Mick Brigden, a protégé of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham who helped run the management side of Graham’s music empire for decades, died on Sunday (Sept. 5) following an accident at his home in Santa Rosa, California. He was 73.
Over a career that spanned more than five decades, Brigden managed some of the most famed rock acts of the last half-century, with a client list that included Van Morrison, Carlos Santana and Joe Satriani, the latter of whom he managed up until his death. He also directed tours for such major stars as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
In a lengthy tribute to Brigden posted on his website, Satriani writes that he first encountered the manager at the age of 15, when Satriani snuck into the backstage area at a concert for Humble Pie, the British hard rock band whom Brigden was road-managing at the time. Nearly two decades later, in 1988, Satriani -- who had since become a successful solo artist and was also playing in the backing band for Mick Jagger -- again crossed paths with Brigden, who was producing Jagger's solo concert tour. Their professional relationship flourished from there.
“Since then, it’s been a crazy and wonderful 33 years of rock ‘n’ roll,” Satriani writes. “I’ve never worked so hard, played so hard, laughed and cried so hard, made so much music and had so many worldwide adventures, and all with Mick by my side. He was the ultimate music business mentor. Honest, tough, nurturing, hardworking, respectful, tenacious, insightful, he was all of those things and more. I learned so much about how to be a good person from Mick. Throughout his illustrious career he worked the biggest and the best, but always knew it was important to be kind, be respectful, be cool and do things the right way."
Satriani adds that Brigden could “help you get an album project organized, pick the right mix, pick a single, help with album artwork, book a tour, manage a tour, review the contracts, crack the whip with a smile and get a table at the right restaurant when you needed one. And, then, over a few glasses of wine, share his feelings and insights, listen to yours, and remind you to smell the roses along the way.”
In his own statement, Sammy Hagar -- whose first band, the hard-rock outfit Montrose, was road-managed by Brigden from 1973 to 1975 when they opened for Humble Pie on tour -- writes that Brigden “was the first person that ever took care of me on the road." Decades later, Brigden also co-managed Hagar's super-group Chickenfoot, which included Satriani in the lineup, alongside Hagar's longtime manager John Carter (commonly known by the mononym Carter).
"Mick was their tour manager, lighting director, stage manager [who] seemed like he did everything," Hagar writes. "He used to do lights for Montrose and would hang out with us on days off, a real soldier and loyal friend. The way he took care of Joe Satriani all these years and then for Chickenfoot as our co-manager with Carter (God rest his soul). I'm sure they're all working for Bill Graham again in the rock 'n' roll heaven. RIP Mick Brigden, my condolences to your loved ones."
Born Nov. 4, 1947 in Southend-On-Sea, England, Brigden first left the U.K. to settle in Toronto, where he worked as a graphic artist. But a fateful meeting with Mountain bassist and vocalist Felix Pappalardi changed the course of his life and career; after taking a job as road manager for the rock band in the late 1960s, Brigden moved to New York and began forging a new path. While on the road in July 1969, he met both Graham and his future wife, Julia, at a concert at Graham’s Fillmore West venue in San Francisco.
In 1976, after working with Graham for seven years, Brigden became co-head of the management division of Bill Graham Presents alongside Arnold “Arnie” Pustilnik, who died of cancer on Aug. 20. Of his relationship with Pustilnik, Brigden told Billboard last month, “The two of us formed, I think, a left brain-right brain relationship that worked very well for our acts,” with Brigden being particularly skilled at the creative and touring sides of the business and Pustilnik showing a special talent for radio promotion.
In the late 1970s, Brigden and Pustilnik also took the reins of Bill Graham Presents' newly-launched Wolfgang Records label. The debut album of their first signee, then-up-and-coming artist Eddie Money, went double-platinum under Brigden and Pustilnik’s leadership, and the label went on to release four more albums by the singer-songwriter. After a fallow period that began sometime the following decade, in 1995 the duo briefly revived the label, putting out Money’s Love and Money album and management client Train’s first self-titled LP, which, according to Brigden, entailed “printing 1,000 CDs and selling them at shows.” (Train later signed with Columbia Records, which gave the album a proper release).
Brigden’s association with Graham continued long after the promoter’s untimely death in a plane crash in 1991. Two years after the accident, he joined Pustilnik and 13 other Bill Graham Presents employees in acquiring 90% of the promoter’s $4.75 million empire (with the other 10% being held by Graham’s sons, David and Alexander). Over the next decade, Brigden and Pustilnik continued running the management business, remaining in their posts even after Bill Graham Presents was acquired for $65 million SFX Entertainment (now Live Nation) in 1997.
Two years after that acquisition, Brigden and Pustilnik purchased from SFX a controlling interest in the management business, which had been sidelined by the new owners. “Arnie and I wanted them to give us some more support to do some things that would grow the management company, and they just weren't interested. It was obvious,” Brigden told Billboard last month. “They were interested in real estate; we had amphitheaters and they could sell sponsorships.” SFX’s sheer scope was also a turnoff for Brigden and Pustilnik, who had come up in the leaner, more close-knit world of Bill Graham Presents. “We didn't like working within their corporate lifestyle,” said Brigden.
In the early 2000s, with Pustilnik’s health on the decline following a cancer diagnosis, Brigden and Pustilnik sold the management business to former associates Jay Wilson and Kent Sorrell, who renamed the company Elevation Group (unrelated to the event management and production company of the same name formed by Denny Young and Steve Lindecke).
Following the sale, Brigden went on to open MJJ Management, with Satriani as his only client. He later joined up with Carter to manage Chickenfoot, which was also comprised of Michael Anthony and Chad Smith. After Carter's death from cancer in 2011, Brigden brought on former Bill Graham Presents colleague Morty Wiggins to handle day-to-day management duties for Satriani.
"First and foremost, Mick was a great human being...and had a real thirst for life," Wiggins, who previously worked with Brigden at Bill Graham Presents, tells Billboard. "A lot of people who are really active and have a thirst for life, sometimes...they don't have a kind of grace in dealing with other people. But Mick was amazing because he had this spark and this real engagement with life, but at the same time, he was really sensitive to others. And that's why everyone loved working with him."
Wiggins adds that Brigden brought a "unique skill set" to his work. "He's one of the only people that I've met in the industry that has really, really strong creative, artistic vision...and at the same time, [is] one of the most adept tour managers, [with] a very keen business sense. So in that regard, his shoes are huge to fill -- almost impossible."
Brigden settled in Santa Rosa with his wife, Julia, in 2001, after many years spent living in Marin County, California. Following the move, he established a vineyard, from which grew grapes used to make an exclusive Owl Ridge cabernet. He was also a dedicated cyclist who, up until the present day, rode a vintage Bianchi steel framed bike that he bought and had shipped from Italy while working on The Rolling Stones’ 1982 European tour.
Brigden is survived by his wife Julia; son Jack; stepdaughter Jessica; and grandson David Merz. A lover of animals, his family asks that donations be sent in Brigden’s name to The Humane Society of Sonoma County.