Frank Barsalona Dies

Frank Barsalona, the legendary founder of Premier Talent — the first booking agency to work exclusively with rock artists — has died, according to friends and a family member.

He died peacefully in his sleep the evening of Nov. 21. Further details weren’t immediately available but his daughter, Nicole, says a memorial service and celebraton of his life will take place in the coming months.

Barsalona founded Premier Talent in 1964 and was the first to book the major English acts including The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin in the U.S., according to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2005. He sold the iconic agency to the William Morris Agency in 2002.

He championed clients including Bruce Springsteen, The Yardbirds, Grand Funk, J. Geils Band, Tom Petty, Van Halen and U2. He’s also widely credited not only with being among the first to take rock ‘n’ roll seriously as an art form, but creating the modern rock concert experience.

Photo: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

“Frank Barsalona had a vision: acts and promoters and record companies working in coordination to build careers,” wrote music journalist Dave Marsh in 2002, when Barsalona received the Silver Clef award from the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation, a music-industry charitable organization.

As a result, “Rock performers now had an economic base outside of the record companies,” Marsh continued. “They had the time and money and facilities to upgrade the quality of their shows.”

Barsalona and Premier Talent was the first to nuture and develop a network of local concert promoters that understood and appreciated the new breed of rock performers and could be trusted to do a good job. If they did the job and the acts were happy, Barsalona repaid them by giving them access to all the acts on Premier’s roster. Back in those days, a promoter was put on the map only when Frank gave them their own markets.

Once the most powerful booking agent in the world, Barsalona has been rarely seen in the decade since selling Premier Talent. Sadly, he was reportedly afflicted with dementia in his final years and was never able to be properly honored in person for the pioneering role he played in creating the modern concert business.