In this Billboard feature, prominent tour managers reminisce with war stories from the rock 'n roll road.
Going through customs with Keith Richards, losing Barbra Streisand's flowers, watching Alice Cooper kill a shark in his bathtub: Legendary tour managers Patrick Stansfield, David Libert, Marty Hom, Gus Brandt and Stuart Ross swap war stories about ego soothing, corralling groupies and how exactly $100,000 in cash gets delivered.
Tour-managed Tom Waits for more than 20 years, and was part of the team that launched Lollapalooza. Worked with acts like Metallica, George Michael and Weezer.
Broke into the music industry as a stage manager for Bill Graham's FM Productions. Before retiring in 2002, Stansfield tour-managed The Rolling Stones, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond.
He served as Alice Cooper's tour manager during the rocker's '70s breakthrough, and later founded Available Entertainment.
Road managed Down by Law and Pennywise. He began working with Foo Fighters in 1996, and has tour-managed them ever since. Has worked with Eminem, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and many others
A 40-year industry veteran, Hom is the longtime tour manager of Barbra Streisand and Fleetwood Mac, and has also worked with Shakira, Bette Midler, Lionel Richie, The Eagles, Alicia Keys, Shania Twain and Janet Jackson.
Behind every music tour -- from Beyonce's Vegas-styled extravaganzas to Phish's weed-and-'shroom-fueled odysseys -- is an unsung individual who's equal parts field marshal, political fixer, armchair psychoanalyst and bag man. The tour manager on a major artist's outing is often responsible for shepherding more than 100 musicians, gaffers, carpenters, lighting technicians and accountants on voyages that span the globe and entire seasons. At the same time, they have to anticipate hundreds of demands from not-always-appreciative employers while keeping the entourage happy, safe and out of trouble.
Everyone has a preconceived notion of what a tour manager does. How would you describe your role?
Gus Brandt: What we do is such a rarified, weird, not noble thing. Just having that sixth sense of knowing when Barbra [Streisand] is going to go off on you or when [Foo Fighters'] Dave [Grohl] is going to be upset about the way the cheese smells -- not that he ever has, but just as an example.
Marty Hom: It's about budgeting. It's about hiring and cutting the deals. It's about logistics.
David Libert: We know how to get things done...You're really not allowed to make mistakes because everybody depends on you. It's like when [Alice Cooper manager] Shep Gordon [looked] me in the eye and said, "Is everything covered?" That's like asking a thousand questions, and if I said "yes," that represented a thousand answers.
Several of you started out in the late '60s and early '70s. How have things changed?
Stuart Ross: In the '60s, bands would have one or two people working for them, doing everything. I worked for The Doors doing equipment when I was 16 and they had one person on the road with them, Vince Treaner, and he picked up people regionally and we worked for free. He did sound, lights, checked the band into the hotel, picked up the check from the promoter.
Libert: And there were no cellphones. And no email. (Laughter.)
Ross: I don't remember how we sent the rooming list to the hotels.
Libert: You had to convince that hotel that if they didn't have envelopes with keys and a room list, there would be mayhem and chaos in that lobby when those 50 people walked in...
Patrick Stansfield: At 2:15 a.m.
Libert: Somehow, 99 times out of a hundred, we were able to convince these hotels.
How did you handle the logistics, without email or cellphones?
Libert: Every road manager had that enormous book that could tell you the mileage from any city to any city in the entire country.
Stansfield: A Rand McNally Gazetteer.
Ross: If you were going from Anchorage [Alaska] to Xenia, Ohio, you looked up Anchorage and then you went down all of the names until you got to Xenia and it would give you the mileage. And that's how we routed tours. We had no other way to do it.
Stansfield: Remember that in this equation, the band's management had a somewhat different agenda in terms of routing...Management wants you to play where they've decided you're going to play. If you were to say, "I can't guarantee you we can make that gig," [promoter-turned-movie producer] Jerry Weintraub would say, "Pat, I'm a rich man. I pay guys like you to figure this out." Tap, tap, tap on the cigar. "Don't tell me nothing except 'yes.' Now, get the f--- out of my face."
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