An impressive group of some of the most influential players in the history of the touring industry filled New York City’s Irving Plaza last night to pay tribute to pioneering agent Frank Barsalona, who died last year. “Remembering Frank” lived up to its billing of “an evening of great conversation and stories,” as a long list of live music industry greats regaled those in attendance with stories about Barsalona, whose Premier Talent Agency was far and away the most dominant rock music agency in the world in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Among those offering up stories on Barsalona were music journalist Dave Marsh, famed Philadelphia promoter Larry Magid, U2 manager Paul McGuinness, CAA managing partner Rob Light, British manager Peter Rudge, legendary New York promoter Ron Delsener, Canadian promoter Donald K. Donald, Joel Peresman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Boston promoter Don Law, artists Bono and Pete Townshend (via video), and, receiving the best reception of all, Barsalona’s wife June and daughter Nicole.
The room was packed with legends, among them famed E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt, Team Springsteen players Barry Bell and Barbara Carr, and a wealth of promoters, signifying Barsalona’s influence in bringing order and legitimacy to that sectors. Promoters in the house included Seth Hurwitz (I.M.P.), Gregg Perloff (Another Planet), Jules Belkin (Belkin Productions), Danny Zelisko (DZP), John Scher (Metropolitan Talent), Debra Rathwell (AEG Live) and leading Japanese promoter Mr. Udo, Udo Artists.
“What Frank Barsalona did for our business was incredible; he actually made our business,” Magid said. “He just had this big sandbox for all us kids to play in.”
Bono spoke of his father warning him before U2 first headed to America. “He said, ‘this is a very, very dangerous business; particularly watch out for the Italians,” Bono said, to much laughter. “He said, ‘they do stuff you don’t wanna know about.’ I said, ‘what do you mean,’ and he said, ‘they’ll hug you.’ He was right. A lot of people in this room have been hugged by Frank Barsalona. We have been Barsalona’d. And if you’re Irish, and a little macho, it’s just a bit off-putting, having only ever had a handshake from your father, to have Frank kiss you all over.”
Bono went on to say that U2 has “never been ripped off and our experience in the music business has been a very dignified relationship in the United States. People looked after us very, very well. Frank Barsalona was our bodyguard.”
Added Rudge, who brought such clients as The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Premier, “Frank was special, June, you were special. Your meatloaf is as important to me as the Who selling out Madison Square Garden.”