The Manitowoc Years
Wow, so now what?
Reunite with old friends and the man who helped give me my start in the music industry and have a baby.
One good thing about being a successful agent is your roster stays with you, so unlike Danny Lawton, I was able to take my roster and find a new home.
Danny was the business side our company and I was the income earner. Danny could not pick up and just relocate, plus we felt guilty about what we had gotten ourselves and Clicker into, so Danny remained with Chuck to protect Clicker as best he could, and I called Eddie Sandas who had now started his own company and he hired me and I moved to Two Rivers, WI.
Sadly Danny would pass by the time we were 25 in a car accident.
Eddie had just left Gary Van Zeeland and had survived and won a non compete lawsuit in the State of WI Supreme Court.
We were all signed to 5 year 500 mile non compete clauses with GVZ Talent, so we could not work in the industry for 5 years within 500 miles. I was small potatoes and not worth the hassle so Gary never came after me, but Eddie ran the 6 night lounge department and controlled most of that roster, so Eddie was a major competitive threat, and came with a major financial loss, so they went to court. In the end the Supreme Court found the clause excessive and unenforceable.
I had a great time at Sandas Entertainment. I’ve always loved Eddie and we had an opportunity to create a new company from scratch. The company was composed of Eddie, Brian Olson from the 6 night department at GVZ, and Bob Hale who I worked with in the single night department at GVZ, and Randy Schwoerer who was the leader of one of the most successful GVZ bands and came in as I was leaving.
Eddie and Brian were the 6 night department, and Bob and I were the single night department, and Randy was a producer/manager who produced and put together shows. In other words Randy would help bands find an identity, look, and sound that would fit them, and allow them to make $ which is an art form in itself.
Randy picked their music and choreographed their shows.
Eddie owning a nightclub that ran 6 night bands allowed us to bring the talent to us and work with them which did not hurt.
We created a very successful company with two strong departments and life was good. I spent a year in Two Rivers and then bought a small house in Manitowoc and had a beautiful baby girl, or should I say my wife had a beautiful baby girl and I watched.
It kind of came unexpectedly, we thought my wife was having false labor contractions. It was a beautiful fall day and my wife at the time, Karen, and I had been laying outside with our dog on a blanket and yes she was having contractions, but we did not think it was time yet, and we were wrong..
I was planning to go play Dungeon and Dragons with some friends but after Karen talked to her mom we decided to go to the hospital just to make sure.
Needless to say, I never made it to play Dungeons and Dragons. Instead I was watching MASH in the hospital rubbing my wife’s back while she was in labor.
The next day I was suddenly wondering if you had to pay your bill before they let you take your baby home, having no idea how that worked? Fortunately I found out that they actually bill you, thank God.
Just a few months earlier I was in LA working on a record deal for Danny Johsnon when I received two calls before 10AM, keep in mind that WI is two hours ahead of LA. They did not wake me the first time at about 8AM, but when my wife called twice before 10AM, thinking it might be serious, they woke me.
The conversation went kind of like this, “Hi honey, I just thought you might like to know you are going to be a dad”. To which the response was, “that’s wonderful”, while thinking to myself that I guess I was going to have to grow up, I was 25 at the time.
We were not doing anything to not have a child, but were not actively trying to have a child, and have never had any regrets, except the terrible 2’s, teens, and early 20’s, sorry Sky you know I love you.
After bouncing around between MN and TX and then living in Hollywood with your single father and going to Amerstam, Paris, and Cannes with your dad and boyfriend at the time, my unofficial adopted son, at 16-17 years old,, and then going on to be a Dr. of Law, College Professor, Political Activist, Birth and Death Doula, Jewish Priestess, and Libertory Design Strategist, I think you did just fine., and I’m a proud daddy.
I ended up signing Danny Johnson to Polydor Records. At the time he had his own band, had just done records with Alice Cooper, Alcatrazz, Carmine Appice, Dwight Twilley and Rod Stewart, all produced by a legendary producer Richie Podler who had 28 gold records in a row with 3 Dog Night and did every record Steppenwolf did as well as “In A Gada Da Vida”, and “Ride Captain Ride” among many other classics..
I was guaranteed a top 10 single by Al Cory, the man who broke the Beatles in the US who was the head of RSO Records. RSO was owned by Robert Stigwood, the manager of Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees.
Cory’s offer was for a singles deal and he had not seen Danny, and had only heard 2-3 originals on our demo.
I felt it was important for him to sign Danny because he passionately believed in him, rather than making him a one hit wonder because of a cover song.
Capital had seen us 22 times and the President had a private meeting with Danny.
In the end Capital did not make an offer, but Polydor did.
Danny, Carmine Appice, and Rod Stewart were all on Polydor, the logic was to establish Danny and Carmine by doing a world tour with Rod (who they were both playing with).
Sadly it didn't work out that way. Danny and Carmine would not last in Rod Stewart, and after getting a $25K advance, we were dropped before we could record the record.
Did I/we make the right choice?
Shortly after, RSO folded too, so who knows, hindsight is after all 20/20. But yes, we all felt we had a major hit.
