The story of Vince Pellegrino, founder and president of the Pellegrino Entertainment Group and publisher of S.I.N. (Street Information Network), is one of a man who not only loved music, but clearly loved people a whole lot more, and was loved by everyone he worked with and whose lives he touched.
From his early days in the 1970s championing the music that evolved into a movement called disco, first as club DJ and later as retail buyer and label executive, Pellegrino possessed a passion that was clearly infectious. Over the years in his work at CBS, Polygram, RCA and Chrysalis Records, he developed the promotion and marketing skills that led to his starting the company and work ethic so many in the business today have spoken highly of.
Their remembrances are below. Please feel free to add yours in the comments section at bottom.
“My friendship with Vince goes back to our promotional relationship during the heydey of ’70s dance music. In the early ’80s, when Vince was the VP/Marketing at Chrysalis, I joined him and Daniel Glass in the promotion department, and thanks to their advice and counsel became a well-rounded music business executive. Over the years while I worked at Chrysalis, Columbia Records and my own firm, Vince was always available for moral support and motivation. His spirit, energy and innovations were second to none. With the full support of the radio programming and record label communities, he created assets like the New Music Program CD, Daily Dose of Vitamin Videos and 353WestNYC, a new event destination that hosted artist showcases, release parties, meet-and-greets and more. In spite of all the adversity in the industry and his health issues, Vince continued to take risks and always challenged the status quo. He excited people about music in a very personal way.”– Jerry Lembo, President, Jerry Lembo Entertainment Group
“I’ve known Vince since the ’70s. We were always trying to one-up each other as friends through life. We were at RCA Records in 1981 and both had our first kids in 1982, and we’d always talk about the trials and tribulations of being a parent, right up until our most recent conversations. That was powerful stuff because it was peer-to-peer, as opposed to [Vince being] this magical figure we all ran to anytime something was going haywire in our business.
“Whenever I’d hire Vince and S.I.N., I knew i wasn’t just hiring the guy that was going to try to get a PD on a record: I was hiring the promotion man that was the music executive that was the consultant that could give you the complete package. And he would be there 100%. He was right way more than most people in this business. Up until a year ago, when we were trying to break Clean Bandit’s [‘Rather Be’], after the first three months of hitting walls, he’d say ‘You’re gonna get that record, that is an absolute gigantic hit song. Do not let the obstacles get in your way. You know better than anyone.’ He would keep championing you.
“Vince was a very religious person and during my days at Virgin in the 80s gave me a ceramic figure of the madonna for my desk. Every time he’d come to my office, I’d put it a different place: it’d be hanging on a tree, sitting on the cassette shelf, once I’d have it in the refrigerator. He’d sit there smoldering and tell me “Put that thing back on your desk.” Then I broke it by accident, so she was missing her arm, and Vince really wanted to kill me. I probably pushed the envelope when I broke the head off and had it just sitting on the desk: I could actually see the smoke coming out of his ears.
“I lost my best friend in the world, but I value that I had my best friend in the world.
And I’m sure he’s up there in heaven still pissed at me for breaking the madonna.” – John Boulos, Senior VP Promotion, Roadrunner Records
“Vince was a mentor, friend, and after my own father passed away many years ago, always someone I could confide in. Having worked for Vince off and on thru the ’90s as his assistant and then doing club/mix show and radio promotion, he always drilled into us in his own boot camp style and volume that it was always about the music, and to never lose sight of that. Vince gave 100% of his energy to every artist and song equally, and you felt that with every conversation. He would be as excited for the first spin on a song from a club DJ or a radio station as he would about a song being #1. His legacy is his passion. Knowing Vince was a gift. A gift of friendship and at times tough love. Music as well as radio and records has lost one if its biggest fans.” – Anthony Iovino, Senior Director of Promotions, ADA
“Vince literally had the strongest kung fu grip that I had ever felt. He wrapped those hands around your neck and you would feel it for days. He’s the only one I ever knew who actually got stronger going through chemo. I will always savor the bruises he left on me. I can only say how lucky I am to have had him in my life for the last 20 years. It’s hard to believe that I will never have the chance to hear his passion ooze out of the phone again. He always picked me up and made me shift into a whole other gear. I am a better executive and an even better man because of him. The industry has truly lost a huge part of its soul. We should all be very grateful.” – Lee Leipsner, Executive VP of Promotion, Columbia Records
“When God made Vince Pellegrino, they broke the mold. I can’t think of a more inspired music man with passion, energy, and a love for the music and the art of promotion. Vince inspired anybody that ever came into contact with him. He made this world a better place. When Vince Pellegrino walked into a room, the place lit up. Forever one of the good guys.” – Greg Thompson, Executive VP, Capitol Music Group
“Vince was a larger-than-life friend to all. He wrapped his strong arms around artists, executives and most of all his loving family. He defined passion. As celebrated as he is as an music entrepreneur, he was also one of the kindest, caring people I know. Walking in his shoes will be challenging, but if we all come together and try, we will keep his beautiful spirit alive.” – Richard Palmese, CEO, Azoff Music
“Vince was one of the first people I met when I got to Hot 97. He came into my office with his customary huge, bright smile and welcomed me to New York. From that day forward we enjoyed a trusted friendship bonded by great music. Absolutely nobody was more passionate about music, and the breaking of new music. I remember how Vince would call in the Pop/Dance days and tip a ‘street’ record with ‘You heard it from me, Kev!!!’ Even in later years, and as recent as the S.I.N. Awards this past December, he would greet me with that smile and reminisce about fun Hot 97 hits such as Crystal Waters’ ‘Gypsy Woman.’ It was a privilege to know Vince and to be counted among the people in this industry he cared about and mentored. He was simply a caring person who cared about two things the most: people and music.” – Kevin McCabe, Co-founder and partner, Musicrunch Inc.
