DiCesare’s Hard Life

Pat DiCesare, one-half of DiCesare-Engler Productions of Pittsburgh and one of the surviving heritage rock promoters, is telling his life story in an upcoming memoir, “Hard Days, Hard Nights.” 

DiCesare formed the production company in 1973 but his relationship with rock ‘n’ roll goes back to The Beatles, having been the man who brought the Fab Four to the city in 1964.

The book’s first sentence is an intriguing quote: “If you want the Beatles to play in Pittsburgh, take $5,000 in cash to the Club Elegant in Brooklyn and leave it with the bartender.”

From there, DiCesare details his music career, from bringing red-hot acts like The Beach Boys and The Doors to the Civic Arena to the sale of DiCesare-Engler to Robert Sillerman’s SFX for a princely sum.

In between are stories about his misfortune of buying the wrong champagne for Led Zeppelin and the pressures of working with a boozy Janis Joplin and a tardy Sly Stone. In the middle of it all is a story industry execs can appreciate involving DiCesare, Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull’s agent, Barbara Skydel.

The money quote is, “Don’t you ever, ever think you are getting another show from Premier! I will go to any other city but Pittsburgh with all of my acts!”

“Hard Days, Hard Nights” also includes his life outside the business, growing up in the hard-scrabble city of Pittsburgh, but it spends most of its time balancing stories of eccentric rock stars with the basics of rock promotion, including those times when all the money goes away.

It also includes a concise explanation on why ticket prices have climbed so significantly. According to DiCesare, it happened the time he and Engler sold to SFX. DiCesare said he didn’t want to sell but the price was too good (the price has never been disclosed but in 1998, Sillerman was writing checks in the eight figures for promotion companies).

Meanwhile, Engler had negotiated a guarantee for Janet Jackson from $350,000 down to $250,000 for each of a two-night stand – a savings of $200,000. When SFX took over, the price went back to the original demand. “’Why in the world would you give back a $200,000 concession?’ we asked. Their answer was they wanted both the acts and their agents to know SFX would not negotiate the price of the act down. They would pay the acts whatever price they demanded. They wouldn’t even negotiate!

“Immediately, the ticket prices we fought so hard to hold down all those years went through the roof.”

If that isn’t all, Pittsburgh has proclaimed Sept. 14 “Pat DiCesare Day” and the governor, noting this is the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion, will be awarding DiCesare and then-partner Tim Tormey an award of achievement for bringing The Bealtes to Pennsylvania during the state’s “Beatles Week.”

Pollstar was a testing ground for the book. DiCesare sent us early pieces that would become chapters in the memoir. Click here to read about DiCesare’s experience booking The Beatles in 1964 and here for the story behind booking The Rolling Stones in 1972. 

The book is due on Amazon come September.