The Industry Remembers An Innovator: Terry Bassett | 1938-2018

Terry Bassett
Courtesy Sims Hinds
– Terry Bassett
WME head of music Peter Grosslight, Irving Azoff, the Mobile Civic Center’s Jay Hagerman, and Terry Bassett gather for a rare photo during the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” Alabama tour stop in 1995.

The live music business lost a visionary, charismatic leader and a trail-blazing executive when Terry Bassett died July 26 at his California home at the age of 80.  Bassett, whose health had declined in recent years, did nothing less than help form the basis of the modern touring industry. And, according to those closest to him, he learned about creating the business from his days as a batboy in his hometown of Wenatchee, Wash. 
“The team and the manager taught Terry how to make money as a batboy,” his wife, Carol Bassett, remembers. “Making sandwiches, shining shoes, whatever the players needed and Terry could do, they’d pay Terry for that. So he learned from a young age how to make money, and how to make people happy by making sure they were comfortable.” 
These were lessons that Bassett, as co-founder of legendary promoter Concerts West and a partner in its precursor company Pat O’Day & Associates, never forgot. Indeed, his ideas about how to treat artists – and everyone from the janitor to the security guard to the biggest superstar – were at the crux of a business philosophy that helped foment a touring business revolution. 
Though he shunned the spotlight, Bassett helped create the industry as we know it by consolidating disparate functions of touring including promotion, marketing, advertising, tour logistics, booking, security and back of house necessities such as lighting, sound and hospitality into a turn-key business model. 
In the early 1960s, Pat O’Day was a popular Seattle-area DJ who produced teen dances and happened to discover a young local guitar prodigy named Jimi Hendrix. Bassett became a partner in the company, and his first tour was with the young guitar god. 
“They’d drive in a stationwagon with Jimi, and his guitars and his amps in the back,” recalls John Meglen, president and co-CEO of Concerts West. “They’d get to the building and [partner Tom] Hulett and Hendrix would get out with the guitar and the amps and go into the building with Pat. Bassett would go to the local printer, pick up their posters, flip down the tailgate and take turns running around behind tacking up the posters saying ‘Jimi Hendrix: Tonight. Omaha Civic Center.’  And those guys started national touring. Nobody had done it before them.”
Meglen and another young Concerts West hire, Paul Gongaware, learned the ropes from Bassett and years later resurrected the Concerts West name before the company was acquired by AEG in 2000.
“Terry was the one who taught us all how to  operate behind the scenes,” Meglen recalled. “Terry was the guy who, when he saw you, would grab you and take you through the dressing room, all the way back to the bathroom stalls in the artists’ dressing rooms, and made sure there was toilet paper. Everybody else was doing the business, but Terry knew all the little but special things. He knew to take care of the artist and really taught us all that it’s about them; it’s not about us.” 
Concerts West expanded from its Seattle roots in 1967, becoming a national concert promotion powerhouse, adding offices in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and, eventually, Los Angeles. 
The promoter’s pantheon of famous clients read like a tour through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and included Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Paul McCartney and Wings, Eagles, Stevie Wonder, The Who, The Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and many more marquee names.
A young businessman called Bassett, hoping to book Led Zeppelin at the campus football stadium of the University of Illinois at Champaign. Irving Azoff didn’t get Led Zep, but he did get Grand Funk Railroad, and Bassett booked local favorite and future Azoff client REO Speedwagon to open for them.  The two remained close friends until Bassett’s death.
“More than anybody, Terry was the unsung hero that didn’t get credit for what that company was and became,” Azoff said (Azoff is a co-founder of Oak View Group, Pollstar’s parent company). “We struck up a friendship. He got me my first tour for REO Speedwagon.
“[Concerts West was] the Live Nation of the day,” Azoff said. “Terry was really the key of the three guys who signed the most artists – Jerry [Weintraub] had Elvis and Sinatra, which was their power base, but Terry had all the rock bands. We had him doing Eagles shows. We called him ‘Watchdogg’ with two g’s. I can’t say enough great things about him.”
Weintraub, after partnering with Concerts West on tours with John Denver, Neil Diamond, Sinatra, Presley, and Led Zeppelin, bought out an early partner’s interest and joined the company. 
In the 1980s, Concerts West continued its growth, adding a management division. 
Chuck Negron and Terry Bassett
Carl Dunn
– Chuck Negron and Terry Bassett

