Australian Artist Manager Glenn Wheatley Dies At 74
Regis Martin / Getty Images – GLenn Wheatley
Glenn Wheatley attends the launch of the third Melbourne International Music Festival at The Famous Spiegeltent November 9, 2004 in Melbourne, Australia.
One of Australia’s most successful artist managers and music entrepreneurs, Glenn Wheatley, died February 1 in a Melbourne hospital of complications from coronavirus. He was 74.
Among the acts he managed were John Farnham and Delta Goodrem, who had phenomenal album sales in their home country, and Little River Band who had ten Top 20 hits in the United States including “Help Is On Its Way”, “Reminiscing” and “Happy Anniversary”.
“He was a titan in our industry and a great champion of Australian music,” said Paul Dainty, president of TEG Dainty.
Little River Band’s Glenn Shorrock noted that the soft-spoken Wheatley helped get fairer deals for Australian acts, and learned on the job.
“Little River Band was a learning experience for him as much as it was for us, and Glenn learned to make better and better deals as we got more successful.”
Wheatley made his first fortune when he was 17, running a blues club in hometown Brisbane and gave him a flash lifestyle for a teenager.
A year later he lost his fortune when rivals used rough tactics to get the club closed.
By the late ‘60s, he was bassist in the Masters Apprentices, a multi-chart act whose management Wheatley took over after it dawned they were being ripped off.
The band relocated to London ad, despite two critically acclaimed albums cut at Abbey Road Studios, had no commercial success.
After their break up in 1972, Wheatley returned to Australia to put together Little River Band with a soft-pop sound with which to break the US.
“The United States was a total mystery to Australians in those days,” Wheatley would say.
Ten US labels turned down the band’s first album, one exec who described their sound as “fingernails screeching down a blackboard.” Capitol Records signed on Christmas Eve.
With 13 US tours between 1976 and 1983, the band went on to sell 30 million albums and proved that it was possible to remain based in Australia and find global success,
Wheatley assembled a roster of hit makers as Australian Crawl, Real Life and Pseudo Echo as well as a number of top-tier sportsmen. Owning a number of radio stations, he introduced commercial FM radio to Australia. He was a founding partner of both Frontier Touring and Bluesfest Byron Bay.
His biggest success was with John Farnham, a ‘60s pop star whose career was in workingmen’s clubs when Wheatley took over in 1980.
No record company would finance an album, so Wheatley mortgaged his house. The result was Whispering Jack in 1986, which stayed at #1 in Australia for 25 weeks and was certified 24 x platinum. It also broke in Europe.
What followed were some of Australia’s biggest grossing national tours.
“It’s a great partnership,” he told Pollstar. “I get as much of a high at a concert from seeing what we’ve achieved to what John gets from performing.”
He created charities to fundraise through televised concerts, including the Hay Mate charity for drought-hit farmers, a benefit for Rwanda, and concert for troops in East Timor.
In a career that had its ups and downs, he was jailed for 15 months in 2007 for tax evasion, following a $300 million investigation by the Australian Taxation Office into offshore tax havens.
A statement from his family said at the time of his death, he had “been very busy with a number of projects in the works for John.”