UNCOMMON WRITING - UNCOMMON ADVERTISING - UNCOMMON IDEAS
In the Spring of 2013, Pittsburgh concert promoter, Pat DiCesare, engaged me to edit the 119,000-word transcript of his memoir, "Hard Days, Hard Nights." It was a massive undertaking. I was tasked with cutting the story to no more than 80,000 words. This was not a mere proofreading assignment; this was a collaboration. During the course of the edit, Pat landed a publishing deal with Headline Books. They did a cosmetic second edit, but what they published was largely what Pat and I had created together. It became an Amazon #1 bestseller and won several national book awards. It's a great read with great rock and roll stories, and I am proud to have been part of it.
Forward: Meet the Beatles
“If you want the Beatles to play in Pittsburgh, take $5,000 in cash to the Club Elegant in Brooklyn and leave it with the bartender,” the caller said.
“You heard me. Take $5,000 in cash to the Club Elegant in Brooklyn and leave it with the bartender.”
It was Roz Ross from the William Morris Agency in New York. She handled many of the big entertainers of the day. After I'd talked my partner, Tim Tormey, into trying to bring The Beatles to town, he had called Roz. She'd referred him to Norman Weiss, who was with a different agency. You had to establish a relationship with an agent and the agency if you wanted their acts. The problem was, Tim didn’t know Norman. So he kept calling Roz.
“Save yourself the aggravation,” she told him every day. “Forget about The Beatles. You’ll never get them.”
A few days later Roz called Tim back. She sounded excited. “Tim, do you have $5,000?”
“If you want the Beatles to play in Pittsburgh, take $5,000 in cash to the Club Elegant in Brooklyn and leave it with the bartender.”
The first time I ever heard of The Beatles was in the fall of 1963. I was managing a record distribution outlet called Regal Records in Pittsburgh. Back then, if an artist sold a million records nationwide, we could sell about 50,000 in Pittsburgh. If the act followed up with an LP, we'd sell about 5,000 copies.
The Beatles had three singles on sale at the same time: “Love Me Do,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” and “She Loves You.” But it wasn’t until December 27 that they really broke through with “I Want to Your Hand.”
I could have sold 50,000 Beatles LP’s, but I couldn’t get them! The pressing plant couldn’t keep up. Any Beatles fan who wanted “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had to buy the entire LP, so the LP was selling like a hot single. I had never seen this before, so I knew this act was special. I suggested to Tim that we bring them to town.
Tim Tormey was the concert promoter in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and '60s. He was also my mentor. He treated me more like a son than an employee and taught me volumes about the business. We talked every day about which acts to bring to town. He concentrated on managing artists and promoting concerts. Together with Nick Cenci and Herbie Cohen, two of the most influential guys in the record business in Pittsburgh, he ran a nightclub called the Zanzibar on Liberty Avenue. It had been the location of Lenny Litman’s Copa, a prominent nightclub between 1948 and 1959.
With all of these other projects, Tim turned the management of his record distribution business over to me. He lost the feel for what was hot. When I mentioned The Beatles I could tell he didn’t know how powerful they had become. Tim was conservative in his tastes; if it wasn’t Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, or Sarah Vaughan, he wasn’t listening.
A few days later, I brought it up again, “Tim, what do you think of bringing The Beatles in for a concert?” I didn’t remind him I had asked before.
“I think it’s a great idea. Can we get them?”
“Probably, but they’ll be expensive.”