David Libert Tells (Almost) All In Memoir Of Life On The Road With Alice Cooper, George Clinton & More


David Libert has lived the rock ‘n’ roll life and is still around to talk about it, which he does in his recently published memoir, “Rock And Roll Warrior: My Misadventures with Alice Cooper, Prince, George Clinton, Living Colour, The Runaways and More…”

From his first taste of the music business as a vocalist and songwriter for The Happenings – the 1960s vocal group responsible for the hit “See You In September” – to joining Alice Cooper’s traveling circus as a tour manager, becoming a booking agent, artist manager and record producer, losing it all and making a comeback after a stint in prison, Libert’s story is a hell of a ride through the debauchery of the 1970s and ‘80s rock era.

And, in a way, he was at least partially responsible for some of it – handling logistics for not just travel and hotels, making sure every stage piece was in place when the house lights dimmed, but also procurement of the requisite in-flight entertainment, hotel after-parties and sufficient consumables for those who partook (which, notably, never included Alice).

“Rock And Roll Warrior” isn’t a tell-all, but maybe a tell-enough. But along with some salacious vignettes is also a very clear picture of the incredible amount of hard work, discipline and loyalty it takes to mount a successful career in the touring industry. Sure, there’s a lot of partying here – but Libert suffered no slackers as a tour manager and is generous with his praise for his fellow road warriors. Work hard, play harder.

There’s plenty of names that should be familiar to insiders of the rock ‘n’ roll extended family: Cooper’s manager Shep Gordon and agent Jonny Podell; promoter Bill Graham, musicians Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, and attorney Alan Oken all make notable appearances. In addition to the artists namechecked in the book’s title, those he worked with include Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, Cherie Currie, Sheila E., Guns N’ Roses and Brian Auger. And there’s also an appearance by Sweet Connie from Little Rock.

Libert weaves a story that’s part rock history and part business, finance, law, royalties and veterinary education. He explains the “Bank of Funkenstein,” shares some heavy lessons about the perils of dealing cocaine, and devotes space to Eva Marie Snake, a python who was part of Alice Cooper’s show and entourage, and Dolly the Dog.

Retired from the music business, today Libert considers himself an animal rights activist and rescues senior and special needs dogs. He also babysits pets for touring artists, including The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr., at his home in Yucca Valley, California.

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FLYING HIGH WITH ALICE: Tour manager and now author David Libert and Alice Cooper go over notes on the The Starship, a Boeing 707 the band chartered for its “Billion Dollar Babies” tour in 1973. (Photo by Paul Slade/Paris Match via Getty Images)

Pollstar: After you left the Happenings, you took a series of jobs in the music business but getting a call from Jonny Podell, Alice Cooper’s agent, changed everything. What did you learn from those early days with Alice?

David Libert: I learned so much being on the road with Alice. I learned how a lot of things work, dealing with record companies, agencies and the PR firm. Shep looked at things from a different perspective; that you can turn any bad thing into a good thing. Between Shep and Jonny, pretty much everything I learned about the music business, I learned from those two characters.

You tell a story about Shep Gordon and Bill Graham getting into a fistfight in a Tuscon hotel. What was your impression of Bill?

David Libert, Jonny Podell and Dolly The Dog

Even under the best of circumstances, under the friendliest of situations, Bill was a scary guy. But there was a whole other side of him where if you were just out socially, he was wonderful. He told great stories. He was hilarious. He was very sociable. But he did have the side that was all business.

You talk about George Clinton and what a savvy businessman he is. There were different band entities he was at the center of: Parliament, Funkadelic, Parliament-Funkadelic and more. How did that play out?

He could be producing in a studio, putting tracks together. He tells the drummer, “This is difficult to establish a beat,” and then turn to the bass player and have him try something different and record that.

And then when he was done tracking, he’d decide which band would get the track. But he sent a bill to the record company for all of them. He was figuring out angles all the time.

You also operated the David Libert Agency and Available Entertainment, a management company. What had you learned along the way to be successful in those areas?

I was a boutique operator. I learned from Jonny Podell, whose philosophy was keep it small and pay enough attention to the details, take a few clients and see if you can elevate them to tremendous heights. That was his philosophy. And that was mine.

But you also dealt with some troubles in later years and a cocaine arrest resulted in a prison sentence. Yet you came back and were able to recover with the help of your friend, Alan Oken.

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George Clinton & David Libert (Photo courtesty David Libert)

You fall out of favor or you do something stupid, and people take you for who you are, or who they hear you are. I’m really fortunate I ended up landing on my feet. I have a great life today, somehow or another.

I met Alan Oken when he was in artist development at A&M Records. We became best friends and we’re still best friends today. He’s come to my rescue a few times – the day I got released from prison, he was waiting for me at the gate and took me back to L.A., where we became partners. We formed our own little record company, and he’s very highly respected.

It also didn’t hurt to finally see some money from The Happenings, thanks to the court ruling in favor of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, regarding pre-1972 recording royalties (which has since been overturned).

Because as long as there’s summers, there’s always going to be September. “See You In September” is a song that is still played all the time.

Coming full circle, during the course of my Alice Cooper tenure, I became friends with Mark and Howard [aka Flo & Eddie], who toured with us. Several years ago, they filed suit against Sirius XM and Pandora, which certainly changed my life financially. It was a $300 million settlement and everybody got their share. A year ago, the decision was reversed and that was the end of the flow.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. I think this book, probably the last highlight of my life, is a chronicle of somebody who went from rags to riches a couple of times. CBS last year used “See You In September” to promote their lineup and their NFL season.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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David Libert and “the brain trust” today. (Photo courtesy David Libert)