Gary James' Interview With Personal Manager
He was named by Pollstar and Performance magazine as Personal Manager Of The Year in 1987. In 1989 Performance magazine again named him Personal Manager Of The Year. Along with Doc McGhee, he co-managed Mötley Crüe. He is Doug Thaler. Doug Thaler didn't start out as a personal manager. He once played alongside Ronnie James Dio in The Elves, later known as Elf. On a personal note, I used to call Doug Thaler in the late 1980s and we'd talk about other personal managers - Brian Epstein and Col. Tom Parker.
Q - Doug, I've been waiting how long, 24 years to interview you?
A - I don't know. I can't remember when we started talking. (laughs) If you say 24, I guess it's 24 (laughs).
Q - I think it was either 1987 or 1988 that we first started talking.
A - I was doing interesting stuff then.
Q - Yeah, but you wouldn't talk to me about it!
A - I was pretty busy doing it then. Now, I'm not doing too much at all.
Q - What are you doing in Port Jefferson New York?
A - I really re-connected with a girl I knew from college some years ago and I got re-married. I was living in Jersey because I was working in (New York) The City. I moved out here about five years ago (2007). I was working at Metropolitan (Talent). I was doing five hours a day on the train working at Metropolitan. Then I went to Tenth Street. My job just ended at Tenth Street at the end of 2010. They just discontinued the position and I'd been doing the five-hour train trip for five or six years by then. I said that's enough. If my job didn't end, I would've left the place in another six or eight months. Enough was just enough.
Q - When I was talking with you, you were with Doc McGhee. What happened there?
A - Well, that was a long time ago. Doc and I started out at the end of 1982. Long story made short, he was a difficult person to be in business with. We agreed on some things and they didn't play out the way we agreed on them. I had some good times there. I made some good money. He got himself into some legal difficulties.
Q - I remember that. Big legal difficulties.
A - Yeah. As a result of those, he had to agree to do this thing in Russia, a 1989 concert in Moscow. The Moscow Music Peace Festival or something like that. He was on the line to do it. He had to do it. It was part of his deal with the government to stay out of jail on that thing. He kind of said it to every group differently. For Bon Jovi, it was just part of their World Headline Tour. For everybody else it was like this or that or whatever. He had created problems for himself with Mötley Crüe. As a result of the Moscow date, the way things went, some of the things Mötley Crüe were told they could do and nobody else would be able to do, it didn't happen and they just had enough. They wanted to know if I would leave and manage them myself. So, that's what happened in 1989. I agreed to do that. I had 6 1/2 years in with him then and I felt like I'd rather take my chances on my own then continue with Doc.
Q - When you were with Doc, you had Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and The Scorpions. Were you the co-manager of those groups?
A - I was always the co-manager of Mötley Crüe. I co-managed Bon Jovi for one cycle and that was the Slippery When Wet cycle. Doc and I co-managed The Scorpions and we had a German partner. That was a three-way split. I co-managed Bon Jovi in '86 and '87 for those two years when they were recording and working on "Slippery When Wet" and touring behind it.
Q - In an article that appeared in the Syracuse papers in the late 1980s, they identified you as an agent for Deep Purple. Were you an agent? I always thought you were in management.
A - I was a guitar player in upstate New York. I moved down to The City (New York City) in 1972. Some of the people I worked with during my playing days helped me get a job at College Entertainment Associates, which is a middle agency that books schools. A lot of people, Barbara Skydel was there, Jack Rovner had been there, Wayne Forte was working there. I worked with Eddie Micone. A lot of people started careers at that place. After about two months, I got picked up by A.T.I. (American Talent International). I was an agent for like, six years.
Q - A.T.I. was a hot agency. They booked Kiss, Rod Stewart, ZZ Top, Earth Wind And Fire.
A - Well, Earth Wind And Fire in '73 and '74. The agency wasn't hot in the first part of it. I went back in '77 and Kiss blew up, Rod Stewart was there. Deep Purple left there. So, I did book Deep Purple, but at the Thames Agency.
