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Peter Grant Article


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Billboard Magazine

Dec 9, 1995

LONDON - The death of former Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant has brought a wealth of tributes from colleagues who say that Grant changed the face of the British music business.

Grant died at 60 of a heart attack while traveling from London to his home on England's south coast Nov. 21.

Longtime friend and chairman of the International Managers Forum John Glover says the descriptions of Grant as "groundbreaking" are not exaggerated.

"As a small example, prior to Peter's involvement, tour promoters tended to pay an artist a fee or a very small percentage of the door takings. Peter changed that. He said, 'If you want Led Zeppelin, I want 90% of the door.' He initiated the concept and created a complete turnaround in approach."

Born in London, Grant entered the music industry in the late '50s. He worked with many of the stars of rock'n'roll and is credited with being the first to bring Chuck Berry to the U.K.

During the early '60s, he was involved with a variety of acts, from the Yardbirds and Jeff Beck to the New Vaudeville band and Mickie Most, before establishing himself with Led Zeppelin.

Glover, who worked for many years in an office adjacent to Grant's, says he believes that Grant's success with Led Zeppelin overshadowed his later achievements with Bad Company. Glover, former manager of Free, handled the fledgling Bad Company before handing the reins over to Grant, and he says, "I think he did an even better job with them than he did with Led Zep."

Dire Straits manager Ed Bicknell, who regarded Grant as "my closest friend," says many of the precepts modern managers take for granted are based on Grant's work.

Bicknell says a key lesson he learned from Grant - and a foundation of Grant's success - is that a manager must believe in the act.

"Peter was fiercely loyal. His attitude was that it was him and the band against the rest of the world."

Bicknell says it was a sign of Grant's loyalty that he turned down the management of Queen because his other commitments would not allow him to give the band the attention it deserved. "He easily avoided the temptation to build an empire."

Bicknell adds that Grant was noted for his scrupulous honesty and for developing the horizons of British acts. "When he started, British acts overseas meant the Beatles and Rolling Stones in the States. He opened peoples' eyes to the Far East and Europe; he had the imagination to see that was possible."

Grant's friends concede, though, that there was a darker side to his life, and Bicknell speaks of his slide into cocaine abuse as a result of his distress at the death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.

However, Bicknell adds, "He was a man of tremendous courage. When he came off drugs, he didn't seek treatment or counseling; he just locked himself in a bare room, dropped the keys out of the window, came out four days later, and never went near drugs again - not even so much as an aspirin."

As to Grant's reputation for mayhem, Glover says, "He was a larger-than-life character, and you would call him an aggressive manager. Peter's style was definitely aggressive. He definitely battled with record companies to get a better deal for his artists.

"You hear so many colorful stories as to the people he threatened to get what he wanted. They gave way because he was such a larger-than-life figure.

Bicknell adds, "When I got to know Peter intimately, I heard an awful lot of stories, and I think Peter would have been the first to say that he had regrets about some of the things that happened."

Nonetheless, Bicknell and Glover agree that Grant's contribution to British music was immense. Says Bicknell, "He was the man who stopped tour promoters employing bands and made it so that bands employed promoters."

In a statement, other prominent members of the U.K.'s music community paid tribute to Grant. Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant said, "He was a giant who turned the game upside down. Fierce, uncompromising, with great humor - I owe him much."

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page said, "Peter was a tower of strength as a business partner and a friend," and bassist John Paul Jones added, "Without Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin would not have been the band it was. His integrity, sense of timing, and business acumen, coupled with complete trust in our music-making, made him one of the finest managers."

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