I was offered the line up with a new lead singer supporting their 3rd release. I had no idea of what they were worth and started booking them for $500-$1,000 vs 80%. After they sold out everywhere they played in the first two weeks and making $1,500-$2,500 per night with their %, I started raising the price to $1,500-$2,000. They sold out 14 days in a row in Chicago which was absolutely insane, and sold out about 80-90% of all of the dates on a 60 day tour. They would be my earliest great success, and later would teach me a lesson on why you do not advance the deposits to the artist.
A critically acclaimed band that would later become legendary among musicians everywhere. The original line up recorded 2 records, and then changed vocalist and did a 3rd record which is the tour I booked to support.
They were one of the first progressive hard rock bands.
From the release “Dawn Explosion” I supported.
“Do Or Die” one of my favorites
Full “Dawn Explosion” Album
I also learned my first lesson of why you always get a deposit. I had a major club in Madison that I did a lot of business with and did regular nations shows. We had an opportunity to do a new band called Paris which featured Bob Welch from Fleetwood Mac who had just had a major solo hit with “Sentimental Lady”, Glen Cornick, the bass player from Jethro Tull, and Soupy Sales Son, Hunt Sales who played with Todd Rundgren. Needless to say the date got cancelled the day of the show for slow ticket sales on a Monday night. One of my best friends who was with me at the time says we had a great time taking Glen to all the clubs in town and getting a local guitar player to come jam with Bob who always liked to jam with new guitar players as he felt he could always learn something. That’s not what I remember, I remember getting my ass reamed out for the mistake I made.
Paris - Black Book
I lived in Fitchburg which is a southern suburb of Madison with my new wife and we worked out of my house for about a year, but Danny lived in Madson and he got tired of the commute and since we were paying my rent, preferred to rent an office closer to town which we did
While in Madison I started a life long relationship with my first reggae artist and political activist, Tony Brown who I would go on to represent for 20 years and am still dear friends with. A beautiful man who opened my eyes to a whole new world culture and history I did not know.
Tony Brown "Blackbird" August 18 2012
Tony Brown Live at High Ground Café 3-13-15 Part 2
I also started representing a band called Lucy Grey who I’d go on to represent for many years and later help them create a new entity called GreyStar that would be a merger of them and Ruby Starr and become a very successful Wisconsin recording artist.
At the time the top two agencies in the state were Contemporary Talent who I have referred to previously and Adamany and Toler. Ken Adamany managed Cheap Trick, and was known for being a ruthless bastard. I never dealt with him and only talked to him once, so I have no personal opinion of the matter and perception is everything. Ken was a rival of Irving Azzoff, Ken was in Madison managing Cheap Trick and I believe Irving was in Champaign, IL managing REO Speedwagon, Joe Walsh and perhaps Dan Fogelberg and Tim Wiseburg. Both had reputations for being ruthless bastards, but as I say it is a matter of perspective. If you ask their artists, they love them, but if you are the person negotiating against them, they are a ruthless bastard, so it is a matter of perspective.
I was about to make a mistake that would hurt everyone I loved, my parents, my best friend and the band I loved. I was about to face hatefulness on purpose for the first time in my life.
Adamany and Toler split their partnership, and I decided that we could grow bigger and faster if we merged with Chuck Toler.
Chuck wanted Danny and I to invest $10,000 into the formation of the new company. We wrongfully assumed that this money was to be used as the start up capital to help run our new venture.
I was young, impressional, and naive, and Chuck had a beautiful office in a bank building.
So Danny and I convinced our parents to lend us $5,000 each, but there was a difference, Danny’s father was a world renowned heart surgeon and my parents were teachers and not in the same league, but they did what we asked.
After giving Chuck our investment, we moved into our beautiful new office with a new found excitement, and Chuck and our secretary, who was his girlfriend, took off for a week vacation in Las Vegas.
When Chuck returned I went to go get paid for the week and he asked me if I had any dates play? To which I responded with a “no, that they we were a new company with no dates on the books”. He then asked where the money was supposed to come from, to which my response was, “from the start up investment that we made”. His answer was, no, that $10,000 was just for the right to be my partner.
Hence, this ended my time in Madison and I had learned one of my biggest lessons, that such hateful greed really does exist, and you have to be very careful who you trust.
I had hurt all of us by falling for a con man, my parents, Danny Lawton, and Clicker as part of the deal was a co management deal with Danny, I, and Chuck, with Clicker.
Most people would say the lesson was, “Trust No One”, but I still choose to not live my life in such a way. Time is too short and I refuse to live my life thinking everyone is out to get me. I will give anyone a chance, but I am more careful.
I would come to find out later that Chuck has screwed far more experienced people than a 22 year old kid, he had also screwed accountants, and attorneys, and more, so I was just one of many.
So what to do next?