Albert Bernard Grossman (May 21, 1926 – January 25, 1986) was an American entrepreneur and manager in the American folk music scene and rock and roll. He was famous as the manager of many of the most popular and successful performers of folk and folk-rock music, including Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Band, Odetta, Gordon Lightfoot and Ian & Sylvia.
Albert Bernard Grossman
May 21, 1926
|Died||January 25, 1986 (aged 59)|
|Alma mater||Roosevelt University (B.A., Economics)|
|Occupation||Entrepreneur and talent manager|
|Known for||Manager of Bob Dylan|
Albert Grossman was born in Chicago on May 21, 1926, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who worked as tailors. He attended Lane Technical High School and graduated from Roosevelt University, Chicago, with a degree in economics.
After university he worked for the Chicago Housing Authority, leaving in the late 1950s to go into the club business. Seeing folk star Bob Gibson perform at the Off Beat Room in 1956 prompted Grossman's idea of a 'listening room' to showcase Gibson and other talent, as the American folk-music revival movement grew. The result was the Gate of Horn in the basement of the Rice Hotel, where Jim (later Roger) McGuinn began his career as a 12-string guitarist. Grossman moved into managing some of the acts who appeared at his club — including an eighteen-year-old Joan Baez, who got her first major break with him — and in 1959 he joined forces with George Wein, who had founded the Newport Jazz Festival, to start up the Newport Folk Festival. At the first Newport Folk Festival, Grossman told The New York Times critic Robert Shelton: "The American public is like Sleeping Beauty, waiting to be kissed awake by the prince of folk music."
Because Grossman was committed to commercial success for his clients, and was frequently surrounded by socialist enthusiasts of the American folk-music revival, his manner could generate hostility. This hostility is illustrated by this description of Grossman's presence in the Greenwich Village folk scene by Dylan biographer and critic Michael Gray: "He was a pudgy man with derisive eyes, with a regular table at Gerde's Folk City from which he surveyed the scene in silence, and many people loathed him. In a milieu of New Left reformers and folkie idealists campaigning for a better world, Albert Grossman was a breadhead, seen to move serenely and with deadly purpose like a barracuda circling shoals of fish."
In 1961, Grossman put together Mary Travers, Noel Stookey, and Peter Yarrow as the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. They quickly achieved success when their eponymous first album entered the Billboard Top Ten in 1962. The group had been avidly pursued by Atlantic Records, who were on the verge of signing them when the deal inexplicably fell through. The group signed with Warner Bros. Records instead and Atlantic's executives later discovered that it was because music publisher Artie Mogull had introduced Grossman to Warner executive Herman Starr, from whom Grossman was able to extract an unprecedented deal that gave the trio complete creative control over the recording and packaging of their music. Over the course of his career, Grossman's client list included Todd Rundgren, Odetta, Peter, Paul and Mary, John Lee Hooker, Ian and Sylvia, Phil Ochs (early in his career), Gordon Lightfoot, Richie Havens, The Pozo Seco Singers, The Band, the Electric Flag, Jesse Winchester, and Janis Joplin.
On August 20, 1962, Bob Dylan signed a contract which made Grossman his manager. Grossman also extended hospitality to Dylan at his home in Woodstock in upstate New York. Dylan liked the area so much he purchased a house there in 1965. The cover of Dylan's album Bringing It All Back Home was photographed at Grossman's home in Woodstock. The woman in the cover photo with Dylan, in the red trouser suit, was Grossman's wife, Sally. Having returned to Woodstock at the end of his 1966 World Tour, Dylan was on his way home from Grossman's house in West Saugerties when he suffered the motorcycle accident that precipitated his eight-year withdrawal from touring.
In his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan describes first encountering Grossman at the Gaslight cafe: "He looked like Sydney Greenstreet from the film The Maltese Falcon, had an enormous presence, always dressed in a conventional suit and tie, and he sat at his corner table. Usually when he talked, his voice was loud like the booming of war drums. He didn't talk so much as growl."
When Bob Dylan was about to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1969, English critic Michael Gray asked Grossman about the rumor that The Beatles might appear on-stage with Dylan. Grossman replied, sotto voce: "Of course the Beatles would like to join Bob Dylan on stage. I should like to fly to the moon." The contracts between Dylan and Grossman were officially dissolved on July 17, 1970, prompted by Dylan's earlier realization that Grossman had taken 50% of his song publishing rights in a hastily-signed contract.
When Grossman signed Janis Joplin and her four bandmates from Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1967, he told them he would not tolerate any intravenous drug use, and all five agreed to abide by the rule. When he discovered, in the spring of 1969, that Joplin was injecting drugs anyway, he did not confront her. Instead, in June 1969 he took out a life insurance policy guaranteeing him $200,000 in the event she died in an accident. His yearly premium was $3,500.
