Trailblazing Billy Joel, Beach Boys, ICM Agent Chip Rachlin Dies After Brief Illness

Charles “Chip” Rachlin (courtesy Rachlin Entertainment)

Charles “Chip” Rachlin, who parlayed his first agenting gig with Bill Graham into a major role with ICM before launching Rachlin Entertainment some 30 years ago, died Jan. 25 following a brief illness. 

He represented Billy Joel in the early stages of his career and, as a lifelong fan of The Beach Boys, produced a career-reviving show with them at Carnegie Hall in 1971 and, 30 years later, a historic all-star tribute to Brian Wilson at Radio City Music Hall. He also was instrumental in booking talent at 1982’s US Festival in Devore, California, and many other MTV-era events.

Rachlin booked his first concert in 1966 with a $2,000 loan from his mother, a successful show with a band called The Critters, that enabled him to begin booking and showcasing artists in and around his hometown of Summit, New Jersey. Among the artists he presented were the Rascals, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, and Left Banke.

When legendary concert promoter Bill Graham expanded into talent representation with the Millard Agency, Rachlin became a junior agent, working primarily into Graham’s Fillmore East in New York City and soaking up important business and industry lessons from Graham before joining ICM Partners.

When Rachlin was unable to convince Graham to book The Beach Boys, then at an ebb in their career, into the Fillmore, he instead booked them into Carnegie Hall in February 1971. So successful was the show that the band enlisted Rachlin as their agent, and he represented singer Carl Wilson in his solo career.

During the mid-1970s, Rachlin was a major figure in ICM’s music department, representing not only The Beach Boys, but a then-emerging Billy Joel and a lengthy roster of artists.

In March 2001, Rachlin produced a career watermark event with an “An All Star Tribute To Brian Wilson” at Radio City Music Hall. With the encouragement of Ed Micone who, at the time, was heading up Radio City Music Entertainment, and Brian Diamond, formerly of MTV and Micone’s senior VP, Rachlin recruited a long list of top artists including Elton John,  Billy Joel, Paul Simon, David Crosby, Carly Simon, Vince Gill, Jimmy Webb, and more, and industry legends including Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin. 

Rachlin called the evening “one of the greatest of my career.” Brian Wilson agreed, saying, “The tribute Chip produced to me at Radio City was one of the greatest nights of my life. He loved the Beach Boys and my music. Chip was a really good guy. Everybody liked him.”

And that includes a wide swath of the concert industry. Among the accolades:

Azoff Company and OVG co-founder Irving Azoff: “Chip was not only a pioneer in how the business operates today, but for over forty years, he remained somebody who I always wanted to hear from. He was an innovator. More importantly, on a one-to-one level, he displayed all the personal qualities that make this business great. He was not just passionate about the music and any artist he worked with but a great person. This one hurts very badly.”

CAA Head of Music Rob Light: Chip Rachlin. In the sixties and seventies, Frank Barcelona was the godfather,  but there were a handful of titans right behind him, Tom Ross, Danny Weiner, Fred Bolander, Shelly Schultz, Terry Rhodes, Johnny Podell and CHIP.  In the mid seventies he had arguably one of the greatest list of clients ever assembled.  He was superb agent, gregarious personality, artists loved being around him, and he could “hang” with the best of them.  Probably what cut his agenting career short.  There is a wonderful generation of new agents who never knew Chip or the others mentioned.  Their loss. I was lucky enough to know Chip and work for many of the others. I owe my career to them, It is sad to lose a friend who gave so much to our industry.  Blessed to have known him.

Former Live Nation NYC President Ron Delsener: “#1 with Chip was the music. He was a classy guy. Chip had a great personality. He was the funniest guy. Well-liked by everybody. Chip really cared for the music.”

Artist Manager Mark Spector: “Chip always had irons in the fire. He didn’t need a title or a fancy office in Beverly Hills with three agency letters after his name. He just loved making a deal…He was an agent at heart, but an agent that artists loved. He was always looking for the next opportunity to book talent. Chip was an agent until the day he died.”

Live Nation President, Connecticut Jimmy Koplik: “Chip was kind, witty and smart. That’s a home run of a person. Chip and I became friendly in 1971 when he promoted the Beach Boys at Carnegie Hall, and I promoted Columbus, Ohio the day before. We were the true believers of the resurgence of the Beach Boys. We remained friends for fifty years. We were particularly close in the 70’s, one of my best friends, and remained close friends always. The one ‘plus’ of the pandemic for me was we both lived near each other and we had lunch basically every other Friday for the last few years. The last time I saw him I said we were so close in the 70’s and now we are so close in our 70’s. That’s a long, special friendship.”

PR Consultant Carol Klenfner: One of the greatest people ever. A mentor, a mensch, a great friend. Chip was brilliant and street smart, often the coolest guy in the room, certainly the funniest. Chip and my husband, Michael Klenfner shared a special bond, forged within the walls of the Fillmore East where they worked, both reporting to impresario Bill Graham. Their friendship got off to a memorable start. Chip describes sitting in his Millard Agency offices when ‘ a large man with a full head of dark curly hair blocked the doorway. He sauntered into Chip’s office and pulled a five inch Buck knife from his leather vest, opened it and stuck it into [Chip’s] desk, saying, ‘Hi, my name is Michael. Welcome to the Fillmore.’ Their next forty years were filled with adventures, long dish-y phone calls about the business, late night carousing, endless ribbing, and as with all great friendships, the occasional spat. Their time together spanned the iconic (producing the legendary 1971 Beach Boys Revival Show at Carnegie Hall) – to the absurd (staking out a front row table at the Copa with the specific goal of heckling Don Rickles. Mission accomplished.) After Michael died in 2009, Chip was a loving friend, ally, mentor, supporter, and advisor to me and my daughters, Kate and Bryn. He was there for us, and he could always make us laugh.”

Micone Entertainment Group Founder Ed Micone: “Chip was one of my oldest and dearest friends. When we were in high school, he promoted the Young Rascals at our high school. He managed our band then, The 7 O ‘clock News. We opened the show. It was May 28, 1967. That was almost 56 years ago. We’ve been great friends ever since.”

Media Consultant Brian Diamond: “What made Chip Rachlin special to everybody who knew him was his passion for music, his love for his wife and kids…for life.”

Artist JD Souther: “Losing Chip Rachlin is a shock and completely heartbreaking. He was my first agent and a great friend always. My heart aches for Wendy and their whole family. I loved him, too”

Chip Rachlin is survived by his wife, Wendy, sons Josh and Alex, brother Larry and sister Janie. Services were Jan. 29 at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network – Research, Patient Support, Resources