Veteran record executive Bob Garcia, 82, died of natural causes on April 26. His friend and colleague Al Marks confirmed his death.
Garcia is best known for his nearly 30-year run at A&M Records starting in 1968, where he worked in artist relations, publicity, catalog development and artist development. Among the many acts he championed there were the Police, Squeeze, Joe Cocker, Amy Grant, Joe Jackson and the Carpenters.
“Uncle Bob we used to call him. His office, conveniently close to the front gate, was invariably our first port of call whenever we visited the A&M lot,” recalled Sting in a statement provided to Billboard. “Uncle Bob was our concierge, our mentor, our protector, our confidante, and we were always assured of a warm welcome there, laced with a liberal dose of his mordant wit. You could talk film, theatre, books and music with Bob and behind the humor of those twinkling eyes you had a sense that he’d seen and heard everything and yet, like a true sage, had reserved judgment. He could be laconic and cryptic just as he could be compassionate and fulsome, but always equally amused by both the blandishments and trials of ‘the life,’ and nothing seemed to phase him. He was, and, to me still is, the presiding spirit of that magical lot on La Brea. He will always be there for me, as he was in life. God bless you, Uncle Bob, and thank you.”
After earning a Masters in communication from Columbia University, Garcia worked as a journalist before joining A&M as a bio writer. Within a year, he was publicity director, launching A&M’s first college rep program. He then became director of artist relations.
“Bob taught me everything by example about how to connect with, respect and support artists and interface on their behalf with the company and visa versa,” says BMI vp of creative relations Doreen Ringer-Ross.“Nobody in this business was more important to me than he was. He saw something worthy in me and took me under his wing when I first started as a college rep at the label and then years later hired me to work with him when I graduated. He was the most real deal person I ever knew. Passionate, brilliant, caring, funny, and colorful. He was my Yoda and he always had my back. We stayed close all these years.”
In 1987’s A&M Records: The First 25 Years, edited by Jeff Gold and David Leaf, Garcia was described as A&M’s Hawaiian shirt-wearing “hippie in residence,” with his Pyrenees, Caleb, his constant companion. (Garcia’s love for the breed lasted until his death). “This is the place where artists came in the old days to smoke dope,” Garcia said of the artist relationship department. “If they came on the lot tripping, they’d come here—no one else could handle it.”
In the book, he also detailed traveling with the Police on their early tours. “I drove the station wagon…They played a lot of bowling alleys. In Buffalo, nine people came to see them at a bowling alley, and they had to change in the ladies room. They slept three to a room,” he recalled. “No one here really thought it could happen. I’d get memos—‘Why are you going on the road with this band?’ I mean, three bleached blondes who played reggae? But [A&M co-founder] Jerry Moss pushed for them.”
A&M co-founder Herb Alpert also remembers Garcia fondly. “Bob Garcia worked at A&M Records for many years and without exception, was liked by all,” Alpert said in a statement provided to Billboard. “Artists and employees admired his quirkiness and original personality that didn’t change with the times. I personally appreciated his keen observations on music, and life as he saw it. I loved Bob.”
After leaving A&M in 1997, he worked as a consultant, in later years through his own Shedding Dog Marketing. His clients included Blake Shelton, Neil Young, OneRepublic, Lady Gaga, Eminem and many more. He was also involved with the Recording Academy for many years.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to MusiCares in Garcia’s name. Additionally, his latest rescue, Perseus, is in the care of the Great Pyrenees Assn. of Southern California and is looking for a new home. To find out more or to contribute to Perseus’ care, please go to www.GreatPyrRescue.org