Friday Fun: Craziest Rock Managers

Behind every great band is a manager with a reputation worth fearing. Here's a roundup of five crazy rock managers who you wouldn't want to upset.

Ultimate Guitar

Behind every great band is a manager worth fearing. They're the ones who run the business while the band lives out their lavish lifestyles - but when you're often dealing with shady venue owners and crooked label bosses, you have to knock a few heads to make progress.

These managers were successful and had a reputation that preceded them. But often, the same talents that made their name made them deeply flawed. Here's a roundup of five rock managers who you wouldn't want to upset.

Don Arden (Black Sabbath, Small Faces)

Arden's life was like the Sopranos going into the music business he got the job done, but he wasn't afraid to make a few threats to do it. In one famous example, a member of the Nashville Teens (whom Don managed in the 1960s) dared to ask for money he was owed. Arden duly threatened to throw him out a window. Along similar lines, when he heard the Bee Gees' manager talk about poaching the Small Faces, he and some friends hung him over a balcony until he "reconsidered". His uncompromising spirit lives on in his daughter Sharon Osbourne.

Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead)

She's been a celebrity in her own right ever since The Osbournes started broadcasting their profanity-fuelled private life on TV, but she's got every bit of her father Don Arden's steely management style. When Iron Maiden allegedly "disrespected" her on the 2005 Ozzfest tour, she had the power to their set cut several times. In an open letter after a press furore, she wrote: "I know you would love to keep talking about this, because this is the most press that Iron Maiden has had in the U.S. in 20 years, but let's move on, shall we?" She signed the letter from "The 'Real' Iron Maiden."

Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin)

This six-foot, 300-pound manager was also influenced by the Don Arden legacy. Grant was rumored to use force concert promoters to give him 90% of all takings, though he's now credited with improving rates for touring musicians. He hated bootleg recordings, and would look out for recording equipment in the crowd at shows to be destroyed. On one occasion he personally threw water over some equipment, and was known to smash up record stores that stocked Zeppelin bootlegs.

Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols)

Few men have had such an impact on music culture, but for a punk manager he was ironically capitalist. His real skill was having an eye for branding, and pushed the Sex Pistols into the mainstream at precisely the right time of anti-establishment sentiment. In one stunt, he took the band on a boat trip down London's River Thames where they parked outside the government's Houses Of Parliament for a gig. The ensuing police raid only added to its legacy.

Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan)

Much like Peter Grant, Grossman was a 6-foot beast and found it easy to intimidate business partners into making deals that oddly weighed in his favour. His negotiations were so aggressive that Elektra Records boss Bob Krasnow later remarked: What you see today in the music business is the result of Albert. He changed the whole idea of what a negotiation was all about. Bob Dylan started to recognise his greed, and fired him in 1971. Grossman was still chasing Dylan royalties all the way to 1987 when he died. He was kind of like a Colonel Parker figure," Dylan said in the documentary "No Direction Home". "You could smell him coming.

45 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I wish i had a manager like one of these guys.
    No you don't. In Tony Iommi's autobiography he talked a bit about Don Arden ripping off Black Sabbath by keeping a lot of their money. That sucks.
    I'd like sharon as a manager.....purely so i could slap that stupid bitch.
    Sharon Osbourne is wonderful. She's a very sweet person when she's not dealing with someone that's pissed her off, and when she is, she's not afraid to give people what for.
    No Ian Faith? "Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful."
    "The Boston gig has been canceled... I wouldn't worry though, its not that big of a college town."
    Brian Epstein maybe?
    For sure. There was a rumor that he personally bought 10,000 copies of the Beatles 1st album just so they could chart and get recognized.
    Good read - wish there were a few more examples. Maybe wouldn't fall under "craziest" but the relationship Brian Epstein had with the Beatles was interesting... Allen Klein too.
    I think that Rod Smallwood would make this list .
    Also Elvis' manager who was wanted for criminal charges in europe, thats why he's never been in europe.
    I think part of the story was Elvis' manager was also an illegal immigrant in the US... the reason why Elvis never toured there is his manager feared he wouldn't be allowed back in the USA.
    Rebel Scum
    "Grant was rumored to use force concert promoters" Do these guys ever proof read?
    Though he's a rap manager/CEO rather than rock, Suge Knight was pretty ironfisted in his business dealings. This is the same man who hung Vanilla Ice over a balcony by his ankles in order to claim royalties from "Ice Ice Baby."
    Bernard Rhodes. The Clash's manager should be on the list too. As should Ian Hill.
    And somehow Phil Spector didn't make the list?
    The man held an entire band at gunpoint during a recording session. He deserves a spot.
    No to mention he killed that woman and wore some crazy wigs at his trial. But he is more of a producer.
    Where is spinal tap manager Ian Faith? his cricket bat skills are legendary.
    I remember hearing about how Jimmy Page sent Steve Marriot a letter asking if he wanted to leave the Small Faces and form a group with him. Don Arden sent him a letter back that read 'How would you like to play guitar with broken fingers?'
    Would be nice to have Sharon as a manager, then i can have her suck my dick every night and post a picture to Facebook:=)
    I'm surprised Charles Ofdensen didn't make this list. He should be number one. The dude would ****ing die for Dethklok. And he did.
    Good list though I'd swap Sharon for Allen Klein...he was much more ruthless than Sharon...and I think if I had to pick one of them to represent me, I'd go with Peter Grant. He was monstrous.
    Does anybody know Frits Hirschland, ex-manager of Kayak and some other bands? He did some pretty messed up things to promote the band and eventually seemed to have ripped them off financially.
    remind me of the story Lemmy told about what Richie Blackmore did to his tour manager (i think it was his tour manager). Disrespected Richie, ended up naked on a ferry to iceland (i think iceland) in his car with no keys and no ID documents. its on youtube. Lemmy tells it much better than me.