Q - You were an agent!
A - I was AC/DC's original agent in the United States. I was Judas Priest's original agent in the United States. I had a pretty good career as an agent. I didn't like the work that much after a while. I wanted to deal more with the music then the temperature of Gene Simmons' limousine when he showed up in Denver or something like that (laughs).
Q - I don't blame you. That's why you decided to go into management then?
A - Yes.
Q - How did you meet Ronnie James Dio?
A - I graduated from Rome Free Academy. I thought I wanted to be a track coach and an English teacher, so I went to school in Cortland. In '63 I started out at Cortland State. Ronnie had one of the best groups in the area even then. I played in a couple of college bands and I saw Ronnie's band play a couple of times. Over the course of a couple of years I became friends with Nicky Pantas first. He was the guitar player in Dio's band. I became a lot more interested in playing music then I was interested in going to school. I became more like a "townie" that also went to school. So, I worked my way through Cortland State playing in bands. Nicky had a studio. Back then you couldn't record an album on a computer in your bedroom. He had a little demo studio down there. I would go over to his place and put down song ideas. In 1967, I knew Ronnie by then. I knew all the guys in all the local groups. In 1967, I wrote a song and demo(ed) it at Nicky's studio and Ronnie really liked it and wanted to record it. He asked me to go to New York with the rest of the band and record the song. A couple of weeks later, Ronnie and Bobby Comstock got an opportunity. Back in those days you got opportunities to back artists that needed musicians like
Freddy Cannon or somebody like that. The summer of '67, Ronnie landed a gig as
Gene Pitney's backup band on a national tour. It was The Gene Pitney Cavalcade Of Stars. You would warm the audience up with a couple or three songs. Then you'd come back out and back up Gene Pitney, who's the star of the show, but you also had to be the road crew. The backup band also humped all the year. (laughs) The guitar player in Ronnie's band, Nicky Pantas had a real bad ulcer. Nicky was a guy who was about 5' 4", weighed 110 pounds and wasn't in the best of health. He felt it would be too difficult for him and he suggested to Ronnie that they take me in his place and he would go to the hospital to get this ulcer taken care of and get some relief for it. I was in a band called Brian's Idols at the time. So, I went off and played in the Gene Pitney tour for two months. When I came back, they threw me out of Brian's Idols. So Ronnie took me in as a keyboard player into Ronnie Dio And The Prophets.
Q - When you talk about Gene Pitney's Cavalcade Of Stars, didn't you mean Dick Clark's Cavalcade Of Stars?
A - No. Pitney patterned his Cavalcade Of Stars after Dick Clark. He did exactly what Dick Clark had done in previous years. He was the producer of it rather than Clark. It ran the same way. We'd come out and warm up the audience with three songs. Then on would come The Fifth Estate, from Connecticut, a group that had a hit song called "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead".
A - Then on would come some kids from Ohio called
The Music Explosion. They had a song called "Little Bit Of Soul".
Q - I interviewed them too!
A - You've interviewed everybody. (laughs)
Q - Not the Beatles.
A - Well, so you missed one. Then
The Happenings would come on. They'd do "See You In September" and a couple of their hits. Everybody used the same backline gear and everybody did about five songs. There would be an intermission and we'd come back out and play three more cover songs to warm the audience up. And on would come The Easybeats, who were just sensational. I mean, they were just amazing. They of course had "Friday On My Mind" that spring. Then on came a Chicago band called
The Buckinghams and they had quite a few hits at that time and then Pitney would close the show. We'd all come back out. I had like my black mohair graduation suit that I carried in a brown paper bag. Pitney wanted us to wear shirts and ties and suits. I said "well, I'll do that, but I'm not going to have it cleaned or pressed." So, I carried it around in a grocery bag. I didn't even own a suitcase at the time.
Q - You played clubs with Ronnie Dio?
