(CelerityAccess / Bob Lefsetz) — Tomorrow is the 25th Anniversary of a tragic day. On that day, 25 years ago…a helicopter went down traveling from Alpine Valley to Chicago, post a legendary show that featured Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray. Stevie Ray Vaughan was on that helicopter, and therefore will be a big topic of conversation, radio tributes and the like.
There were three others on that helicopter, bodyguard Nigel Brown, tour manager Colin Smythe and legendary agent Bobby Brooks. My heart goes out to the loved ones of Nigel, Colin and Stevie. But I wanted August 27th to be more than an reminder of a sad day; for me it is really about Bobby.
There are few legacies in the music business…even the greatest of the great become footnotes as the generations pass…most label execs today don't really know who Walter Yetnikoff, Mo Ostin, or Joe Smith were or what they accomplished, great managers like Dee Anthony, Peter Grant, David Krebs and Steve Leber are rarely discussed, groundbreaking promoters like Bill Graham, Cecil Corbett, Jack Boyle and Jules Belkin are not mentioned; and even Frank Barsalona, who invented the profession that is the modern day agent goes unknown to this generation. (Forgive me for all the names I could have and should have included).
Bobby was 34 when he died. By most measures, he was just starting in the business. Yet his memorial was so big it was held at the Universal Amphitheatre with over 3000 in attendance. How does such a young man have that much impact on an industry?
Bobby was special in a totally unique way…and I would be heartbroken if this anniversary passed without some acknowledgment and insight into this wonderful soul.
He grew up in New Jersey, found music in the late sixties, and went to St. John's in the early seventies. He was the college concert chairman, and all he ever wanted to do was book bands. I met him at a college convention in 1976, was amazed at how quickly he made friends, how much he knew about the business and the music, and how badly he wanted to be a part of it. His passion was both inspiring and overwhelming. He LOVED music, especially live music…and he would go anywhere and everywhere to see it, and nothing would keep him from working in an industry that was his calling.
Out of college in 1977, Bobby went to the mailroom at ICM. He got out of the mailroom in a matter of weeks, and was made an agent in less than a year. In 1987, he was the fifth agent to join CAA’s music department…and was a critical component to CAA music’s early explosive growth.
You might be thinking, so what.
But Bobby was one of a kind. When you first met him, you thought, "Who is this nerdy guy, with the big horn-rimmed glasses?" Yet, he had a unique ability to befriend everyone…not just artists, managers, and executives…but every assistant, every security guard, every roadie, every person in a box office…he knew and remembered all of them, embraced them, made them laugh, interacted with them…and in turn every one of them would bend over backwards to help him and support him. He loved music, and so could talk about songs, songwriters, producers, and when and where records were recorded. And the artists loved him for that! His clients included, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Kenny Loggins, America and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and so many more). All selling out arenas, and amphitheatres, and all benefiting from Bobby’s vision, and embrace of their talents.
He had a passion for the artist and the art, and knew how to express it in the most sincere way. He was never selling you; because he was always so enthusiastic that you felt like you were being let in on something great.
Bobby had a wickedly, devilish sense of humor, that would allow him to disarm any situation, unwinding the most complicated problem, while making you blush and laugh out loud. At the same time, he was kind and giving and always, always a loyal friend.
He brought a sense of joy, childish innocence and awe to his job…as he stood backstage at a show, he would comment on how he could not believe he was there, and that he would pay to have the job. Were he alive today, he would be running a major agency, have a client list that would be the envy of all, would be making everyone laugh (CEOs, young executives and parking attendants alike), and he would be at every concert, every festival, and every awards show in a bit of awe that he was in this business. Because despite the embrace and success, he was never quite sure he belonged.
The memorial at Universal was a who’s who of the music industry as well as countless people whom no one would recognize- because Bobby touched them all. Graham Nash and Jackson Browne sang, and tributes from the heart poured out from numerous speakers. It was one of the saddest days I will ever know, and yet it was a celebration of a man who touched so many lives with simple acts of kindness, recognition, follow-up, love and friendship. And therein lies what is so special and unique about Bobby, HE CARED!
There are so many great and funny stories to tell, I will leave it to others to share theirs.
