Spirit Of Touring

Retired attorney Robert Rosenthal and his wife, Nina, have produced 57 concerts for troops and their families at stateside military bases since 2001 – an idea that became a reality at a Christmas party in Washington, D.C.

The Rosenthals decided they wanted to do something for the troops but didn’t know how to go about it. That’s until Robert talked to a friend in Washington near the end of 2001.

“He said, ‘Well, I think you ought to get a letter to Donald Rumsfeld,'” Rosenthal told Pollstar. “I said, ‘Yeah. Right.’ And he said, ‘It’s very simple. I happen to be going to Dick Cheney’s Christmas party in four days. Donald Rumsfeld will be there. Why don’t you prepare a letter, Fed Ex it to me and I’ll hand it to him.’

“I knew enough to keep it to one page – no four-page lawyer’s summary. [Rumsfeld] had somebody call me and I flew back to Washington and made the deal.”

Rosenthal said he would supply entertainment and, in return, he did not want to deal with the bureaucracy. Instead, one member of each military branch was to act as a point person. Next up was a luncheon in Nashville where the retired attorney invited agents and managers to hear his pitch for entertaining military personnel and their families.

Rosenthal brings a deputy undersecretary of defense and a senior officer of each service branch to the luncheons, which are held every other year. The 2003 lunch attracted 35 industry types, and this year it drew 100.

“I tell them I’ll pay their expenses but not pay a fee to the entertainer,” he said. “I call it ‘businessman patriotism.'”

If an artist is touring past Fort Sill in Oklahoma, for instance, Rosenthal will pay the lease of the bus for that day, the gasoline, the day’s wages for the tour manager, etc., if the artist will play the military base. The Rosenthals’ non-profit organization, Spirit Of America Tour, provides the sound and lights, and sometimes the stage if the base doesn’t have one.

The Charlie Daniels Band has done eight shows with more on the books. The Oak Ridge Boys and Buddy Jewell are also return performers. Other shows include Pam Tillis, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Jaci Velasquez, Dennis Miller, Carrot Top and Miranda Lambert.

“If somebody wonders why Charlie Daniels gets all these shows and their client doesn’t, it’s because nobody called me,” Rosenthal said.

More information is available at www.spiritofamericatour.org.

Joe Reinartz