A - I played every railroad crossing in the Northeast with Ronnie Dio. I played with him for five years.
Q - Was it Elf that you were in with Ronnie?
A - No. It was not Elf. It was Ronnie Dio And The Prophets when I started out. The song that we recorded in 1967 that I wrote, we put it out on MGM as The Electric Elves. And of course it went on and didn't sell anything. It didn't do anything. Then we got in a bad car accident in February 1968 and that broke the group up for a few months. By the time I rejoined it, we started using the name Electric Elves again. Then we just shortened it to Elves. And when I quit the band, the other guys went on as Elf.
Q - Do you remember any clubs you might have played in Syracuse?
A - No. We played one small club in Syracuse one time in 1969 and hated it. I think I played the Fayetteville Inn in May 1965 with my own college band. It was a fun gig 'cause in the other room was Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels. They were a great band and they were on their way to New York to sign their first record deal. They had a gig in Syracuse on their way from Detroit. The Elves and Ronnie Dio And The Prophets almost never played Syracuse. Now, as Elf they started to get some love from a DJ up there after I was out of the band and they got a little more acceptance up in Syracuse. So, they might've played there after I was out of the band. When I was in the band, we played Courtland some, but we played down in New England a bit, Western New York, down to Pennsylvania a lot, but Syracuse just one time, some small club that I don't recall the name of.
Q - I bet you didn't know The Supremes played the Fayetteville Inn.
A - Oh, they had a lot of groups come through there. In '64, '65 and '66, it was one of the first showcase clubs. They had national acts. I know that, yeah.
Q - In the early 1960s, famous actors and actresses stayed in the hotel part of the Fayetteville Inn.
A - I didn't know that.
Q - Betty Grable stayed there.
A - Oh, my goodness. I didn't know that.
Q - As did Bela Lugosi.
A - Oh, my goodness!
Q - These people would perform at the school's summer theater that was close by.
A - Maybe Baron Daemon (Mike Price) went over when Bela Lugosi was there and worked on his accent.
Q - You still remember Baron Daemon?
A - His name is Mike Price, right?
Q - Yes.
A - I stopped performing in 1972. Two years ago, David Feinstein from The Rods and from Elf, and some other local people, Jim Panas, put together like a Dio tribute and I was invited to perform at that and I did. Mike Price was the emcee. It was kind of a thrill. When I was in high school, my best friend and I would religiously get home to my place around 11:30 PM to see Baron Daemon. I'm talking 1961, 1962 now.
Q - Baron Daemon was a big star in Syracuse, New York in the early 1960s.
A - He had the "Grab Your Baby And Hold Her Tight 'Cause Baron Daemon Is Out Tonight." Do you remember that?
Q - Sure, that Transylvania Twist. Do you remember who was backing him on that record? Sam And The Twisters.
A - I never knew Sam And The Twisters. I never met any of 'em, but of course I knew the name. They were the big Syracuse band. Then the Monterey's after them.
A - I never knew any of the Syracuse guys. I knew Dave Porter ("805") 'cause he went to school in Courtland before he had "805". He's the only Syracuse musician I ever knew. We weren't part of that scene. We had our own scene down in Ithaca and Courtland. The fact that Syracuse is only 35 miles away, it might as well have been 135 or 300 miles away, 'cause we didn't give a rat's ass about Syracuse. They had The Jam Factory. They liked the horn bands, Wilmer And The Dukes, The Jam Factory. We weren't that. We were like the "wall of sound." Two guitars, bass and drum, tear your head off band.
Q - You're talking late 1960s, but there were quite a few groups from Syracuse that were very popular in the mid-1960s.
A - Well, Don Barber And The Dukes from Courtland. I never met Donnie until two or three years ago. He's a funny guy. I was excited to meet him 'cause when I was a kid in high school at RFA (Rome Free Academy), "I'll Be Blue" was one of my favorite songs. It's funny, I met him, I shook his hand and I said "Don, I love your song. It was so good." He goes, "I sold 1 million copies, you know." I go "it did?" He goes "I'll tell you what happened. My mother sold her house here a couple of years ago and they found 990,000 singles in her attic." (laughs) He's a funny guy.
