In Remembrance Of Herbie Herbert: Bill Graham Protege Built Journey Juggernaut, Modernized Stadium Touring
Pat Johnson – Herbie Herbert
Herbie Herbert launched his career in the early 1970s with his mentor Bill Graham, became a roadie and production manager for Santana, and a legend when he helped found and then managed Journey during its peak, stadium-trotting years. His death Oct. 25 sparked an outpouring of tributes from those who knew and worked with him over the years.
He developed companies that revolutionized touring, particularly at the stadium level, and used his business acumen to maximize revenue for Journey from real estate holdings to catalog management under one roof with Nightmare Productions.
What fans saw were pioneering, large-screen video projections and massive lighting and sound systems, developed by his Nocturne Productions, that made stadium tours not only possible but profitable.
But of all his creations, none tops the formation of Journey itself. Out of the rubble of what had been the Santana band, in 1973 Herbert put vocalist and keyboardist Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon together with bassist Ross Valory and rhythm guitarist George Tickner, both of Bay Area psychedelic group Frumious Bandersnatch, and rounded out the group with drummer Prairie Prince from The Tubes.
After some fits and starts, and the addition in 1977 of singer Steve Perry, Journey went on to become one of the biggest bands of the era. Herbert left in 1993, the result of what’s been reported as a “personality conflict” with Perry.
Schon says he’d known Herbert since 1970, when they were both in the Santana stable and “where I witnessed Herbie – a one-mando-it-all show with Carlos, Gregg and the rest of the band.
“I met him through Gregg Rolie and Jackie Villanueva (Dr Brown),” Schon, the last original Journey member remaining with the band, posted to Instagram. “We traveled the world together first with Santana, then Journey, shortly after we had completed [1972’s] Caravanserai album.
“The band disbanded. Herbie decided to start a management company. [He] approached me about managing myself and wrapping a band around my guitar playing and our long amazing Journey started when I said, ‘Great, let’s go.’
Pat Johnson – Herbie Herbert, Bill Graham
Herbie Herbert (L) and impresario Bill Graham, who brought him into the Bill Graham Presents family in the early 1970s. While working for Graham, Herbert became a roadie and eventually manager for Santana. Herbert died at home in Orinda, Calif., Oct. 25, 30 years to the day after his mentor.
“I’ll cherish all the incredible times and trials and tribulations we experienced together. Herbie was an incredible hands-on manager and fought like a motherfucker for all of us every step of the way. I can easily say that without his vision there would have never been many of the innovative things that we shared.”
In addition to Journey and Santana, Herbert managed artists including the Steve Miller Band, Mr. Big, Roxette, Europe, and Enuff Z’Nuff. And along the way, he touched other musicians and a myriad of others in the concert industry.
“Losing Herbie Herbert is like having a library of great ideas burn to the ground. So long partner, you were great while you were here and will always be remembered in our hearts,” Steve Miller posted on his band’s website.
Swedish artists Roxette (“It Must Have Been Love”) and Europe (“The Final Countdown”) also weighed in.
“Herbie was our first (and only) manager in the US back in the days of Look Sharp! + Joyride. I remember him fondly. He was a music lover extraordinaire + loud + funny + positive + encouraging. I can still see him shouting over the phone keeping EMI USA’s sales reps + radio ppl on their toes all the time. One of the good guys!” writes surviving Roxette member Per Gessle.
Ian Haugland, drummer for Europe, posted memories of Herbert on Facebook.
“The first time we met Herbie was in Zürich during the ‘Final Countdown’ tour. He had flown from the US specifically to be able to see us play live. Officially, Herbie had ‘retired’ from the music business, but after hearing The Final Countdown album he felt a newborn hunger to help this bunch of young punks from Sweden get their act going stateside. Hadn’t it been for Herbie, I truly doubt that Europe would have reached the amount of success we actually did!
“Herbie was, in my opinion, one of the best managers ever. Not only was he a brilliant business man, but he also had a huge heart and a warm, kind soul”
Herbert not only managed bands but was a musician himself, recording three albums in the late 1990s as Sy Klopps and toured his Sy Klopps band around the Bay Area, sometimes joined by Schon, Rolie, Valory and Prince.
Pat Johnson – Herbie Herbert, Journey
Herbie Herbert (third from right) helped form and then managed Journey from 1973 to 1993. He’s shown here with the band at keyboardist Gregg Rolie’s (second from left) farewell party in 1980.
Musician Robert Berry, who worked with the late Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in Emerson Lake & Palmer offshoot 3, wrote a song for the ex-manager living out his rock star dreams.
“You may know him as Journey’s manager, but it was Herbie that took my career on in 1986 and coached me to write more personal, compelling songs and dig deep for the meaning in the music,” Berry posted. “At the time he told me that someday he would have his own band called the Cyclops Blues Band. I wrote him a blues song and in the middle of the solo it said ‘take it Herbie.’ He jammed behind his desk to that track for a long time. I have a letter on the studio wall where he tells me it will remain one of his favorite gifts of all time. I owe him so much.”
Emilio Castillo, Tower of Power bandleader and Santana contemporary, writes in a statement: “We in Tower of Power will miss him terribly. We first met when he was head of the Santana road crew in 1971. Back then he always took a liking to us and took great care of us when we opened for Santana. He went on to become one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll managers of all time as manager of the band Journey and we were all good friends over the years.
“He was a great benefactor to Tower of Power as well, allowing us to record our CD Oakland Zone at his studio in San Francisco and also blessing us with management advice countless times over the years. He had a cutting sense of humor and an excellent mind for business. He was truly one of the great ones!!!”
Longtime Santana publicist Michael Jensen was among the first to break the news of Herbert’s death and said, “Really saddened this morning to wake up and hear the news that the legendary, take-no-prisoners rock manager Herbie Herbert has passed away. … So many memories, so many stories that made this man truly one of the great rock managers of all time. I had not seen him until Journey was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but he, as always, was the larger than life guy that he was. He was a visionary who demanded the best from anyone around him. He was a good man. And, I will miss him being on this planet. My deepest sympathy to his family, friends and co-workers especially Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie.”