Leading French media executive given his lucky break by a passion for jazz
Friday 16 January 2004
Franck Ténot, media executive, publisher, radio presenter, jazz critic and concert promoter: born Mulhouse, France 31 October 1925; died Paris 8 January 2004.
When Filipacchi and Franck Ténot launched a magazine called Salut les copains in 1962, they should have had an inkling of the impact the music monthly would have on French popular culture. After all, the pair had been presenting a radio show with the same title (the English translation might be "Hello, Chums!") on the commercial station Europe 1 since September 1959, playing records by the likes of Elvis Presley, Sandy Nelson, Johnny Hallyday and Richard Anthony.
"The amount of mail coming in from listeners should have alerted us," said Ténot,
but we still got it completely wrong and only printed about 150,000 copies, which sold out within two days! That mistake made us very rich very quickly. Within months, Salut les copains became a million-seller and we were able to launch a host of other publications.
As right-hand man to Filipacchi, Ténot worked on Les Cahiers du Cinéma between 1964 and 1969 and started the men's magazine Lui, prompting General Charles de Gaulle to say: "They can carry on! Conscripts should have something else to read apart from Tintin while they're doing their military service!" Other launches such as Mademoiselle Age Tendre, Pariscope and Photo proved so successful that, by the mid-Seventies, the pair could afford to buy the weekly people magazine Paris-Match on which Filipacchi had started his career as a photographer.
Ténot became vice-president of Filipacchi Médias and remained a major player into the Nineties as the company joined forces with Matra and subsequently the Lagardère group to form the Hachette media conglomerate, which currently employs over 31,000 people around the world.
Born in Mulhouse, in the Alsace region, in 1925, Franck Ténot had a German uncle who became a Nazi but his schoolteacher parents wisely relocated to Bordeaux at the outbreak of the Second World War. The young Franck became president of the local Hot Jazz Club and developed a keen interest in the embryonic radio broadcasts of TSF.
His passion for jazz, "the 20th- century American music genre par excellence", gave Franck Ténot his lucky break. While working for the French atomic-energy board in Paris, he began writing reviews for Jazz Hot and Jazz Magazine, and struck up friendships with the writer Boris Vian and Daniel Filipacchi.
When the legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker died in 1955, Europe 1 called on Ténot and Filipacchi to put together a tribute which grew into the nightly Pour ceux qui aiment le jazz ("For Jazz Lovers"), a show championing Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. At the turn of the Sixties, the pair also began hosting the teatime show Salut les copains and playing Little Richard and Chuck Berry alongside French teen idols such as Claude François and Sylvie Vartan (a Ténot discovery - he and Vartan lived in the same Paris building).
The Beatles appeared on the show and were interviewed by Ténot and Filipacchi, who had also branched out into concert promotion, at the Olympia theatre and with the infamous Place de la Nation concert in Paris in June 1963. Featuring Richard Anthony, Les Chats Sauvages and Johnny Hallyday, the event attracted 150,000 riotous teenagers and jolted de Gaulle into noticing the "yé-yé" generation (so called because French singers and their fans aped the Anglo-Saxon "yeah").
With his pencil-thin moustache, Ténot had the old-world elegance of an Errol Flynn. A radio man, jazz fan - he owned over 70,000 vinyl albums - and bullfight aficionado to the end, between 1986 and 1994 he was chairman of Europe 1, the commercial station on which he had first broadcast. While at the helm of the company, he launched Europe 2, the sister FM network for rock fans, and recently bankrolled Radio Nova and the Paris jazz station TSF 89.9. In 1995, he was elected mayor of Marnay-sur-Seine.
Ténot published several books on jazz and radio and an autobiography, Je voulais en savoir davantage ("I Wanted To Know More", 1997). "I don't go to funerals. I certainly won't attend my own," he remarked recently.
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