Q - You know what all those groups we're talking about needed? They needed a manager like Doug Thaler.
A - You know what? I try to be the manager I didn't have. That's what I tried to do. We had a manager per se. The guy had done a good job for Bobby Comstock. He's dead now. John Perialis, he went into real estate. He was making really good money with that. He didn't put as much time into the music side of things as he wanted to. It was his connections that got Ronnie and Bobby Comstock all those backup gigs in the early '60s. By the late '60s, he was pretty out of it and we had kind of a harsh parting of the ways in early 1970, as I recall.
Q - Do you remember the Syracuse group, Jukin' Bone?
A - Yeah.
Q - Joe Whiting.
A - And Mark what's his name?
Q - Doyle.
A - They were from Skaneateles. They were called something else. I can't remember what they were called before they were called Jukin' Bone.
Q - Do you remember the DJs from Syracuse? Guys like
A - Bud Ballou I remember. Never did anything with him. "Dandy" Don Leonard. We tried to get something going with him. We had a couple of singles on Decca. He played one of 'em in the summer of 1969. But he never really supported us. Syracuse never supported us in the years that I was playing with Ronnie, which is up through 1971. Whatever support Ronnie got out of Syracuse, he got when I was out of the band.
Q - I saw Ronnie Dio at a club called the Brookside and a DJ named Howie Castle introduced him.
A - I don't know that name. After I was out of the band, Ron Wray (The Syracuse Music Authority) started championing Elf's cause in Syracuse, on what ever (radio) station he was on.
Q - Ron Wray is in the process of writing a book on the history of Syracuse music. So far, he's up to 1500 pages and he's not finished yet. Does that give you any idea of the Syracuse music scene?
A - Yeah, like I'm telling you, we had our own thing going on in Ithaca and Courtland. I think the bands from down there were always superior to Syracuse ones at the time. I don't know about after 1971 'cause I didn't play. We kind of thought Sam And The Twisters were a joke next to what we've are doing, and some of the groups around Courtland and Ithaca.
Q - Sam Amato was bragging to me how he had the Beatle, Super Vox amps.
A - Ed Wool And The Nomands had the first Super Beatle that I ever saw, by late '65. I never saw Sam And The Twisters. I would like to have. I would've like to have met the guys 'cause I heard his name. He built a great name for himself in Syracuse in the '60s. He gets my vote.
Q - He was getting a guarantee versus a percentage of the door, whichever was higher, plus 10% of the bar action. No group was getting that then, or now for that matter.
A - Well, he was a better businessman then we were, 'cause we never got that.
Q - His group drew and he played six nights a week!
A - Yeah, I know. He built up a great following by the mid-60s.
Q - Why did you part ways with Ronnie?
A - Well, a couple of things. I left at the end of '71. Honestly, I was brought into the group as much as anything else as a songwriter. I wrote like all the songs that the group did in those days. All the originals. By 1971, I kind of got sick of seeing the same old places. If it's Easter, were going to be playing the Paddock Room in Waverly and we'll be doing a weekend at Bucknell. I was working hard at the songs, but I didn't want to be a one-hit wonder, if we were going to have any success. I wanted to compete with The James Gang and The Who and whoever else. It got to a point in 1971 where I said, "hey, I don't have it to compete with those people. I can do this for two or three or four or five more years, I'm not going to become Neil Young. Neil Young is already Neil Young and I'm 26, 27, and I'm not getting any better, fast. So, I better find something else to do for a living." I quit the band and about a year after I quit the band I went on to New York and wound up getting into the business side of the business, late '72, early '73.
Q - Who's management style would you say you patterned yourself after, Col. Parker or Brian Epstein?
