Dee Anthony: Manager who helped Joe Cocker, Peter Frampton and Jethro Tull break into the American market
Monday 25 January 2010
Following the first British invasion spearheaded by The Beatles in 1964, the American market became the Holy Grail for many British artists. However, "breaking the States", as became the common parlance in the music industry, often necessitated months of arduous touring, best negotiated under the watchful eye of a local manager or agent.
Dee Anthony was a savvy, streetwise impresario who came to prominence during the second half of the 1960s and helped British acts – the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Joe Cocker, Savoy Brown, Spooky Tooth, Humble Pie, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer – establish themselves on the lucrative US circuit. In the 1970s he also managed Boston's J. Geils Band and the Australian songwriter and entertainer Peter Allen, but had his biggest success with the guitarist and singer Peter Frampton.
Tagged "The Face of 68" by the teen magazine Rave, the photogenic Frampton had scored three UK hits with The Herd before joining the former Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott in Humble Pie. In 1970, Anthony took over their management and suggested a heavier direction and concentrating on the United States. The hard work paid dividends when their double live album Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore, went gold in the US the following year.
After Frampton left the group in 1971, Anthony applied the same strategy, touring him through four solo albums and eventually hitting the jackpot in 1976 with the double set Frampton Comes Alive!, the biggest-selling live album of all time by a rock artist, with worldwide sales of 14 million.
Critics dismissed Anthony as a one-trick pony who constantly argued the case for extensive touring followed by a live album, a move he had copped from the success of the Woodstock film and album. In 1970, he oversaw the release of Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a live double album and a Top 20 album in the US. In 1971, ELP, the supergroup he managed in the US, issued Pictures At An Exhibition, also a concert recording. In 1972, the J.Geils Band broke through with Live: Full House. Five years later, Anthony even convinced A&M Records, to release It Is Time For Peter Allen, another live double, to promote a performer better known for his Broadway and cabaret work.
However, Anthony did not always have the Midas touch. He rushed Frampton into recording I'm In You, a follow-up album which sold 3 million copies in 1977 but was nevertheless perceived as a failure. Both manager and star really came a cropper with their involvement in a misguided movie adaptation of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band starring the Bee Gees and Frampton. Despite boasts by Anthony, its executive producer, that the film "would make $100 million", it bombed at the box-office and he and Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees' manager and the movie's producer, carried the can.
Anthony did better for himself than for most of his clients, and Humble Pie, in particular, were critical of the way he handled their affairs, while Frampton signed an agreement not to discuss the manager when they parted company. Anthony subsequently worked with the alternative rock band Devo, and with Basia, the Polish-born former vocalist with Matt Bianco, then retired in the late 1990s.
Born Anthony D'Addario in 1926, he grew up in the Bronx. In 1944, he joined the US Navy and was decorated with the Victory Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Medal and the American Theater Medal for his three years' service in the submarine force. After the Second World War he opened a luncheonette and helped launch the career of the singer Jerry Vale, and anglicised his own name. Between 1954 and 1962, he worked as personal manager to Tony Bennett. In the mid-'60s he travelled to London and fell in with several of the emerging rock acts.
"I liked what I heard, I liked what I saw. I thought: 'that's for me'," he recalled in 1996. "I brought what I thought was a new type of music into America. The British bands were very influenced by the blues and the country sound – the Southern sound."
In 1968, Dee Anthony and his brother Bill founded Banana Enterprises. The next year, they took over the management of the MC5, the influential Detroit group, and secured Ten Years After and Cocker high-profile slots at the Woodstock festival. Anthony was a hands-on talent coach, giving his artists pep talks, drilling stage moves into them, demonstrating corny call and response routines and other tricks to win audiences over.
"We knew the importance of the stage show, pacing, lighting, as opposed to just doing a song and that's it," he said. "We wanted to take the audience on a path, in a direction, so they follow you through your whole repertoire. We knew what the words 'reprise' and 'encore' meant." In the '70s he also guided the career of the jazz-rock guitarist Al Di Meola. The industry magazine Billboard presented him with the Manager of the Year award in 1976 and 1977.
The Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson remembers Anthony "with fondness. He was the first real live American I ever met, when I got off for the plane for the first time in New York City in the early part of 1969, and had a huge culture shock. He was short, quite stout, a very tenacious, pugnacious man. Dee got us a start and placed us with some of the legendary promoters like Bill Graham and Don Law. On the following tour, we supported Led Zeppelin on several shows.
"He had three rules for success. The first was 'always get the money', the second was 'don't forget to always get the money, every time' and the third was 'don't forget that, whatever else you've done, to make sure you get the money'. Whether it's true or not, he had a strong reputation for being connected with the underworld, the Mafia. He kind of played that up. I still hear tales. Within a year, our then British managers, Terry Ellis and Chris Wright, decided the Dee Anthony relationship wasn't the right one and I remember thinking 'Terry and Chris are going to be in two separate barrels of cement at the bottom of the Hudson river', but Dee took it in reasonably good grace.
"He helped shape what the live concert industry in America became. He was a tough cookie. That's Dee in a nutshell. He, more than anyone else, symbolised that cross-over period between the old school, the kind of guy who probably had a gun next to the big cigars in his giant desktop drawer, and the new brigade, people who most likely had university educations, were middle class. If it hadn't been for Dee Anthony, we could have fallen into the clutches of someone much worse."
Anthony D'Addario (Dee Anthony), music manager: born New York 9 April 1926; twice married (four daughters); died Norwalk, Connecticut 25 October 2009.
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