CAA Nashville co-founder and agent John Huie has changed the touring business multiple times. Whether helping Ian Copeland found FBI and break bands like R.E.M, The Go-Go’s, The Police and Joan Jett, recreate how Christian (super)star deals were cut and tour promoted, starting with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, or defining the path for country luminaries Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Zac Brown Band, Lady A and Kelsea Ballerini, Huie is an artist advocate who believes in creating a touring dynamic that builds everyone.
That passion for his artists, his moxie in co-founding CAA’s Nashville office with Ron Baird and his merging the LA agency approach with a more wide-open and welcoming approach defined Huie’s time in Nashville. Approaching four decades as part of the bedrock of Nashville entertainment community, CAA’s co-head for 30 years and still very active agent was the obvious choice for the Country Music Association’s Touring Awards Lifetime Achievement honor, an award not presented since 2019.
“I am 66, and this is my 45th year as an agent,” Huie, normally looking to shine the light on someone else, exclusively told Pollstar about this award. “So that really is a lifetime! But it’s a very humbling experience that gave me a sense of pause ad reflection.
“Last year, I got an honor from the Gospel Music Association for Leadership; only the second time given. So like this, this is a big pause. In this business when you sign a big client, or have a massive tour wrap, it’s always on to ‘What’s next?’ This business gives you little opportunity to stop and reflect.
“It also makes you go: ‘I’m not done yet! How can I do better?’ It’s also how can I help younger agents be more successful? Pass it on, set up others to achieve and excel.”
For the Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee who joined Alex Hodges’ Paragon Agency straight out of college, that alliance ultimately saw Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Marshall Tucker Band on a roster with the UK’s Squeeze, XTC, Gang of Four, UB40 and a lot of reggae Steel Pulse, Peter Tosh, Reggae Sunsplash across the U.S, as well as domestic punk Iggy Pop, and the Cramps.
Huie’s ability to see what could be allowed the affable young man to recognize the connection Amy Grant’s theaters-to-arenas popularity as something that could translate the same way rock bands had. When his own H-1 Agency was purchased by ICM – Huie with a new baby heading up their Contemporary Music Department – he again sought to create ways to bring his artists to new ways of touring that upped their reach and their money.
But it was CAA’s desire to start a Nashville Music Division – spearheaded by no less than Tom Ross and Mike Ovitz! – that brought Huie to the company he’s created Nashville’s powerhouse division for. When he came over, Dwight Yoakam and Dolly Parton were on the roster; when Huie told Yoakam he didn’t know country, only how to book punk and rock acts, the cowpunk famously noted, “Then we’re gonna work just fine.”
If Bill Hamm’s desire to bring Clint Black to CAA after the Halsey Agency shuttered provided the impetus for Huie and the late Ron Baird to start the Nashville office, today CAA Nashville has over 100 employees who reach across every imaginable spectrum and subgenre of music. He didn’t set out to create a behemoth, just to help artists blaze trails in the live space and build audiences who endure.
“Rod Essig jokes ‘I may tire, but I’ll never retire,’ he’ll die with a phone in his hand,” the Grammy winner for producing The Apostle Soundtrack muses. “I’m probably the same way. He and I are joined at the hip when it comes to the music, to bringing these artists to the people.
“When I came to town, there were the songwriters and the singers… It was the Hal Ketchums, the Suzy Bogguses, the Billy Deans who captured the singer/songwriter.
“Now we have the Luke Combs singing his [own] stuff, and it’s that rock thing of telling their story through their own eyes. The content of this new generation’s music is what leads to their success, being true to yourself and your fan base. With all the great new talent and young agents, why would you slow down?”
And so, John Huie prepares for his second Lifetime Achievement Award. Check back next week for a Q&A with Huie offering a deep dive into how he did it, and enjoy tales of the evolution. It’s been a singular career, and Huie breaks it all down exclusively for Pollstar.
The CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Huie during the CMA Touring Awards, which will be hosted by Keith Urban and take place Jan. 30 at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works.
The award was previously presented to Louis Messina, Brian O’Connell and Tony Conway. Ninja production manager Randy “Baja” Fletcher received the inaugural in 2016; he passed away in 2021 after an accident at a load-in at Put-In-Bay, Ohio.