At Sandas Entertainment I worked Danny Johnson in both AXIS when he and Vinny left DERRINGER, and then Danny when they broke up and he had Danny Johnson and the Bandits and Vinny joined Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath with DIO) VIXEN, YIPES, Lucy Grey which I turned into GreyStar with Ruby Starr, Domenic Troriano, the VERS (Yancy Derringer) and later the Tracy Bros (which is how the Tracy Bros got away from Chuck Toler, they dissolved Clicker and became the Tracy Bros)
The man who managed Brownsville Station and AXE, also managed Blackfoot. I was doing dates on AXE, and also on Blackfoot. Ruby Starr had just left Black Oak Arkansas and was using Blackfoot as her temporary band but it was not going to be permanent. I had Lucy Grey open a week or two worth of dates for Ruby with Blackfoot. Ruby and Blackfoot parted ways and we invited Ruby to come Milwaukee to jam with Lucy Grey and she never went home and GreyStar was born and went on to become one of the Midwest’s most successful bands
I was then offered to represent Blackfoot but they would not sign, they would do a verbal exclusive, but not signed. I wanted to do it, Eddie and Randy said no, and the band went on to have several Gold if not Platinum releases and Ricky Medolocke is now the frontman of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The manager and I have remained friends ever since and I have represented AXE on and off ever since and later Brownsville Station. Good and true relationships last a lifetime.
Randy and I both started a long relationship with a guitar player named Domenic Troriano, who was the guitar player who replaced Joe Walsh in the James Gang and wrote “Dancing Fool” while in the Guess Who, Randy and Dom would become great friends till Dom sadly passed.
I had a great run at Sandas Entertainment and loved it but few things last and usually it has to do with $. It started when I was convinced to do something that I felt was not right and have never agreed with, still do not agree with, and will never accept the logic again, but did so at the time for the good of the team.
“You can’t book and manage at the same time”. I gave up control of my two biggest artists, GreyStar and Yipes to Randy.
I’ve always considered myself a manager who is an agent out of necessity because I have always done better than anyone else I let represent my artists. All of the biggest dates, and highest earning dates have always been mine.
I’ve also always felt that if you are truly working in your artist’s best interest then it can not ever be a conflict of interest.
I would later be vindicated while watching an interview with one of my mentors and hearing him classify himself as an agent/manager because he does way more than a normal agent does, as do I, and he is one of the heads of Music at CAA, Creative Artists Agency, one of the largest agencies in the world.
But this time I bought into it, because it made sense to have one person dedicated to that task, which makes sense logically if you are looking at it from a team perspective.
In the end, a year or two years later Bob Hale and I were let go, they closed up the single night department except for Greystar and Yipes that Bob and I had built into money making machines and developed a circuit for them that they could maintain with little effort as it was all repeat business. Shortly after Brian was gone too.
It was the perfect storm. Eddie had been doing very well so had acquired assets, one being a beauty parlor, among multiple houses and the like. We suffered a hit to the economy which caused a down turn, and lived through the disco era, which turned Eddie’s, as well as many other’s clubs, into a disco with no live bands, which was great for the clubs and selling alcohol, but killed the 6 night lounge business in many areas, and some of the single night markets.
Our advantage was the artists were the draw and people still wanted to come see our artists.
I have no hard feelings and no regrets, it was a business decision and it was what it was.
Yes I hated to see it end, it was a great company and we had some great years, and we are still great friends till this day. We love each other and grew up in the industry together so have a bond born of scars that few can understand or relate to, and that really does make you a band of brothers. You try to never let business get in the way of friendships but there can still be bumps in the road that happen because of no one's efforts and certainly not done in malice.
Unfortunately I was about to make another mistake and learn another lesson. I had just given up/lost two of my highest grossing artists and lost my job, and I needed to replace them, so I went back to my most successful tour, Captain Beyond. At the time they were no longer together but I put together the Iron Butterfly/Captain Beyond reunion tour. I had 3 members of Iron Butterfly and 3 from Captain Beyond. The difference was this time there was no professional manager and there was a new person in charge of the band that I had to work with.
Prior to my involvement there was an agent in Chicago who booked a big $ Iron Butterfly date and we were going to use that as the anchor date. In the end, I booked a tour, had everyone in the band on a weekly salary, and had one of my management artists opening and supplying backline as well as road management.
They pulled a power play at the last minute with the “send us the deposits or we are not coming” stance. Which I did since I felt my back was up against the wall and I had little options except saying no and rolling the dice,, but once done, all I had was a name and Western Union receipt.
The band arrived and I went to the first two dates to make sure everything was going smoothly and the weekend went great.
So, we were not sitting in a hotel losing money, I took a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday in my artist's home town for a low guarantee versus 100% of the door.
The agent in Chicago had the Sunday booked for Iron Butterfly for big money, so I agreed to cancel my Sunday and just do the Monday and Tuesday.
The agent said he had a deposit so they went down to the gig to pick up the balance and would then meet the agent the next day to collect the balance.
National acts always get paid in cash prior to their performance because once you have performed you have given up your bargaining power.