A - Oh, neither one of those guys. I don't know anything about their management styles. Besides, their management styles weren't relevant to what I had to do by the time I got into it, the late '70s, early '80s. I mean, it was a different business by that time. A couple of guys that I worked with as an agent that were interesting guys that did interesting things, one was Bill Ham, who managed Z.Z. Top and the other was David Krebs. I worked for David Krebs for a while. He managed Aerosmith and Ted Nugent amongst other people. But, we met David Kreb when he was an agent at William Morris when I was in The Elves. We met him playing in Ungano's in New York City in 1971. I did a lot of things with him when I was an agent. The other guy that I found to be a pretty interesting manager was Ed "Punchy" Andrews, who managed Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band, and I think he still does.
Q - What kind of place was Ungano's?
A - It was a showcase club. Small. It was a toilet. A little, tiny, small place. It was even smaller than Steve Paul's Scene, which was the place in the late '60s in the city. Ungano's had a run for about two years.
Q - I'd like to read to you a couple of quotes from the late Lillian Roxon on managers: "The star has to have it and the manager has to know it. The manager has to have the same sort of instinctive sense of timing offstage that the star has on stage." Would you agree with that?
A - If I saw something that I felt was really good and I felt like I could take this to the next place, then it was something I would get involved in. But, there wasn't much of that going on. For example, I remember the first time I saw Mötley Crüe. I said, "this works!" This will work anywhere. This is a great piece of entertainment. The songs are good enough. The act is good enough just the way it looks, the way they play, the way they present themselves to the audience. I felt like if we could clean it up a little bit, take it around the world and if we could get them in the studio and make a record that could get on the a.m. radio of the day, a Rock record, the sky was the limit. I sat these guys down a couple of days after I first saw them and met them and I laid out a plan of what we were going to do. "Here's what we'll do the first year, and this will succeed." And it did. We did just what I laid out and I got Tom Werman to produce a record. Tom's records got on the radio. "Looks That Kill" got on the radio. "Too Young To Fall In Love" got on the radio. And we delivered it. Then the summer of 1980 when Doc and I saw Bon Jovi, he had the song "Runaway", and I felt the band was good. He was good. He was charismatic. And he had a song you could launch a career behind.
Q - Did you see Mötley Crüe by yourself or with Doc?
A - Doc and I went to see them together on New Year's Eve of '82 going into '83 at the Santa Monica Civic Center.
Q - And you both agreed that Mötley Crüe was going to be a supergroup?
A - I don't know that he was as sold on it as I was. He wasn't coming from a Hard Rock background. He'd been in business with Pat Travers. He'd been managing Pat Travers for about a year and a half or two. I don't think he had a real good feel for Hard Rock and what to do with it, and I'd been in the Hard Rock business for 10 years by that time. When I saw Mötley Crüe, I felt everything that I've done in the music business up until then had just prepared me to deliver this band.
Q - It took the better part of a year to sort out Mötley Crüe's problems. What kind of problems are you talking about? Financial?
A - Well, they had no money whatsoever and they had substance abuse problems. These guys, when we first started managing them, you'd take him over to SIR and rent a studio for them and they'd go out and get booze. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon they'd be shit-faced and fighting with each other. They didn't even know how to rehearse properly. So we really had to take it from the ground up with them. It was not that they had problems. They had all sorts of potential. Doc had some money to put into it. That was an important element as well.
Q - Very important.
A - Yeah. Getting through that first year and getting them into the studio, they were on Elektra records. Bob Krasnow came in as the president of the Elektra records about six months after they were signed. Bob was not a Hard Rock guy at all. He hated them. The first meeting Doc and I had with him, he talked like he wasn't in the circus business and he was embarrassed by Mötley Crüe. I said "Well, I am in the circus business. How do I get this band the fuck out of here?" Doc wanted to throw up after the meeting. Krasnow was on some kind of pill or another. He wasn't like fully there. The meeting ended up, I got in his face. He is not a guy who takes that well. When the meeting ended he said "look, you go make the best album you can make with these guys. I'm not guaranteeing I'll put it out, but I'll make sure I'll let you do what you need to do to get the album out." We made the album with Werman. A couple of other things he thought he was going to have big success with at Elektra in his first year, he didn't. Meanwhile, Mötley Crüe's first album continued to sell more pieces. When we got ready to put out "Shout At The Devil" in September 1983, I know the sales staff was hoping they could have 150,000 customer orders for the album. "Too Fast For Love" had gotten up to about 150,000 by then. Ten days before their release, they'd already written 300,000 customer orders for it, so he knew he had something on his hands. The album went out into the stores and the re-orders started coming. That album went Gold in less than three months.