Bassett was also a partner in Avalon Attractions, the Southern California promoter, along with the late Brian Murphy and Bob Geddes. After many years as a regional promotion powerhouse, Avalon Attractions was acquired by SFX. 
Bassett was an innovator beyond the concert hall and stadium. He, along with Gongaware, produced ski films by Warren Miller and promoted them as events – selling out 3,500-seat theatres, creating a brand for Miller and giving the sport of skiing a hefty boost. Given the success of the first Warren Miller film, “The Edge,” Bassett suggested a soundtrack for the sequel, Beyond The Edge, which was written and performed by the late Dan Fogelberg. He also tried his hand at managing, including future Eagle Joe Walsh.
“Terry Bassett, of course, was Concerts West – back when not all promoters were good guys,” Walsh tells Pollstar. “We were just starting to happen – opening for headliners mostly, but we made the difference between shows being 3/4 sold out or going clean.”
“Any time the James Gang or anybody else played on Terry’s turf,” Walsh remembers, “he was there checking on us –  making sure we had what we needed – and was genuinely interested in what we were up to. When I left the James Gang, he was there with advice and encouragement during my somewhat complex transition to solo artist.
“Terry always had my back, but not just me,” the famed musician continued. “Terry had all our backs. He became a lifelong friend and a great inspiration on how to do things right.”
Bassett was a friend and mentor to many he came in contact with, whether as business colleagues or clients. While he may not have craved the spotlight, he leaves behind a wealth of friends and admirers. 
“I used to always say I was hired by Tom (Hulett) but I was raised by Terry on the road,” Meglen says. “Back then I was just a kid doing tours for them. Terry taught us how to hire good people. That’s really important. If you spent enough time with Hulett and Bassett, you knew how to hire good people. But what he really knew was how to foster people, mentor them, and bring them in to teach us our trade.
“He was a mentor and taught so many of us that are in the business today and honestly, the way Gongaware and I operate is the way Terry taught us to operate. Terry always taught you how to find the right people that could get things done and how to do that in a very gentlemanly fashion. There was nobody warmer.”
The word “mentor” was used universally about Bassett with those Pollstar spoke with.“He mentored everyone,” Azoff recalled. “I’d consider him one of the key guys that started me and mentored me. Paul Gongaware and Meglen wouldn’t exist without him. All the alumni from Concerts West are scattered throughout the business.”
Class Reunion
– Class Reunion
Terry Bassett (front row, 2nd from L) rejoins other Concerts West alumni at a 2000s Caesars Palace gathering in Las Vegas.