I don't expect the newer generations to care much about the person (though I wish they would, history is so important). But, it is my hope it that my dear friend, Bobby Brooks, will remind people that reveling in what you do, embracing all those around you, and loving the art and the artist, can make for a very special life. A life we honor today, 25 years after it was taken too soon.
I miss you my friend!
When I was a wet behind the ears manager with my first band,the Jags ( I've Got Your Number Written on The Back of my Hand) I came to NY to meet agents. Chris Blackwell had introduced me to Frank Barsalona and Barbara Skydell at Premier Talent and they wanted the band. The most powerful agents in the world wanted my band!
But one day when I was in the Island office I got a phone call from this young booker at ICM called Bobby Brooks. He raved to me about the band. He knew everything about them. His enthusiasm was infectious. I agreed to meet Bobby and his friend Rob Light. After a couple of beers I told them they had the band. These were great people who became an important part of my life. Rob is the agent for all my acts till this day.
I remember that memorial service at Universal. It was the most extraordinary outpouring of love from so many people. I still hear from his wife Barbara and everytime we speak of Bobby my heart sighs. I loved that man.
Bobby Brooks widow, Barbara Cane is an equally remarkable person responsible for nurturing and in some cases, keeping alive, a world-class roster of songwriters in her amazing career as VP/GM at BMI. As anyone that knows her and has worked with her can attest – she has carried on the passion for music and artists that she and Bobby so obviously shared.
I was lucky enough to work with Bobby at ICM in New York from 1982 to 1984. I miss Bobby to this day and live by a quote of his from 1989 – "I truly love what I do, respect my clients, and I realize that life is too short, so while I take my job very seriously, I try and have as much fun as possible".
Artist Group International
Thanks, Bob, for forwarding Rob's remembrances.
Weirdly, I woke up early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. Among other things, Bobby popped into my head, and now I know why.
The thing with Bobby was that I was certain that I was his very best friend in the music business. When I saw the turnout at the Amphitheatre, I realized that he made everyone feel that way.
I miss him and what he meant to the business. The tragedy broke the mold and he will never be duplicated.
Bobby and Rob were like two peas in a pod. They used to come to my office regularly. Not many agents did that (visit record companies)
I still remember John Scher's eulogy at Bobby's funeral.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. Bobby had just married our Barbara Cane and they were just building their life and home together in LA. It still breaks my heart to think of the absolute sadness of this loss. Thank you for writing this. Such a meaningful insightful tribute. Sending love……
This is such a beautiful and touching tribute. I know how close Rob and Bobby were, but it would be an enormous omission if the day passed without mentioning Bobby's true love and wife, (and my dearest friend in the music business), Barbara Cane. Bobby and Barbara had been recently wed when he died, and among all the tributes, I always felt his loss was a particularly cruel turn of events for his young bride.
Thanks, Rob, for reminding us of this anniversary, and of Bobby's enormous contribution. And my heart goes out to all his family and friends who miss him to this day.
When Rob and Bobby were together, it was lightning in a bottle. They were yin to yang, Abbott to Costello, Martin to Lewis, brother to brother.
When CAA started their music division, Rob and Bobby made the rounds of the record labels. For their presentation to MCA, we went to Jerry's Deli in the Valley. I think it was Solters, Glen Lajeski, Liz Heller and myself. (Richard Palmese – I think you might have been out of town.)
We sat at a big booth, and laughed the entire time.
He was a Mensch first, an agent second. He was also married to the lovely Barbara Cane and I often wondered when and if she ever got a word in edgewise with him.
Rob and Bobby had devised a game where they kept track of who they knew by a point system; obviously a Bobby Brooks Special. Whoever saw that person first would yell out "Two Points!"
I was in the Beverly Center and heard this voice above the din shouting, "Two points!!!!!"
I turned to see Bobby and Rob standing in the doorway of the store I was in. Bobby had his hand out with two fingers pointing upwards.
He was shorter than Rob and seeing him standing in front of Rob with this silly smile on his face and those two fingers extended is the ultimate, absolute, without-a-doubt, perfect closing shot for someone who opened so many of our hearts.
If you knew him then, you miss him now.