On October 4, 1970, two-and-a-half months after Grossman was dealt a blow by the dissolution of his contracts with Dylan, his most famous remaining client, Janis Joplin, died suddenly from a heroin overdose. Grossman refused to speak about her death to journalists or colleagues in the music business, leaving his employee Myra Friedman to handle the phone calls that flooded their office. According to Joplin biographer Ellis Amburn, Grossman's "feelings about the loss of his most valuable client are not known." What is known is that in 1974, by which time his only living clients were the members of The Band, he kept busy with Joplin's legacy. The San Francisco Associated Indemnity Corporation challenged him on his collection of $200,000 from his life insurance policy, which led to a bizarre civil trial in the spring of that year, covered by the New York Post, in which the insurer tried to prove that the singer's death was a suicide, not an accidental overdose as had been determined by Dr. Thomas Noguchi. Grossman testified that he had never known the extent of Joplin's substance abuse when she was alive, and that he secured the accidental death policy "with air crashes in mind." He won the case and collected $112,000. In 1974 he also assisted Howard Alk with the creation of the feature-length documentary Janis, locating and using black and white film footage in which the singer says she is satisfied with Grossman as her manager.
In 1969, Grossman established the Bearsville Recording Studio near Woodstock, and in 1970 he founded Bearsville Records, which evolved from his brief partnership with the Ampex company to establish a record label of the same name. Although that venture was short-lived - Todd Rundgren's debut solo album Runt was one of its few successful releases - this soon led to the establishment of Grossman's own Bearsville Records label, which was originally distributed through Ampex, and then by Warner Bros. Records.
In addition to Rundgren's solo recordings and those of his band Utopia, the label also recorded acts including Jesse Winchester, Foghat, Gil Evans, Paul Butterfield, Sparks, Felix Cavaliere, Randy Vanwarmer, Lazarus, Jesse Frederick, Roger Powell, NRBQ and The dB's. When Michael Friedman joined the Grossman office he brought Todd Rundgren with him and signed Rundgren to a management contract with Grossman. This was soon after leaving his original group Nazz and during the early 1970s he worked extensively on record production projects, either for the Bearsville label or for Grossman's other clients. It was Grossman who recommended Rundgren to Robbie Robertson of The Band as the engineer on an album by Jesse Winchester, which in turn led to Rundgren working on The Band's third LP Stage Fright. Rundgren also worked briefly on the early Pearl sessions with Janis Joplin, but these came to nothing and the project was subsequently taken over by Paul A. Rothchild. Joplin's Rundgren-produced recording of the song One Night Stand from March 28, 1970 stayed in a vault for more than a decade then became part of her posthumous Farewell Song album.
The Bearsville label continued into the early 1980s, folding in 1984, two years before Grossman's death. Bearsville Studios became Todd Rundgren's recording base through the late 1970s and 1980s and was used by a slew of top-line American and international acts.
Grossman died of a heart attack on January 25, 1986, while flying on the Concorde, aged 59. He was en route to London and was planning to make a trip to Cannes, France to attend a music convention. He is buried behind his own Bearsville Theater near Woodstock, New York.
Grossman had a reputation for aggressiveness in both his method of acquiring clients and the implementation of their successes. That aggression was based in large measure on Grossman's faith in his own aesthetic judgments. Grossman charged his clients 25 percent commission (industry standards were 15 percent). He is quoted as saying, "Every time you talk to me you're ten percent smarter than before. So I just add ten percent on to what all the dummies charge for nothing."
In negotiations, one of Grossman's favorite techniques was silence. Musician manager Charlie Rothschild said of Grossman, "He would simply stare at you and say nothing. He wouldn't volunteer any information, and that would drive people crazy. They would keep talking to fill the void, and say anything. He had a remarkable gift for tipping the balance of power in his favor."
Grossman sometimes appeared treacherously devoted to his clients' satisfaction. While wooing Joan Baez into representation, Grossman is quoted as saying, "Look, what do you like? Just tell me what do you like? I can get it for you. I can get anything you want. Who do you want? Just tell me. I'll get you anybody you want."
In the documentary film chronicling Dylan's 1965 tour of the United Kingdom, Dont Look Back, Grossman can be seen constantly protecting his client, sometimes aggressively confronting people he thinks are disrespectful to Dylan. In one memorable scene, he works with musical entrepreneur Tito Burns to extract a good price for Dylan's appearance on BBC One television. The director of Dont Look Back, D. A. Pennebaker, said of Grossman's management tactics, "I think Albert was one of the few people that saw Dylan's worth very early on, and played it absolutely without equivocation or any kind of compromise."
There are two interesting comments on Grossman in Martin Scorsese's film No Direction Home. One is Dylan's: "He was kind of like a Colonel Tom Parker figure... all immaculately dressed, every time you see him. You could smell him coming." The other is John Cohen's: "I don't think Albert manipulated Bob, because Bob was weirder than Albert."
