Paradigm’s Dave Kaplan On The Late, Great Roky Erickson

Roky Erickson
(Photo by Guy Clark/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
– Roky Erickson
Roky Erickson of the “13th Floor Elavators” performs on the Larry Kane Show in 1967, in Houston Texas.
Roky Erickson’s passing June 1 at the age of 71 elicited an outpouring of reminiscences and praise for the person most often credited with the origins of psych-rock with his mid-60s band 13th Floor Elevators, a touchstone for many artists and fans who followed in his lysergic-fueled wake. Following the news, Pollstar spoke with his longtime agent, Paradigm’s Dave Kaplan, to learn more about this wildly impactful artist and his life on the road.

Pollstar: Sorry for your loss. There’s no bigger proof of his importance to so many people than the outpouring of tributes.

Dave Kaplan: Yeah, it’s all over the place. He was a special individual.

How long did you work with him? 

About 13 years from basically his comeback in the late 2000s with the movie [“You’re Gonna Miss Me: the Story of Roky Erickson”] about him. The thing with the movie is it ends with this reaffirming story about this guy getting his life back, but it doesn’t go to where he’s on stage and playing. 

How did you come to book him and where was he at the time?

He was in Austin, where he lived basically his whole life other than when the Elevators were living in San Francisco for a brief period and, unfortunately, the mental institution the state of Texas put him in, wherever that was. Darren Hill of Ten Pin Management started working with him. I knew Darren and we talked, and I was just like, “I would love to do this.” I had a call with Roky’s brother, who was sort of his minder at the time, and I told him, “Look, let’s see what we can do.” We started doing weekenders in the major markets and realized, “Oh, there is interest everywhere for this.” 

What was the first show you booked him at? 

Noise Pop in San Francisco. It was an amazing moment, especially in San Francisco with the 13th Floor Elevators connection and it being such a music town and embracing oddballs. Off of that we started touring. We did little short runs and built up stamina. We basically kept working for the last 12 or 13 years.

What was your first meeting with Roky? 

Roky’s a man of few words. It was just like, “Hey, how you doing? He’s a very jovial guy, but not one for deep conversation. It was just like, “Glad to meet you, yeah, thanks for helping me out” kind of thing. 

According to Pollstar Boxoffice his average box gross over the last 36 months was $23,000 so he still had a pretty big following.

Oh yeah. He had a core audience. 

Roky engendered a very devoted following. How would you describe his fans? 

Record store guy. That’s the fan base. It’s very much old school, pre-internet, record store guy. Not everybody was exactly that, but that is definitely a core piece of his audience. His discography was scattered across all kinds of crazy different independent labels over the years. Even the Elevators were on a Texas label, International Artists. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” was a Top 40 hit, but it was still on an independent label.

How was it having him as a client?

I represent a lot of great artists, but the majority of them I wasn’t listening to as a teenager. I bought a 13th Floor Elevators’ used 45 of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in a record store when I was living in Northern California because I’d heard it on the Nuggets album. I was like, “This is like the Holy Grail, oh my God. Here’s an actual 45 and I own it.” I remember telling Darren and Roky that story. I don’t know if there was a lot of beating down their door to book him at the time, but I know that sealed the deal. That’s a record I still listen to.

What do you think Roky’s legacy will be?
His legacy was already there before he passed. It’s the Elevators, it’s those 70s and 80s solo albums, it’s basically a pure voice of rock and roll. It doesn’t get much more rock and roll that that.