Q - Mötley Crüe was fortunate enough that they had two guys who were in the record company offices fighting for them.
A - Yeah, that's what it was going to take. They needed that. Their original manager wasn't a manager. He recognized that there was something there, but he didn't know what to do with it. He didn't know how to work with the record company. He didn't have any money to put into it. This was all it was going to take, a little investment.
Q - I saw Bon Jovi at a club called The Lost Horizon in Syracuse, New York on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, 1984. That afternoon I interviewed him at the Carrier Circle Holiday Inn. I was struck by the fact that he was a nice guy. He had the PR thing going, but I wasn't blown away by his band.
A - Well, by 1984, just remember in March 1984, you saw him in the first two or three weeks that he was on the road. He'd been working at it for a couple of years, but it was just a little, local Jersey band. They didn't get to play that much. Later that spring we got them on tour with The Scorpions, behind that first album. That's where they really like tightened it up. There was always something there with him, the charisma, but I think if you had seen him six months later, you would have seen like a much more advanced version of it.
Q - I know that Bon Jovi returned to The Lost Horizon for a June, 1985 gig.
A - That must've been a warm-up gig because I had them on tour with Ratt in 1985.
Q - Let me read you some more of what Lillian Roxon has to say about managers.
A - I know her name, but I don't know her.
Q - She's passed on now, but here's what she writes: "Presenting an act or a performer to the public is as flamboyant an act as getting up on stage and singing. The managers are probably as much the real stars of Rock as the people they represent. You could put Col. Parker up on a stage, let him talk, charge admission and you'd have a big star. The great managers of great acts are almost invariably great acts themselves." So, you could put Doug Thaler on a stage and people would pay to hear you talk. Do you agree with that?
A - No. I think that there was a difference. Let your star be the star. That was one of the frictions between myself and Doc. Doc thought he was like the band. I remember him saying something like "I've sold 300 million records." I went "Doc, I didn't even know you made a record." He would talk in the first person if he was talking about Kiss, like he's sold the albums. Forget that most of those albums were sold before Doc was managing Kiss (laughs). I didn't buy into that. Maybe that made my career less than what I would've had. The talent is the talent. What I do is behind the scenes and set them up to succeed to the greatest extent they possibly can.
Q - Besides the business aspect, do you advise your artists how to dress or what to say to the press?
A - No. The record company normally has media training, so I didn't talk to them about that. We talk about things in general. And also bear in mind that the things I said to Mötley Crüe in 1983 and 1984 were relevant to the marketplace that we were dealing in, in 1983 and 1984. It might not have been relevant 10 or 15 years later. I stayed involved in every aspect of the band's career. We had a good A&R man at Elektra originally, Tom Zautaut, that had signed the band, but I'm the one that decided when Mötley Crüe was ready to record an album and if they had a song or two that could get on the radio or some other songs that could round out an album, so you had a good, complete album. I remember when Bon Jovi did "7800 Degrees Farenheit". Jon and his band had gone into a rehearsal hall with a little like ghetto blaster and they'd record into some portable thing and then get rough demos. I mean almost unlistenable demos. I remember their A&R guy, who was like a star of A&R at the time, Derek Scholman, saying "we got three top tens." I listened to the tape and said "this is a bunch of crap. He hasn't got anything here." And "7800 Degrees Farenheit" came out and the label put a big push behind it and they toured their balls off behind it and it barely went Gold. It had no real hits on it. So, here's an A&R man that brought the group into a studio and they didn't have a hit song to their name. Next time around Derek put them with Desmond Child and Desmond brought something to the writing process that had been missing. Ritchie and Jon, when they had a cheesy lyric, they let it go. When Desmond became involved, everything went up a few notches. If a line was a cheese line, he'd work until they found the right line. I always felt it was important with the groups that I worked with to recognize when they had good enough songs to go make a record. I thought part of the exercise was to agree on a producer that could deliver the best version of those songs recorded that he could possibly get. Mötley Crüe, we worked with Tom Werman for three albums and we went on to work with Bob Rock for the biggest success that they had.