Here's to the incredibly wonderful, always smiling, bright eyed boy, Bobby Brooks. xo
Sweet piece on Bobby. I spoke at a Billboard Talent Conference in NY 1977 (?)…and after my panel was finished a slight framed kid with glasses walked up to introduce himself. He was attending St. John's University and was the head of the concert/talent committee. I took an immediate liking to him, and stayed in touch for the rest of his days.
On another note Bob, it's time that NARAS or some other body puts together a website that pays tribute to the great sculptors of our business who aren't recipients of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards. I can think of hundreds of them and they need to be memorialized…you mention them.
Thanks for remembering.
I was there as I was Eric's lighting designer and gave all of my 3 friends a big hug as they got on the golf cart to go to the helicopter.
Loved Bobby as we both have the same sense of humour.
Great men are never forgotten?.
I was a 24 years old lighting technician working for Eric that night. The touring crew were already a tight family as is often the case, but that night solidified us as friends for life. We lost Colin and Nigel from our crew and the industry lost Bobby and Stevie. All of them legends in the touring world. That night changed my life forever in many ways. It was the first time I had felt that kind of loss, the shock was immense but we jointly decided we would to go on with the tour… I went on to replace Colin as a Tour manager and travelled the world with Eric for years after that. As you can imagine, there is so much that came from that night but I wanted to thank Rob for the email and for reminding me of a time in my life that was so special and that shaped me into the man I am today…
CEO Global Music Group
my thanks to rob for this moving and truthful portrait of bobby.
my own tale: i was in his office at icm one day and he takes a call from a guy at some very very small club. now at this point, bobby is already repping HUGE artists. when he finished the call, i said,
'uh bobby, i gotta ask: i don't mind it, why did you bother taking the guy's call? couldn't your asst or one of the jr. agents handle him?'
his reply: 'michael, that's what i do.'
period. and that said it all. it didn't matter that the caller wasn't big time…just like he took the time to meet in person with me.
'when they made you brother/they broke the mold'…terry's song, bruce s.
from the UK where we
are rehearsing david gilmour tour,
we LOVE BOBBY……
we love ROB LIGHT…
stay well all…..
I can't believe it's been 25 years. Like all of us who met Bobby, I felt like he was my best friend in the world. He used to call me "Chilly" which was the short version of his second nickname for me, "Chilly Billy." Mitch, Rick, Darryl and Jenna still use it when I see or talk to them, and I often wonder if they remember where it started!
We laughed constantly. He loved everything about his life and work and clients and family–and especially his beloved wife, Barbara–and his new CAA team of Rob, Tom, Mike…they were on a mission and Bobby was an integral part. His enthusiasm knew no limits. His office was stuffed with toys and one creepy, real-looking leg that stuck out from under his desk–what a character.
Bobby brought out the best in everyone and he gave many of us the benefit of a chance. He was an important part of helping me get established in business with CAA, he really guided my relationship with this new blockbuster agency and gave me a shot when I needed it.
Rob, thank you for highlighting the date. I miss our friend also.
Rob Light wrote beautifully about Bobby Brooks' business legacy but as worthy of remembrance was the legacy of his marriage to my dear friend, Barbara Cane. Their marriage was truly special. And while Barbara has gone on to be one of the most respected and loved women in the music business, Bobby Brooks remains the love of her life.
And this is why Rob Light is one of a kind, because he cares, he's compassionate and sees the business as more than just the next deal. I knew Bobby well and everything Rob said in his tribute is 100% correct. They certainly don't make them like Bobby anymore. And they don't make them like Rob anymore either.
As someone whose life was deeply touched by Bobby, seeing him remembered and honored, makes a sad occasion special. I met him when he first left the mail room at ICM and became an assistant. We were friends to the end and he was instrumental in many tours I was a part once he got to CAA. He convinced me to move to California, just 6 months before he died.
Like you, I miss him everyday and still wonder how my life would be different had he (and by that notion, all four) lived.
Thanks for remembering a dear friend
Thanks for printing this bobby was a great person
SO VERY STRANGE…JUST LAST WEEK I DESCRIBED THE MEMORIAL AT Universal to one of my girls. I guess because Jackson was here and I remembered him playing for a dancer at that event…and how very moving it was. I didn't remember that it was 25 years ago now….