The promoter was sketchy and the band did not trust him and he refused to pay them till after the show and they refused to play. So the promoter went out on stage and told the audience that the band had refused to play and if they had an issue with it to go across the street to the Holiday Inn and talk to the band, which they did and harassed the band all night.
The next day the band went to meet the agent in Chicago to collect the deposit, which he too refused to give up, and threatened to kill the band.
The next thing I knew was I was getting a phone call from the band from Chicago O’hara airport saying we are done, we don’t need to have our lives threatened, we are going home, and we are keeping the money.
So, I was totally screwed by something I had no involvement with but destroyed my tour and would lead me into my first bankruptcy because I was suddenly getting sued from multiple states and there was no other way to escape it. I’d have to hire an attorney in each state who would each want a retainer which was not feasible.
I actually had a club owner from Northern Wisconsin show up in my office demanding his money back. At the time Brian Olson and I who had started our own companies were sharing an office and fearing that it may come to blows he walked over and sat on my desk and tried to help diffuse the situation and at least let the club owner know I was not alone and what I said happened, really happened.
I learned why you don’t advance the deposits to the band.
The reality is we all still do it to this day, but you get wiser about who you do it with and how.
There are a few rules.
#1 you can never do it if you, yourself are not prepared to take the money out of your pocket if needed.
#2 You make the artists sign off on it and take responsibility for it when they receive it.
#3 You don’t advance money to people who don’t have the $ to repay it if needed.
The reality is most band’s do not have a credit card to whip out for flights and the like.
Most of my European artists are $18-20K in debt when they get here with airfare, work visas, tax waivers, and transportation deposits, and no, most don’t have a credit card that big.
I lost my house in my bankruptcy and Brian left the music industry to take a job in communications as a broadcast journalist and moved to Colorado and I was off to Appleton for a year.
Then I got a phone call and was recruited to come play in the big leagues and was off to Minneapolis, MN to Variety Artists/Excelsior Talent.
Eddie Sandas, Brian Olson, Randy Schwoerer, and Dean Swett at GVZ Reunion (circa 2015)
This is the only video I have ever found of Clicker. This is the Chuck Toler version with Chuck’s singer, Greg Clemmons fronting the band, who was great and very David Bowieish, who was big at the time. Sadly you see little of the Tracy Bros, whose band it is, the bass player and drummer, who wrote everything. Cubby the drummer is a mutiinstrumetalist and plays drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards, and sings.
clicker live 1978
Danny Johnson and The Bandits : Burning
DANNY JOHNSON AND THE BANDITS THE LETTER
Rod Stewart - Gimme wings Japan 81
Before Black Oak Arkansas and Greystar, she had her own band called Grey Ghost.and she is BAD ASS, and a real sweatheart, RIP darlin.
RUBY STARR AND GREY GHOST - Burnin' Whiskey
I have no videos of Greystar which had Mike Findling in the band (who would go on to become (Chainsaw Cain in Slave Raider, and create Hairball) they were one of the few bands at the time, outside of Jefferson Starship, that had two lead singers. one male, and one female, and both great.. This is most of Greystar with Ruby, after Mike left, so it is the closest thing I can get. This is the bass player, drummer, and guitarist with Ruby and a new keyboard player.
Ruby Star Band - Secrets Of The Heart - Live at The Brat Stop
Yipes! Mr. Einstein - Live
Yipes! Blink Of An Eye - Live
Before AXE there was Babyface who I worked with, then several members went on to become AXE.
Babyface - How Long Can A Rock n Roll Band Keep Carr in On
Babyface evolved into AXE and this was their biggest hit, and the most played song on radio in 1992
Axe - Rock N Roll Party In The Streets / HQ CD Audio
I’d later reunite with Bobby years later. Bobby Barth is one of the tastiest guitar players and best songwriters/storytellers that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Like David Gilmore he can put more emotion into 3 notes that others fail to achieve with hundreds.
I’d come to find out later that we are both 32 Degree Master Masons and Knights of the Scottish Rite and Knight Templars. If you look closely you will see that he has a Masonic logo on the inside of his arm and the colors that he is wearing is a Mason motorcycle club called the Widows Sons that he is a life time member of.
Bobby would spend 10 years as the frontman and guitarist for Blackfoot replacing Ricky Medlocke. Ironically he was at Sweden Rock, as was Diamond Head, and Crucified Barbara in 2005 when I was there with VIXEN but we did not know it at the time, but I would come to represent them all.
I’d end up making live CD/DVD’s of both VIXEN and AXE’s performances at Sweden Rock.
Bob Harris is one of the best lead singers.you will ever hear. He was the vocalist and keyboardist with Frank Zappa and keyboardist for Steve Vai. He is singing “Forever” which I just had to include.
This is a band who has never played a date together, has rehearsed 3 times and are performing in the pouring rain and 50 degree weather while making one of the best sounding live recordings you will ever hear. No overdubs all live.
Bobby and Bob had played with the keyboard player and drummer previously while touring Europe, but never with the 2nd guitarist and only Bob had played with the bass player. Not bad for a first gig after 3 rehearsals. One of the tightest and most dynamic bands you will ever hear.
AXE SRF Battles (Official Release)
The great Bob Harris