Tony Ruffino Dies

Tony Ruffino, one of the legends of the concert industry, died today, Aug. 22, a day after having a stroke.

Ruffino, 74, Ruffino began his promoting career in New York in a partnership with Larry Vaughn. Ruffino / Vaughn Productions sensed an opportunity in Alabama and Ruffino relocated southward while Vaughn stayed in New York.

He began booking concerts in Alabama with Jimi Hendrix at the Memorial Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. The company was the region’s main promoter until the partnership was dissolved and Ruffino started New Era Productions.

He helped build the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, now known as Verizon Wireless Music Center in Pelham. He was also a catalyst in building Five Points South Music Hall in Birmingham. New Era Productions was eventually bought by SFX, and Ruffino retired.

Ruffino was one of the true characters in the early concert business. Verizon Arena manager Michael Marion knew Ruffino for decades and said he was one of the few promoters who could actually make jokes when a show was a stiff.

“Michael, if they aren’t buying tickets, you can’t stop ‘em” or he remembers when reviewing a failed advertising plan Ruffino said, “Michael, we gave them every opportunity not to buy a ticket.”

They may not have been originals, Marion said, but Tony’s delivery made them his own.

His son, John, is a partner in Red Mountain Entertainment.  

Memorial Service is at 4 pm, August 24 at the Alabama Theater. Closed graveside service tomorrow with family.

The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent in Mr. Ruffino’s memory to the Alabama Diabetes Association, the Alabama Heart Association, the Birmingham Humane Society or St. Jude’s Chidlren’s Hospital.