Bob, like all of us who knew him, I was shellshocked Bobby Brooks died. I didn't know quite what to do to express my sincere grief, so I ended up writing his mother and father a heartfelt letter about their beloved son.
One day while rummaging through the mail, I was shocked to find a handwritten thank you note from Bobby's father.
Not only did he thanked me for my letter, but in the same manner in which I would have expected his son to respond, he politely explained to me how humbling it was for both he and his wife to learn how be loved their son Bobby really was.
Bobby Brooks really was a great human being, as anyone who knew him will attest, and I am convinced much of who he was came from this wonderful parents.
PS: Bobby was also one of the funniest human being I will ever know. The only person nearly as funny all of the time as Bobby that I have been around with Sam Kinison.
That was beautiful and a real testament to the man.
Thanks for letting Rob share it with everyone.
Greetings from London to you all!
I owe my A+R career to Bobby Brooks. I was a young music publisher when I meet Bobby and Barbara. I was always at gigs and so were they. We became fast friends talking non-stop about music, bands, great songs and great records. Bobby made me laugh and made me think about what I really wanted to do in the music business. He also told me not to take myself too seriously…excellent advice. One night when the three of us were out to dinner in NY Bobby said to me "You should be making records…" A few weeks later I was in Los Angeles and Bobby insisted I meet his boss at the time, Tom Ross. The next thing I knew I had meetings set up with all the major label presidents. And so it went… Bobby and Barbara were my biggest supporters as I began to make records, at the time, for MCA/Universal. They came to my artists' shows and sent artists to me. Their lives' work and love were music and artists and sharing that passion with others. I heard the news of the accident while I was visiting
Fire Island with my friend, now husband, Jeff Jones. He knew Bobby as well. We were heartbroken and stunned…but as the years have passed I realized that I was lucky, because I had the privilege of knowing and learning from Bobby Brooks and most importantly being able to call him my friend.
Thank you Rob for reminding us all of the gift of Bobby Brooks.
I love this.
I grew up in the time when all these guys were active, legendary, controversial, and inspiring.
I was fortunate to work with a few of them, to have met many of them, and to be totally intimidated by all of them!!
It was ok to be a giant in those days–and they were everywhere; now, not so. I can't think of any giants around these days. Yes, powerful guys and billionaires and such, but those guys had a spirit that we don't really see anymore. And it took a whole community, a whole movement in history to make the ground fertile for these big dudes to become and to take control.
Thanks Rob and best wishes to you
and thanks Bob for posting it.
this is really nice.
This is an amazing tribute and Rob is correct. We cannot forget or lose touch with history. I never met Bobby Brooks. I was a newbie working at Belkin Productions at the time. Jules Belkin spoke of Bobby like no other agent. There was no internet that day and word of the accident came across radio early that next morning. I was in the office when we learned that Bobby was on that helicopter. Jules went silent like I had never seen. He was devastated. We all were. Even those that did not know Bobby. It did not hit me how truly young Bobby was until I read Rob's tribute. Way too young. Thank you for sharing.
Bobby was my agent at ICM during the years that I booked the shows at the Agora Ballroom chain. We did many deals and spoke 4 or 5 times a week. He was a really cool guy…very easy to work with. I'm sure he was under pressure but he was always reasonable and friendly. He deserves all the accolades and recognition. He's gone but not forgotten.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news.
On vacation -listening to Armed Forces Radio Heraklion Crete.
We were sitting on the beach soaking up the sun when the news came in.
I remember crying and my grandmother asking me what was wrong.
I told her about Stevie – what he meant to me and the world of music and I remember they played "Couldn't stand the Weather".
My Grandmother – in her late 80's – unfamiliar with anything but the music of Greece – listened to the song, took my hand and told me that she could understand/feel why I was so sad.
I'll never forget that moment…..
