Giorgio Gomelsky, Former Rolling Stones, Yardbirds Manager, Dead at 81

Rock impresario best known for managing the Rolling Stones in their early days dies after bout with cancer

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Giorgio Gomelsky
Giorgio Gomelsky (left, with the Yardbirds), the Rolling Stones' first manager, has died at age 81 Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

Rock businessman and producer Giorgio Gomelsky, best known for helping break the Rolling Stones as their first manager, has died following complications from colon cancer, The New York Times reports. He was 81.

Gomelsky first rose to fame as owner of London's famed Crawdaddy Club, becoming a key figure in the city's early Sixties music scene. He brought on the Rolling Stones as house band at Crawdaddy and later took over their early management; as the group's popularity rose, they hired new manager Andrew Loog Oldham, with Gomelsky recruiting the Yardbirds as the club's new house band. During that time, Gomelsky is also credited with creating Eric Clapton's longtime nickname "Slowhand."

"I used light-gauge strings, with a very thin first string, which made it easier to bend the notes, and it was not uncommon, during frenetic bits of playing, for me to break at least one string," Clapton said in 2013. "While I was changing my strings, the audience would often break into a slow hand clap, inspiring Giorgio to dream up the nickname of Slowhand Clapton."

As a producer, Gomelsky amassed an eclectic body of work. He helmed sessions for the Yardbirds' 1965 debut studio LP, For Your Love, and Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds from the same year, as well as guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin's debut album, 1969's Extrapolation, and early recordings by Canterbury pioneers the Soft Machine. Gomelsky founded Marmalade Records in 1966, becoming instrumental in the careers of jazz-fusion keyboardist Brian Auger and the members of 10cc. 

Throughout the 1970s, Gomelsky was crucial in the expansion of experimental progressive rock, working with bands like Gong, Magma and Henry Cow. In 1978, he moved to New York, setting up shop in a Chelsea building later converted into the underground club now called the Green Door. 

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