Giorgio Gomelsky, who died on Jan. 13 after a bout with cancer at 82, will always be known as the man who first managed The Rolling Stones. But when Andrew Loog Oldham came along, Gomelsky lost his cherry gig.
Born in Georgia in the former Soviet Union on Feb. 28, 1937, Gomelsky grew up in Switzerland before moving to England to be a filmmaker. He promptly dove into London’s burgeoning blues scene led by Alexis Korner and the as yet little known Rolling Stones. He opened the Crawdaddy Club where the Stones were essentially the house band.
But by May of 1963, Oldham had dislodged Gomelsky as their manager. “They were impatient and found his vision limited,” Victor Bockris writes in Keith Richards: The Biography. “Gomelsky was extremely upset when he found out they had screwed him.”
In to the band’s official biography, According to the Rolling Stones, Richards describes Gomelsky as “one of those great Russians (who) hated capitalism. He had to grow into it and didn’t grow into it very gracefully. It wasn’t really his scene. Everything was on a very loose basis; nobody knew how big this thing was going to get.” He adds that “Giorgio could handle a few London clubs,” but that he was a “dedicated amateur… on a semi-professional level.”
In a 2013 New York Times interview, he professed his distaste for the “money, money, money” that had taken over the U.K. scene in the ’60s. “By then the Brits had blown it. They’d been seduced by the American Dream of making a lot of money playing music in incredibly bad conditions like stadiums.”
Gomelsky moved to New York in 1978 and settled into a building on 24th St. in Chelsea that later was converted into an underground club know as the Green Door. In the early ’90s, the Green Door had a hot scene — a performance space on the first floor and Gomelsky’s loft one flight up.
Always the talent scout, he discovered D-Generation, a post-punk group featuring Jessie Malin, who became his latest house band. The ’90s rock scene must have reminded him of London 30 years earlier, but D-Generation would just remain a local fave. Gomelsky’s best days were behind him.
The building was renamed the Red Door, but it eventually fell into disrepair. Gomelsky’s poor health made it harder for him to focus on repairs. Sadly, he reportedly never completed his autobiography.
An iconoclast to the very end, Giorgio Gomelsky was the man who had the rug pulled from under him by the Rolling Stones. Perhaps managing them was not the job for him, but he never quite got over losing it.