The music business is a a hard one, and the easy access to recorded music via the internet has made it even harder. Thus, concerts have become a more important source of income for a lot of musicians and other people in the business. My husband himself, who has been a classical musician since he was 13 when he picked up the bassoon chair at his high school orchestra, admits that for classical musicians - apart from a few soloists and members of very famous orchestras - playing in a military band is probably the best gig they can get.
Back in the "good old days", the time of bands like The Beatles and the heydays of The Rolling Stones, not only the performers themselves were famous but sometimes also the people behind the scenes, like concert promoter Pat DiCesare, who hit off his career in the business by promoting The Beatles' now famous U.S.-tour in 1964.
On Monday, the wonderful Linda Roy at Elleroy Was There shared the first part of concert promoter Pat DiCesare's story on how he came to be one of the most successful concert promoters during the heydays of concert tours.
After quitting a very prestigious job, Pat spent six months to try figure out how to get his foot down in the music business...
During this time, I had written many songs for a Do Wop type group that I had. I auditioned my group for the producer of the Del Vikings who were a big Pittsburgh group who had two big hits at the time, “Come Go With Me” and “Whispering Bells.” They were interested and recorded two of my songs which climbed the charts. As a result of that, my dream of getting a job in the music business came true and I did get a job in the record business. I became the best floor sweeper and shelve stocker in the record business.
After I did that for about 6 months the owner of the company asked me if I had a suit and I said no. He gave me $100 and told me to buy a suit, shirt and tie and that on Monday, I was going to become our record company’s promotion and sales person. That meant that I would get in my car on Monday and drive through West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. My job was to make hits of the records that our company produced. I would drive to every radio station and record store in the states and try to persuade the radio stations to play our records and the stores to stock them.
One day, around the time President Kennedy was killed in November 1963, a competing but friendly record promoter asked me if I ever heard of a song called “Love Me Do” by The Beatles. I told him no but when he played it for me, I liked it. When I asked how he was doing with it, he said that no one would play it and he had another one called "She Loves You". When he played that song, something inside of me clicked and all I could think of was that song. I couldn’t believe that he couldn't get any airplay and that the record wasn’t selling. But that was the case. In fact, he had other songs, like “I Saw Her Standing There.” None were getting played.
I went to my boss, remember the guy who gave me the $100? In addition to the record business, he owned a nightclub in town and he managed Lou Christie who had several big hits out, “The Gypsy Cried”, “Lightning Is Striking Again” and “Two Faces Have I,” and he was the concert promoter in town.
I told him, “I just heard an act that I want to bring to the Civic Arena.”
He replied, “What’s their name?”
I said, “The Beatles.”
He said, “The Beatles, I never heard of them. What hits do they have?”
“None,” I said.
“They don’t have any hits and you want to bring them to the arena. You are crazy.” He replied.
I said, “They don’t have any hits now, but by the time we get them booked, I can make their records hits. Would you just call Lou Christie’s agent and ask how to get them to come in to the country?”
“Come into the country? Where are they from?” He asked.
“England.” I said.
“England! You are crazy.” He said.
He called Roz Ross of the William Morris and when he told her they were from England, she said, “Forget about The Beatles, they will never be big in the US. No British rock act has ever been big in the US and never will. Americans don’t like British rock.
”I asked if she would call the London office and when she did, she was told that all of those records were number one hits in England. But her London office also said to forget The Beatles, they will never be big in the US and weren’t planning to come to the US anytime soon.
That was it until December 27, 1963 when Capitol Records released the LP Meet The Beatles. The first song on the first side was, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The song was an instant hit. Capitol sold over 800,000 copies in the first ten days of its release. At this time, Ed Sullivan was in London on his way to the airport when he saw a massive amount of teenagers. He asked his limo driver what was going on and the limo driver said, “Oh that’s these teenage girls. They come here every time this group flies in or out of the airport.”
Ed asked, “What’s the name of the group?”
Ed said, “Take me over there I want to see what this is about.” Ed Sullivan arranged to meet Brian Epstein their manager and for $1,200 arranged to get The Beatles to do 3 shows.
