Jack Boyle of Cellar Door Productions, Dead at 83

Jack Boyle – Jack Boyle
screenshot from 2014 Rock And Roll Hall of Fame video interview

Legendary concert promoter Jack Boyle has died at age 83. 

The Washington, D.C. promoter was a giant in the business and founded Cellar Door Productions with partner Sam L’ Hommedieu, while establishing area venues like The Crazy Horse, The Bayou and The Cellar. 
A Fats Domino show in 1965 was Boyle’s first foray into the national concert business. He first opened the Cellar Door club in 1963 when it was named The Shadows but sold it that same year. In 1970 he again bought the M Street club and built it into one of the country’s major showcase rooms. 
The famed venue would come to boost the careers of many national acts such as Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, John Denver, Richard Pryor, Neil Young and Jackson Browne among many others.
It was in 1971, with a Gordon Lightfoot show at Constitution Hall in D.C., that Boyle made the full plunge into concert promotion. Boyle, along with his partner Dave Williams would go on to build Cellar Door productions into a regional power house promoting shows at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md.; and the Bayou in Georgetown (purchased for a reported $500,000 in January 1980); as well as the Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge (now Live Nation’s Jiffy Lube Live) in Bristow, Va.; GTE Amphitheater in Virginia Beach; and 1,000-seat Agora clubs in Virginia Beach, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.
Boyle sold Cellar Door and his real estate (including Nissan Pavilion) to SFX in 1998 for more than $100 million and the title of SFX Music Division chief. There he worked with a wide-swath of live executives who remain incredibly influential on the live music business, including Arthur Fogel, Michael Cohl, Bob Roux, Greg Perloff, Larry Magid, Brian O’Connell, Ron Delsner and Mitch Slater among many others.

Boyle retired from the business in 2006. 

Boyle shared his thoughts about the importance of a promoter first being a good businessman during an interview that was published in Pollstar in the early ’90s as an executive profile.
“Basically, a promoter is a banker who gives non-recourse loans at high interest rates,” Boyle told Pollstar. “If the show wins, he collects money at a high interest rate for what he risked, and if it loses he has no recourse to get his money back. So our only inventory besides good will is cash. Those promoters who go broke, and there always will be some in our business, are the ones who never learn to say ‘no’ to certain acts and certain demands. The business has become very capital-intensive and the smaller operations have a difficult time competing. But in Florida alone we must have twenty different companies promoting shows, and if they pick and choose and start with the smaller shows and follow them up through their career like the rest of us did, there’s plenty of room for everyone.” 
For those interested in breaking into the business, Boyle cautioned, “I can’t think of any of us [major promoters] who would want our children to do it. It’s such a tough, tough business. Most of the children of promoters have lived a very nice life. 
“And most of the promoters have had to work very hard for what they have. There aren’t any promoters, with the exception of one or two, that came from a monied background. Most of them clawed their way up. Warn these kids fresh from college that it’s not that easy to survive in this business. If you look through the ranks of major promoters who were around just 15 years  ago, you find over half are missing. And of the ones that are left, over half are fronting for someone else. There’s not many of us left that are real promoters that risk our own money.”

His wife Janet, who co-owned Cellar Door Concerts and several venues with her husband, died in 2013.
Beyond their sizeable impact on the concert industry, the two also gave generously to charitable causes. “My wife was one of those people who loved to help other people,” Boyle told the Sun-Sentinel. “Between us we sent between 50 and 100 kids to college, all without them knowing who sent them.” Janet Boyle’s charitable acts included donating $1 million to Women in Distress, funding nine homes for Habitat for Humanity, and buying one building for Planned Parenthood and paying for two others.
Click here for a video Q&A with Boyle, which Pollstar posted online in 2014 as part of a series of interviews presented by The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and the North American Concert Promoters Association. 

Click here for some thoughts Boyle shared with Pollstar in 2006 as part of a series called “Lessons Learned,” featuring tales and advice from veteran promoters.