Nashville-based concert promoter Ben Farrell, who worked with superstars Elvis Presley, Elton John and Garth Brooks — whose shows he promoted for the last 33 years — died Aug. 10 at age 76 of unknown causes.
“I love Ben Farrell,” said Brooks in a statement. “And like Chris LeDoux, Ben Farrell will continue to be the kind of man I want to be. Honest, fair, and hard working. I am lucky to have known him.”
Farrell launched his career in 1970 with Varnell Enterprises, assisting Lon Varnell with concert promotions, marketing and on-site supervision. He remained at Varnell Enterprises his entire career, rising through the ranks to become the company’s president. Other artists he worked with included Lawrence Welk, The Statler Brothers, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, The Carpenters and Barbara Mandrell. More recently, he also worked with Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, among others.
“I was fortunate to meet Ben early in my career at a conference in Nashville,” Brian Jones, partner at WME’s Nashville office, told Billboard in a statement. “He gave me confidence and assurance as I was learning the business. Ben was a great mentor to myself and countless others. His kind soul, integrity, and colorful stories will never be forgotten.”
“He was a dear friend, and was, professionally, just a brilliant promoter. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the live entertainment space,” says Brooks’ longtime manager Bob Doyle. “There were a lot of people in Nashville who were beneficiaries of that, and he was one of those people who never misrepresented the situation. He gave you his honest opinion, whether it was good or bad, and he usually had a solution.”
“I think everyone I worked with knew he was a man of his word. And then the joke on that is, ‘but not of few words,'” Doyle adds with a gentle laugh, referencing Farrell’s trademark verbosity.
Of Brooks and Farrell’s longstanding working relationship, Doyle says, “Ben was always a pragmatist, and Garth was always willing to step out one more place and take a little risk — or a lot of risk. And it worked out. Ben always executed at the end of the day.”
“For our specific on-sales, Ben always used to say, ‘Put it on sale!’ He’d sort of scream it, to let everybody in the conference call, everybody in the building know it’s on sale now,” says Doyle. “That’s probably what he’s saying today.”
Farrell was born July 17, 1946, in Jackson, Tennessee. His father, Kerby Farrell, was a professional baseball player and manager. Ben attended David Lipscomb University on a baseball scholarship, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1966, was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies. He ascended to playing with the Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox farm clubs. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1968 and served for two years of active service, training troops for Vietnam. He is survived by his wife, Autumn, and daughter, Ella Grace.
In addition to his passion for music, Farrell loved sports, especially hockey and University of Tennessee football.
Visitation and celebration of life services will be held at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville, with the visitation set for Aug. 23 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., and the celebration of life service set for Aug. 24 at 11 a.m. CT.