On February 9, 1964 over 72 million people watched The Beatles on TV. Beatlemania set in. Now The Beatles felt convinced that they could become the number one stars in the US and would be ready to tour.
I immediately called the agent and was told, “Everybody wants to promote The Beatles in their town, why should we take a chance with you. You have no experience and we don’t know if you have any money.”
I replied, “Yes, but I’m the one who called you in November when no one knew who The Beatles were.”
“We understand. Well OK but if you want The Beatles, the price will be $35,000.”
This was a staggering amount because at the time an American headliner was only being paid $3,500 a night. Now The Beatles want 10 times that amount. The agent went on to say, “In addition, you have to put $5,000 cash in a brown paper bag and deliver it to a bartender at the Club Elegant in Brooklyn and you have 48 hours to do it.
”The problem was that I didn’t have $5,000 and if I did, would I leave it with a bartender in Brooklyn? Anyway, I searched for an investor and had no luck. I lived with my mom and dad. I grew up in a poor family. My dad never made close to a hundred dollars a week. Besides, he had ten kids and it took all he and mom had just to feed us. But after work I went home and at the kitchen table, while eating I told mom and dad the story. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t know who The Beatles were or if they were a bug or a car.
The next day I went back to work and was unsuccessful raising the money. I went back home and sat at the kitchen table with mom and dad and after dinner, dad slid an envelope over to me. I opened it and there was a check made out to me for $5,000.
I said, “Dad what’s this?”
He said, “That’s for you to do your Beatles.”
I said, “Dad, where did you get this kind of money?”
“At the credit union at work. I put the house up as security.” Dad said.
I said, “Dad, I can’t take your money. I have to give this to a bartender in Brooklyn.”
And Dad said, “Do you believe in your Beatles?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then take the money and go do your Beatles.”
The greatest gift my father gave me was that he believed in me.
The concert was booked for September 14. We put the tickets on sale and the show sold out immediately. The first thing I did was give my dad back his $5,000. As a concert promoter, the show made $8,800.
People often ask me what it was like to work with The Beatles. At this time our country was deeply involved in the Vietnam War. We booked the show in February for September 14 and on May 29, I got drafted and had to go into the army. On the day of The Beatles concert, I was in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
When I got discharged from the Army and came home, I started a rock and roll agency and I became the dominant concert promoter in Pittsburgh. The first concert I booked was a Beach Boys date and I made $13,500. I now had my own apartment and was living in Pittsburgh.
I called my mother and invited myself home for dinner. Mom was happy to have me visit. After a delicious dinner, I slid an envelope over to my mom. She opened it and held it close to her eyes and said, “Oh, $50. That’s very nice Pat what is that for?” Then she immediately corrected herself and said, Oh, this is for $500.” And she quickly handed it back to me and said, “Here you take this back and you better quit fooling around writing big checks like this, you could get arrested.”
My mother had always been blind in one eye and had impaired vision in the other. She couldn’t see very well so my dad took the check from her, looked at it and said, “This check is for $5,000.”
Mom said, “What’s that for?”
I said, “Mom do you remember in 1964 you gave me the $5,000 for The Beatles?”
She said, “Yes Pat, but you gave us that money back.”
I said, “I know Mom, but this is just a bonus.”
Pat DiCesare was among the top grossing concert productions companies in the nation.
He promoted just about every major concert act in the business in the last half of the 20th century including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Janis Joplin, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel and the list goes on.
Currently, DiCesare is producing “Relive The Beatles ’64.
DiCesare’s best selling book, “Hard Days, Hard Nights”, From The Beatles to The Doors to The Stones Insider Stories from a Legendary Concert Promoter,” has won the 2014 Grand Prize at the Great Midwest Book Festival, the Runner Up in the 2014 So Cal Book Festival and was named the winner of the 2014 Independent book of the year.
"Promoting You", his newest offering will be released soon.
Find out more about Pat DiCesare and visit his website and Amazon author page. Visit Amazon.com to get your very own copy of Hard Days Hard Nights. Also follow Pat on Facebook and Twitter.