Rob Light On Bobby Brooks

Tomorrow is the 25th Anniversary of a tragic day. On that day, 25 years ago…a helicopter went down traveling from Alpine Valley to Chicago, post a legendary show that featured Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray. Stevie Ray Vaughan was on that helicopter, and therefore will be a big topic of conversation, radio tributes and the like.

There were three others on that helicopter, bodyguard Nigel Brown, tour manager Colin Smythe and legendary agent Bobby Brooks. My heart goes out to the loved ones of Nigel, Colin and Stevie. But I wanted August 27th to be more than an reminder of a sad day; for me it is really about Bobby.

There are few legacies in the music business…even the greatest of the great become footnotes as the generations pass…most label execs today don’t really know who Walter Yetnikoff, Mo Ostin, or Joe Smith were or what they accomplished, great managers like Dee Anthony, Peter Grant, David Krebs and Steve Leber are rarely discussed, groundbreaking promoters like Bill Graham, Cecil Corbett, Jack Boyle and Jules Belkin are not mentioned; and even Frank Barsalona, who invented the profession that is the modern day agent goes unknown to this generation. (Forgive me for all the names I could have and should have included).

Bobby was 34 when he died. By most measures, he was just starting in the business. Yet his memorial was so big it was held at the Universal Amphitheatre with over 3000 in attendance. How does such a young man have that much impact on an industry?

Bobby was special in a totally unique way…and I would be heartbroken if this anniversary passed without some acknowledgment and insight into this wonderful soul.

He grew up in New Jersey, found music in the late sixties, and went to St. John’s in the early seventies. He was the college concert chairman, and all he ever wanted to do was book bands. I met him at a college convention in 1976, was amazed at how quickly he made friends, how much he knew about the business and the music, and how badly he wanted to be a part of it. His passion was both inspiring and overwhelming. He LOVED music, especially live music…and he would go anywhere and everywhere to see it, and nothing would keep him from working in an industry that was his calling.

Out of college in 1977, Bobby went to the mailroom at ICM. He got out of the mailroom in a matter of weeks, and was made an agent in less than a year. In 1987, he was the fifth agent to join CAA’s music department…and was a critical component to CAA music’s early explosive growth.

You might be thinking, so what.

But Bobby was one of a kind. When you first met him, you thought, “Who is this nerdy guy, with the big horn-rimmed glasses?” Yet, he had a unique ability to befriend everyone…not just artists, managers, and executives…but every assistant, every security guard, every roadie, every person in a box office…he knew and remembered all of them, embraced them, made them laugh, interacted with them…and in turn every one of them would bend over backwards to help him and support him. He loved music, and so could talk about songs, songwriters, producers, and when and where records were recorded. And the artists loved him for that! His clients included, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, Kenny Loggins, America and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and so many more). All selling out arenas, and amphitheatres, and all benefiting from Bobby’s vision, and embrace of their talents.

He had a passion for the artist and the art, and knew how to express it in the most sincere way. He was never selling you; because he was always so enthusiastic that you felt like you were being let in on something great.

Bobby had a wickedly, devilish sense of humor, that would allow him to disarm any situation, unwinding the most complicated problem, while making you blush and laugh out loud. At the same time, he was kind and giving and always, always a loyal friend.

He brought a sense of joy, childish innocence and awe to his job…as he stood backstage at a show, he would comment on how he could not believe he was there, and that he would pay to have the job. Were he alive today, he would be running a major agency, have a client list that would be the envy of all, would be making everyone laugh (CEOs, young executives and parking attendants alike), and he would be at every concert, every festival, and every awards show in a bit of awe that he was in this business. Because despite the embrace and success, he was never quite sure he belonged.

The memorial at Universal was a who’s who of the music industry as well as countless people whom no one would recognize- because Bobby touched them all. Graham Nash and Jackson Browne sang, and tributes from the heart poured out from numerous speakers. It was one of the saddest days I will ever know, and yet it was a celebration of a man who touched so many lives with simple acts of kindness, recognition, follow-up, love and friendship. And therein lies what is so special and unique about Bobby, HE CARED!

There are so many great and funny stories to tell, I will leave it to others to share theirs.

I don’t expect the newer generations to care much about the person (though I wish they would, history is so important). But, it is my hope it that my dear friend, Bobby Brooks, will remind people that reveling in what you do, embracing all those around you, and loving the art and the artist, can make for a very special life. A life we honor today, 25 years after it was taken too soon.

I miss you my friend!

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