When I started as a talent buyer for the Don Romeo Agency out of Omaha, NE., I first met Bobby Brooks at the IAFE fair convention in Las Vegas. The conference at the time was where fairs and talent agents met to start the booking process for the upcoming year. CAA had tasked Bobby with the job of selling Rock bands to the agricultural fairs all across North America. I was having a meeting with a fair group discussing potential Rock options. A couple of the fair board members had taken a survey of students in their children's class and wanted my opinion on the results. Bobby was in our suite at that moment, so, I said, "Bobby Brooks is here from CAA and he's an expert in the Rock world let's ask him." Bobby came into the room and sat down and listened intently as the fair board members revealed the results of the survey. "The top vote getters were Anthrax, Testament and Megadeth," one fair member stated. "What do you suggest?" Without missing a beat Bobby replied, "I suggest you get
your kids out of that class as soon as possible," And with that Bobby got up and left the room. Such was his humor.
Thank you Bob and Rob for noting the sweetness and kindness of someone whose very presence mattered at a time when the business and those who were in the business sparkled. I sat with Paul Atkinson at that memorial, another pure soul who's left us. Everyone who mourned Bobby knew we had lost an irreplaceable friend, and in hindsight Bobby, and people like Bobby, were part of the American Pie that used to be our cosa nostra.
I worked with Alex Hodges at the time and his Strike Force artist management company had both Stevie Ray and Gregg Allman as management clients then. I remember that first phone call concerning the copter crash and how my heart dropped just as it had when Duane Allman and Berry Oakley from the original Allman Brothers Band line-up were lost in similar motorcycle accidents years earlier. Great talents lost much too early! So many times I thought Gregg would be lost early too, but he is as tough as a rattlesnake and has survived and prospered!
I attended Bobby's funeral on Long Island and remember Graham Nash and Michael Bolton singing during the ceremony.
I had met Bobby many years before because one of my cohorts went to school with him at St. John's. We were agents in another industry (lecture and performing arts) but I absolutely remember how gracious Bobby was when we would see him over the ensuing years (at trade shows and concerts). He was always friendly with no "airs". You would never know he was a star in his field.
The outpouring of emotion at his passing was something I will never forget. Thank you for this tribute.
Rob Light for President!
Or at least to book more country acts!
Great piece Rob. Poignant.
Right on, Rob Light.
Well said. 🙂
Best Regards, Onward and Upward,
COO Worldwide Music Ventures Inc.
that's some amazing writing. tell rob light we are appreciative of that and bobby.
What a wonderful tribute Rob, thanks.
I remember the name, plus all the acts that he represented.
Reading your piece about Bobby makes me feel like I know him a lot better.
Thanks for sharing
The Valory Music Co.
I wish someone (hint) would do a book on all these guys. Not just about their accomplishments, but what made them special, what innovations they brought to the field…something that would inspire today's bookers, managers, etc. Was it all just charisma that made them special…what was their secret?
Real Deep Blues
I'm so happy you sent this out.
Beautiful tribute by Rob.
They were all on their way to Buddy Guy's Legends club in Printer's Row in Chicago. My friends and I were at the club, tipped that Stevie was going to perform that night – it is hard to describe the awful feeling that set in when the news came that there a fatal helicopter crash.
14 months later, Bill Graham perished in another tragic helicopter crash.
Really beautifully done – he was an amazing guy. -t
Thanks for this reminder of this. I remember all to well & it saddens me to this day.
What a wonderful tribute for an amazing person!!
Bobby Brooks was truly one of a kind!
Rob, thanks for being so eloquent!!
Miss you Bobby Brooks!!
Gail Davis Silberman
oh my goodness. that was so beautiful Bob. I'm a bit stunned right now. Thank you.
Thank you to that insight to Rob.
We miss him and heart and soul of what he brought.
This is the only way to be in this business.
And in life.
Thank you kindly Bob Lefsetz.
My name is Marla and my father was Dee Anthony. I wanted to write you a quick note to thank you for mentioning him in your recent article. A friend of mine I haven't seen in many many years forwarded it to me. I, in turn, forwarded it to my sister Michele. Well, of course she knows you and responded to me and said how sweet you are and that she had seen you not very long ago.
The music business is not what I saw growing up on the road with my dad. It brings me pure joy to have people like you recognize how great and special and magical it was. I chose to go a different path than my sister but the gold records on my wall, satin jackets from the seventies in my closet and countless memories of falling asleep in the lighting booth at concerts live inside of me.
Thank you for making me smile today. I think of my father every day and today I thought of him because of you.
Marla Anthony Bertsch