Bob Marcucci Interview

He was the original Idol Maker. He is Personal Manager Bob Marcucci. Bob's clients included Fabian and Frankie Avalon. And in the late 50's, outside of Elvis, you didn't find singers as famous as that.

How did Bob Marcucci guide his artists to the top? What exactly was his job? We spoke with Bob recently about his role in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Q: Bob are you still a personal manager?
A: Yes. I'm still a personal manager. My companies are Chancellor Records and my production company Robert P. Marcucci Productions.

Q: And who do you manage?
A: I manage Amy Dolenz who has just finished a movie called "She's Out Of Control "'I manage a guy called Michael Weiss of "Days Of Our Lives." Ron Moss who's on the "Bold and The Beautiful." A girl named Cheryl Powers who just finished doing a T.V. movie with Elizabeth Taylor called "Sweet Bird of Youth." And a lot of up and coming new people. But that's exactly what I like to do, to work with new people more than just taking the stars and making them bigger stars.

Q: As I recall, Fabian sued the film makers of "The Idol maker." He claimed the story was based too much on his life.
A: Well, that was never settled. The insurance company settled with him. We never went to court, so I really don't know what happened with it.

Q: Did you have any problem with that movie? Did they capture your role accurately?
A: Well. I think there was a lot of me in there and a lot of what I did, and a lot of what managers do. Some of it was accurate and some of it was movie. They caught the drift of who I was and what I did during that period, and that’s about it. But, with a movie, if you keep it true to fact all the time, it can be very boring, because what we think is exciting is boring visually. But, a lot of it was very good.

Q: There are managers around today who will not accept an artist as a client unless he or she already has a recording contract. In the 50’s, a guy like you would set a record deal for the artist.
A: Well that was different. I owned the record company so if I found an artist, I knew I had a place to record them. So it was a big difference with me. I didn't have to take them to a record company to make a deal. Today, if I found an artist, I would have to do that.

Q: Would you say then it's a fairly common practice for managers to seek more established artists?
A: You know, I’ve been so away from the music business for awhile. I think what you need today from what I can gather is that when you walk into a label, you have to walk in with an almost finished record and show those people that this is something very special. I don't care what systems are today, or what they think they're going to be like, it a record company sees someone who's got talent, singing in a nightclub, they're going to buy them. Talent will always suffice and break all the rules of whatever is going on right now.

Q: As manager of both Fabian and Frankie Avalon, what kind of power did you have? Did you tell these guys how to dress, how to wear their hair, who to see?
A: I worked with them. I picked out their clothes and helped them out in a lot of areas. They were very young. They were 15, 16, 17 and 18. But as they got older, things would change. When they got established, they respected me for what I did. When they went out, they didn't dress the way I told them to dress. They could do what they want. But when it came to the career part, they said, "Look, you re making me successful, so why would I not listen to you?" But, if they wanted to wear a certain thing, and I was against it, I don’t think I would fight them.

Q: If you look at rock's history from 1959-1969, you would have to say these were rock’s greatest years of growth. We went from Ritchie Valens and LaBamba to Jimi Hendrix and Woodstock. In the years that followed, why haven't we seen those kinds of dramatic changes?
A: I think they've taken a little bit of everything. The only change I've seen in the music from '69 on was the disco music, and the rap music we have now, and heavy metal which is also a throw back to the past. They’re the different things. But music is music. A beautiful song is always going to make it. The idols like New Kids on the Block are always going to come through.

Q: Why isn't Bob Marcucci the manager of New Kids on The Block?
A: Because somebody else found them and worked on them and did a great job with them, whoever he was. He's superb.

Q. Who would you say left a more powerful or lasting impact on personal management, Col. Parker or Brian Epstein?
A: I think they both did something. I think they both left an impact. A little different from each other. The Beatles are still here, in a way, and Presley, as dead as he is, is still here. So, I think they were both heavy duty in what they did. I don t think one did more than the other, to be honest with you I think the Col. was here longer than Brian Epstein, so I think he may have given more because he was here longer.

Q: What makes a good manager? Is it instinctive or can it be learned?
A: It's instinctive. I think you can teach somebody, sure I could teach somebody to be a good manager. But it's got to be your own gut feeling. What you believe in. You have to have a good eye. You have to care about people. It takes a lot. It's being a father, mother, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, everything rolled up into one. And, you don't do it just because of the money. You gotta do it because you really believe in what you're doing, and who you care about.

Q: Am I correct in saying your father lent you $10,000 to start Chancellor Records?
A: That's correct.

Q: That wasn't very much money to launch a record label, was it?
A: No. Back in 1957 that was pretty good. We went through it in no time, but luckily by the time we were down to our last dollar we got our first hit.

Q: And before launching the record company you were a songwriter. Is that how you got into the music business?
A: Yes.

Q: What instrument did you play?
A: I didn't play anything. I was a lyricist. I had a little piano. Pete DeAngelis (Bob Marcucci's songwriting partner) did all the music.

Q: These first releases by Fabian bombed, didn't they?
A: Yes.

Q: But you didn't give up on him?
A: Well, the same thing with Frankie. His first records bombed.

Q: So, why didn't you throw in the towel?
A: Because like I said before, if you believe and have a dream, then you never give up on the dream. You never give up on anything. It's just like Ron Kovic (“Born On The Fourth Of July”) said on the awards the other night: “Don’t ever give up on what you believe in. Never let a dream die on you. Just keep believing it and it works”.

Q: You also had to see something that most people didn’t see.
A: That's possible.

Q: The one question you get all the time, I’m sure, how did you discover Fabian?
A: On a doorstep. He was coming out of a door. His father just had a heart attack and that was it. I was just looking for an artist of his type, around that time. I was searching the whole country for that really. So, I happened to see him and he was the right look, and right for what we were going for. But I didn’t approach him until after his father was fine, and he lived next to a neighbor who was like my closest and dearest friend.

Q: In the book “Off The Record” by John Smith, Fabian states there was a standing joke that goes, “Of course payola exists. How else would a man like this make it? I'm afraid that is part of my legacy”. Is that true?
A: No, that s not true. I never gave a nickel to get Fabian’s records played. Never. If you consider payola doing record hops, and doing things like that for disc jockeys, then, that’s it. Then I've done that. But I never had to pay anyone, and it was proved in the Senate Crime Investigation with Dick Clark, that a nickel was never passed from my hands to Dick Clark's hands for Fabian or Frankie Avalon So, that's totally an erroneous statement. Maybe it's a statement made by people who want to make me look like I needed money to make success. The money that I had, I put towards my records and mv promotion and toward publicity. I never had to pay anybody.

Q: You once told Dick Clark that at 12 years old you decided to live your life like a 20th Century Fox movie. Have you succeeded?
A: Oh, I think so. Frankie Avalon, Fabian. A movie based loosely on my life. I think that's pretty close. But, I'm not over with yet. I still got much more to go. I don't think I'm living it like a 20th Century Fox film anymore. I think I'm living it like Bob Marcucci would live it.

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