In the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, Grossman was represented as the fictitious character Norman, played by Mark Camacho. In the film, Norman makes many of the remarks spoken by Grossman in Dont Look Back, at one point saying to an English hotel manager, "And you, sir, are one of the dumbest assholes and most stupid persons I've ever spoken to in my life". He was also briefly portrayed as the manager of the fictional Bob Dylan (Hayden Christensen as Billy Quinn) in the 2006 film Factory Girl.
In the 2013 Film Inside Llewyn Davis by the Coen brothers, F. Murray Abraham portrays a fictional character named Bud Grossman, who owns The Gate of Horn folk club in Chicago, the same name as Albert Grossman's Chicago club. In the film, fictional folk singer Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) auditions for Bud Grossman, who replies: "I don't see a lot of money here." This comment refers to the experience of Dave Van Ronk, who recounted a similar audition for Grossman, who then asked: "Do you know who works here? Big Bill Broonzy works here. Josh White works here... Now tell me why I should hire you?" After this comment, Grossman offers Davis a part in a band he is about to put together, consisting of two guys and a girl, which one journalist notes is "a reference to Peter, Paul, and Mary, the trio that Albert Grossman put together in 1961—ultimately choosing Noel Paul Stookey as the third member of the group, rather than Van Ronk, whom he also considered." Davis turns down the offer.
A Song Will Rise is the fourth studio album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul & Mary, released in 1965 (see 1965 in music).Album 1700
Album 1700 is the seventh studio album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, released in 1967. It produced the band's most successful and final hit — "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (a John Denver composition). The album peaked at #15 on Billboard Magazine's Top LP chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Folk Performance category. Album 1700 was so named because its original LP issue was Warner Bros. Records catalog# W-1700 for the mono version and WS-1700 for the stereo version. The album stayed on the charts and rose again in 1969, thanks to the single release of "Leaving on a Jet Plane".
The song "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog" was written by Leslie Braunstein, who was the original lead singer of Soft White Underbelly, the band that later became Blue Öyster Cult. The song was later made into a children's book and covered by Willio and Phillio (Will Ryan and Phil Baron) on a Disney children's album.Bearsville Records
Bearsville Records was founded in 1970 by Albert Grossman. Artists included Todd Rundgren, Elizabeth Barraclough, Foghat, Halfnelson/Sparks, Bobby Charles, Randy VanWarmer, Paul Butterfield's Better Days, Lazarus, Jesse Winchester, and NRBQ. The label closed in 1984, two years before Grossman's death.
Bearsville's initial distributor was Ampex Records. From 1972 until its folding, the label was distributed by Warner Bros. Records in most countries. In the UK it was distributed by Warner until 1979, and then Island until 1981; its last few British releases were licensed to independent labels Avatar and Lamborghini. Rhino Records currently distributes the Bearsville catalog.
Many of the artists on the roster recorded at Grossman's Bearsville Studios.Bearsville Studios
Bearsville Studios was a recording studio in Bearsville, located just west of Woodstock, New York, United States. The Bearsville Records label was under the same ownership.Blowin' in the Wind
"Blowin' in the Wind" is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962 and released as a single and on his album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963. Although it has been described as a protest song, it poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war, and freedom. The refrain "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind" has been described as "impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind".In 1994, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, it was ranked number 14 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962, recorded on November 14 that year, and released on the 1963 album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and as a single.Dont Look Back
Dont Look Back is a 1967 American documentary film by D. A. Pennebaker that covers Bob Dylan's 1965 concert tour in England.
In 1998 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In a 2014 Sight & Sound poll, film critics voted Dont Look Back the joint ninth best documentary film of all time.If I Had a Hammer
"If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" is a song written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. It was written in 1949 in support of the progressive movement, and was first recorded by The Weavers, a folk music quartet composed of Seeger, Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman. It was a number 10 hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962 and then went to number three a year later when recorded by Trini Lopez.
The Weavers released the song under the title "The Hammer Song" as a 78 single in March 1950 on Hootenanny Records, 101-A, backed with "Banks of Marble".In Concert (Peter, Paul and Mary album)
In Concert is a live album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul & Mary, released in 1964 (see 1964 in music). It was compiled from concerts at San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach in California; Daytona Beach, Florida and Terre Haute, Indiana. It was digitally re-mixed and re-mastered and released on CD in 1989.In the Wind
In the Wind is the third album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, released in October 1963, a few months before the arrival of the Beatles heralded the British Invasion (see 1963 in music). It was reissued on audio CD in 1990.