Sims Hinds is one of those Concerts West alumni. He is now SVP of Development at Oak View Group. “Terry fostered so many people in our business because he acted like our big brother,” Hinds says. 
“Terry hired me when I was 21 to work in the newly opened Concerts West office in Atlanta (I grew up there). Within six months, the two senior guys in the office had been moved to Chicago and Beverly Hills. Terry became my coach and all of a sudden I was responsible for booking and promotion in the Southeast. Bad Company, Chicago, Eric Clapton, and Eagles.
“Terry sent me to the West Coast for the first time in my life, to produce Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne at Anaheim Stadium and San Diego. From that point on, I spent many years touring with Eagles,” Hinds told Pollstar.
Bassett stressed the value of creating and nurturing long-term relationships in the concert business, Hinds said, adding “that was not the way most people in this business acted in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”
Among the early careers positively impacted by Bassett is that of Larry Solters, the owner and founder of Scoop Marketing as well as the son of famed publicist Lee Solters. But he had to learn the ropes like anyone else when he entered the business.
“I first met Terry in 1975. I was something like the assistant to the apprentice to the helper on the Paul McCartney ‘Wings Over America’ tour,” Solters said. “He was the promoter and he treated me with such respect, and with such dignity, and he spoke to me like I deserved to be there. It meant so much to me.
“Too often, people treat the people they need to treat nicely, nicely, and the people they don’t need to treat nicely, they don’t. Beyond everything Terry taught me over the next 40 years, one thing stands out and to this day that I still do – and it gives you an idea of the character of Terry Bassett – Terry said, ‘When  you get to the building, you say hello to everybody. The security guy, the catering guy, everybody there from top to bottom. And when you leave, do the same thing.’ He said, ‘It would mean so much to them, and it will mean so much to you. And most likely, you are coming back.’ And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that my entire career,” Solters said.
Bassett formally left the concert business at 50 though he continued to work on Eagles tours when the band regrouped in the ’90s for the “Hell Freezes Over” tour. He was living his life on his own terms – in some cases, to the puzzlement of some of his friends and colleagues.
“He loved life,” Azoff said of Bassett. “He traveled. He was a bit of a vagabond. He had this great habit of traveling light. He always carried a duffel bag. He loved to wear sweatpants and athletic wear that he could just roll up and put it in his bag. I never saw the man with a hanging bag in my life. If he couldn’t roll it up and put it a duffel bag, it didn’t travel. 
“He loved the business. But he loved people even more,” Azoff said.
“Terry retired. He wanted to go play softball. By 30, he had the world’s biggest concert promotion company, and by 50 he retired,” Meglen said. “He went to play softball. We all thought he was retiring too early. He was playing on a softball team and traveling around the country in an RV playing in some weird-ass softball league.“
Throughout his career, Bassett was known for speaking in sports metaphors and coming up with nicknames for people like “Bonus Baby,” “Ace of Staff” and “Cleanup Man.” In many ways, it all goes back to baseball and that batboy in Wenatchee who grew up to change the direction of what is now a roughly $24 billion a year concert industry.
Terry and Carol Bassett
– Terry and Carol Bassett

“Terry and I had such a good life,” Carol Bassett said. “We met in 1987; Howard Kaufman introduced us. I lived in San Francisco at the time, and I wanted references for this man who I was considering selling my sports marketing company to. Jerry Weintraub told me, ‘The thing I can say about Terry is that everybody’s going to win. You are going to win, and he’s going to win.’ That was the way I liked to run my business. We kept in touch and eventually began dating.” The couple married in 1993. 
Some of Terry Bassett’s work habits apparently carried over into day-to-day life.
“We could go to Sardinia and he’d have me wait outside the hotel room because he’d have to check out each room before I could go in. He wanted it perfect,” Carol said, laughing. “He knew how to take care of those rock ‘n’ roll people. He must have been so used to making people happy that he doesn’t know any other way.
“Terry was a worker,” she said. “As a kid, he worked two paper routes. He learned how to make money as a batboy. He had a baseball scholarship to Stanford but he joined the Navy and was a medic. He was an athlete. He lettered in every sport. He would arrange games for whoever they were touring. 
“And he loved baseball. He went around the country playing baseball and had a team that went to Australia.”
That came to an end for Bassett when he had the first of several strokes in 2009. He had his final one July 26 and died shortly after at home, with Carol by his side.
“He knew he was home. I remembered this thing he always said to me: ‘Make sure you carry me in your pocket forever.’ He thought I had the worst sense of direction, and he’d say, ‘Put me in your pocket so you always know where you are.’”
In addition to Carol, Terry Bassett leaves a son, Beau; and daughter, Kristin. A celebration of his life is being planned at a date to be announced.