Q - When the Beatles toured, Brian Epstein would have ex-FBI guys on the hotel floors to prevent fans from getting to the group. Did you have security in place to prevent overzealous fans getting close to Mötley Crüe?
A - No, not really. We had security. We didn't have ex-FBI guys. But remember, Mötley Crüe in 1985 was not The Beatles in 1964 (laughs). Far from it. They were capable of drawing 10,000 people a night, but it wasn't a stadium act like The Stones or The Beatles. We didn't have the same level of problem controlling it.
Q - These days you are booking or managing this Van Halen tribute act, Completely Unchained?
A - I'm not really doing either. They are guys from around here (Port Jefferson, New York). The leader of the band is a guy named Gene Henriksen. I managed his brother in a band called Parade Of Losers in 1985. That was on (Irving) Azhoff's label. It was a really good little band. They didn't get much of a fair shot on that label at all, but I remain friends with him. He had a couple of brothers. When I found myself out here, I went out to see them and I already knew Gene and a couple of Tommy's other brothers. Gene asked me if I would help them get some gigs off Long Island. I said "look, I'll try to make some calls for you." I started making a few calls. I've been able to do a little bit. I started getting calls from other tribute bands. I don't want to book tribute bands. Why do I want to book an AC/DC tribute band? I booked the real AC/DC for the first five tours. This isn't what I want to do at this point in my life. Gene calls me his manager, but I don't really manage him. We talk about things in general. I make calls and try to get him some bookings. They are more friends. It's more like a hobby. I'm just trying to help out with it.
Q - You do realize that the tribute band business is really hot right now, don't you?
A - Well, it is and it isn't. First of all, it's been around for about 15 years now. In some places some people have cultivated it a little further than others. There's a few places where they'll have mock fests where they'll get like a half dozen tribute bands. Completely Unchained headlined a 6000 seat, outdoor amphitheater down here. They had about 1500 people. You've got various levels of it. You've got Badfish, the Sublime tribute band that's been out there for quite a few years and they have built up quite a big draw. The Dark Star Orchestra has been out there quite a few years and built up quite a big draw.
Almost Queen is another one from down here that does very well. There's a Billy Joel tribute band down here,
Big Shot, that does very well.
Q - I know of tribute acts on the West Coast that are looking for East Coast gigs.
A - You work with these bands and you wind up dealing with people, some of the people are just ridiculous. There's people that I did dates with, (Art) Garfunkel or Bruce Hornsby, that I thought would help me with this, won't even return my calls anymore. You'll get guys that won't return e-mails. There's days when I feel like doing that and days when I don't feel like doing it at this point, to tell you the truth. I don't suffer idiots well. Most of the people you have to deal with are not like anybody close to topline people in the business.
Q - What interests you at this stage of your life?
A - Relaxing. Honestly. I still take one line guitar lessons. I still like to play. I just don't play out anymore. You know, I'm 67 years old and I ran pretty hard for 40 years there. (laughs) I haven't got a lot of ambition these days, to tell you the truth.
Q - That being said, I guess you deserve a rest.
A - I feel like I left it all on the playing field. I had a hell of a time doing it and I got some great war stories. (laughs) But that was then and this is now. I don't think I've figured out this part of my life yet.