Albert Eli “Al” Coury, a radio promotion man whose carer spanned from Nat King Cole to the Beatles to Guns N' Roses, died Aug. 8 in Thousand Oaks, Calif., of complications from a stroke. He was 78.
Coury, whose career began with Capitol Records in 1957 as a promotion man in New England, helped develop the careers of the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Glen Campbell, Bob Seger, Aerosmith, Don Henley, Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. In Frederic Dannen's 1991 book “Hit Men,” the author writes, “There are those that believed Al Coury was the greatest promotion man of all time.”
A hard-working, plain-spoken leader who lived a relatively simple lifestyle, Coury was involved in every aspect of the business from crafting marketing strategies to helping artists select singles. Time magazine called him “The Man Who Sells the Sizzle.”
A native of Worcester, Mass., Coury rose through the ranks at Capitol Records until he became vice president of marketing, sales and promotion. Coury worked the solo recordings of the Beatles, getting Paul McCartney's 1973 “Band On The Run” album and John Lennon’s 1974 “Walls and Bridges” to No. 1.
Lennon famously invited Coury to “work his magic” promoting that album and it was Coury who chose the first single, “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” which became Lennon's first No.1 solo hit in the U.S., and the only one in his lifetime. Coury was also instrumental in the long-awaited release of Lennon's 1975 album "Rock 'n' Roll," bartering with producer Phil Spector to retrieve the master tapes from their abandoned 1973 recording sessions. In 1974, Coury brought the Larry Weiss-penned song “Rhinestone Cowboy” to Glen Campbell and promised to make it a hit if Campbell recorded it. In 1975, the song became Campbell’s first No. 1 single.
Coury left Capitol to become president and co-founder of RSO Records with entrepreneur Robert Stigwood. At RSO, Coury worked extensively with the Bee Gees, the label’s flagship group and drove the marketing for the “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” soundtrack albums, helping to make them among the best selling albums of all-time.
In 1980, Coury launched Network Records. That label’s successes included the “Flashdance” soundtrack which won a Grammy for Best Original Score in 1983; the song “What a Feeling” won an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 1984.
In 1985, Network Records merged with Geffen Records and Coury became Geffen's general manager. At Geffen, Coury’s successes included albums by Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel and Don Henley.
Coury retired from the record business in 1994. He served on the nominating committee of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame and was a devout follower of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
Coury is survived by his wife, Tina Nichols Coury, a children's book author; his son Albert Jr. and daughter Kacy Coury Resch; sister and four grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Saint Michael’s Orthodox Church, 16643 Vanowen St., Van Nuys, Calif. 91406