The lead-off single of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" sold a phenomenal three hundred thousand copies in the first week of release. On July 13, 1963, it reached number two on the Billboard pop chart, with sales exceeding one million copies. It spent five weeks atop the easy listening chart. The second single from the album, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right", another song by Dylan, peaked at number 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart and number 9 on the Pop Singles chart.
At the Grammy Awards of 1964, their recording of "Blowin' in the Wind" won the Best Folk Recording and Best Performance by a Vocal Group.Late Again
Late Again is the nіnth studio album by folk-pop trio, Peter, Paul and Mary and reached #14 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums Chart.
The same week that this album was released, group members Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow were part of an anti-war demonstration in Grant Park during the late August Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL. The two were among demonstrators who were beaten and teargassed; this made newsreels across the country.Late Again featured one Billboard Magazine Hot 100 single, "Too Much of Nothing" which was written by Bob Dylan. This album continued the group's transitioning sound, continuing to build a slight "Beatles-influenced" edge into their recordings.Moving (Peter, Paul and Mary album)
Moving is the second album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul & Mary, released in January 1963. The lead-off single, "Big Boat," failed to chart substantially, only staying on the Top 100 for two weeks, reaching #93.
The second single, "Settle Down (Goin' Down That Highway)," did slightly better, peaking at #56 on the Pop charts during a 6-week run; however, it did become an easy listening hit at #14.
The third single, "Puff, the Magic Dragon," was a huge hit and a defining song for the trio, reaching #2 on the Hot 100, #1 on the Easy Listening, and #10 on the R&B Charts.Peter, Paul and Mary (album)
Peter, Paul and Mary is the first album by American music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, released in 1962 on Warner Bros. Records. Released in both mono and stereo on catalog no. 1449, It is one of the rare folk albums to reach US#1 - staying for over a month. The lead-off singles "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree" reached numbers 10 and 35 respectively on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. It was the group's biggest selling studio album, eventually certified Double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for U.S. sales of more than two million copies.
The album was reissued as 180 Gram vinyl in 2016 under the Waxtime Label as #772125. The Waxtime issue has 3 Bonus tracks which are side 1 #7 - "One Kind of Favor (Live)", side 2 track #7 - "The Times They Are A' Changin' (Live)" and track #8 - "If I Had My Way (Live)".
At the Grammy Awards of 1963, their recording of "If I Had a Hammer" won the Best Folk Recording and Best Performance by a Vocal Group Grammies.Puff, the Magic Dragon
"Puff, the Magic Dragon" (or "Puff") is a song written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow, and made popular by Yarrow's group Peter, Paul and Mary in a 1962 recording released in January 1963.
Lipton wrote a poem in 1959; Yarrow found it and wrote the lyrics based on the poem. After the song was released, Yarrow searched for Lipton and gave him half-credit for the song.See What Tomorrow Brings
See What Tomorrow Brings is the fifth studio album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul & Mary, released in 1965 (see 1965 in music).Tarantula (Dylan book)
Tarantula is an experimental prose poetry collection by Bob Dylan, written in 1965 and 1966. It employs stream of consciousness writing, somewhat in the style of Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg. Its style is also reminiscent of Arthur Rimbaud's in A Season in Hell. One section of the book parodies the Lead Belly song "Black Betty". Reviews of the book liken it to his self-penned liner notes to two of his albums recorded around the same time, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.
Dylan would later cite Tarantula as a book he had never fully signed up to write: "Things were running wild at that point. It never was my intention to write a book." He went on to equate the book to John Lennon's nonsensical work In His Own Write, and implied that his former manager Albert Grossman signed up Dylan to write the novel without the singer's full consent.Although it was to be edited by Dylan and published in 1966, his motorcycle accident in July '66 prevented this. The first 50 copies were printed on A4 paper by the Albion underground press of San Francisco in mid-1965. The type-written pages were bound in yellow paper with a large red tick-like arachnid pictured on the front. Numerous bootleg versions of the book were available on the black market through 1971, when it was officially published to critical scorn. In 2003 Spin magazine did an article called the "Top Five Unintelligible Sentences from Books Written by Rock Stars." Dylan came in first place with this line from Tarantula: "Now's not the time to get silly, so wear your big boots and jump on the garbage clowns." In the early 21st century, Tarantula was re-released in English and translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Croatian and Czech.The Peter, Paul and Mary Album
The Peter, Paul and Mary Album, also known as Album, is the sixth studio album by the American folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, released in 1966 (see 1966 in music).The album included sessions contributions from several in-demand musicians of the era, including Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Charlie McCoy. Notable songs include "Hurry Sundown", which was released as a single, and "Norman Normal," which provided the basis of a 1968 Warner Bros. Cartoon Special of the same name, co-credited to Noel Stookey.Too Much of Nothing
"Too Much of Nothing" is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1967, first released by him on the album The Basement Tapes (1975).
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