“Our relationship started off with two hard headed (but passionate) music people yelling at each other about songs. It grew into two hard headed (but passionate) music people yelling at each other about songs…but then laughing and sharing stories about life and family. If you asked either of us, we would both tell you that we were right more often that not. Mathematically impossible but perceptually accurate! I still have the $10 bill I had him sign after I called Jesse McCartney’s ‘Leavin” would be a #1 record. Vince Pellegrino was a cheerleader for artists, radio and the record industryalike. He was a man who always lived up to his word. Integrity and honesty were paramount to having a relationship with him. If you didn’t have those traits, you weren’t going to be close with him. When you hung out with him, you felt like you were part of the family. He made everyone feel good about themselves and what we do in the industry. He touched so many lives. Vince, you were a great man and a greater friend to many. You changed people’s lives and you have left a hole that can’t be filled but only cherished.” – Cat Thomas, Director of Programming, CBS/Las Vegas
“I’ll never forget the relationship working with Vince, especially over the last 12 months. We worked very closely together on Childish Gambino, ultimately making ‘3005’ the only Independent record to go top 10 at rhythmic in 2014.
The early days of that campaign were not easy, but everyone on the team believed, especially Vince. He was a driving force in spreading the gospel.
He was like my Mickey Goldmill. More importantly, Vince was a compassionate and caring human being that has left such a positive impact on many people.
To say he will be missed would be an understatement.” – Nick Petropoulos, head of promotion, Glassnote Records
“It’s a hard day for many of us who live the charmed life of this music industry, because we’ve lost our heart. You’d be hard pressed to find one person who cared about the people of radio and records, and its actual state of being, more than Vince. He was proud of your wins, he was ready to roll up his sleeves to combat your losses…he was simply Vince.If there was turmoil, he’d intervene and it would be done. There was no bigger fan of artists, or a good song, or a successful promotion than our friend. He brought the love from his heart and hurled it around so many times that his laying to rest changes our industry today. Going to work is hollow and empty without the expectation of a phone call “to talk music” from Vince Pelligrino. There’s a fraternity of S.I.N. Award winners who are hurting with this loss but so proud to represent what he stood for.” – Orlando, program director, WLLD (Wild 94.1), Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
“I can trace only a few people back to day one in the music industry and Vince is one of them. Always upbeat, even through his illness, I enjoyed every call. I’m sitting here looking at the charts today and can remember talking about these same records just a few weeks back. Man, I am going to miss this guy. I’ll miss making him laugh. He flew out to our Summer Jam, he gave me my first ever award, he talked life with me when we weren’t talking music. He was so good to me.” – John E. Kage, program director, KQKS (KS1075) Denver
“Vince was one of the good ones, kind of like an uncle or even a dad to me. He was there when I was a young kid in the business, just starting out, and by my side every step of the way. He loved every part of our business, and his no-B.S. attitude was always so refreshing. In hindsight, I just wish I would have taken more time to spend with him, in person or on the phone, especially over the last couple of years. It breaks my heart to know that I have three or four unanswered voice mail messages from him from the last six months; I didn’t call him back because I was ‘too busy.’ Now I will never have a chance to call him back. A valuable lesson to always appreciate your friends, even when you’re busy. Funny, Vince is gone and he’s still teaching me. Love ya, man.” – R Dub, program director, XHTZ (Jammin’ Z90) and Magic 92.5, San Diego
“Vince was one of the most kind and sincere people that I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking to and working with in my entire career. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say an unkind word about anyone in my over 24 years of knowing him. He was a passionate voice for the artist and for music as a whole who I will dearly miss and always respect.” – Erik Bradley, music director, WBBM-FM (B96), Chicago
“Vince was my dear friend, my mentor, my advisor, but most of all he was one of a kind. He taught me how this industry works, to be strong and how one’s passion for music will always prevail. There will not be another Vince, and my heart aches knowing that.” – Ayelet Schiffman, VP, Rhythm Promotion, Columbia Records
“He was truly one of the most passionate people in the music business. The industry has lost a real music leader and legend. Vince was not afraid to say how he felt and take smart risks. He will not be forgotten.” – Eric Powers, program director, iHeart Media Seattle
“Anytime I talked to Vince it felt like I was the only person in the world. He was warm, genuine but what I will always remember was his passion for music and the business.” – Rob Scorpio, regional programing manager, iHeartMedia