Home Music Music Lists

The Greatest Momagers and Dadagers in the Business

How the parents of stars like Britney Spears, Usher, The Beach Boys and more micromanaged their kids’ careers

George Pimentel/WireImage

While most entertainers have to wait until they are at least old enough to drive to start their careers, a few are born with the blessing (and, sometimes, the curse) of a natural momager (or her male counterpart, the dadager). The most extreme want to stay involved long after other professionals have (or should have) stepped in, quitting their jobs to hit the road – and the conference room – with their offspring. Some, of course, are in it for the money; some are chasing a piece of the spotlight (a not-surprisingly high percentage once harbored dreams of dreams of stardom for themselves); some just simply believe they know what’s best.

Justin Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette, was barely older than her son is now when she gave birth to him in Ontario, Canada. The story of how Bieber was discovered is now legendary: When he won a local singing contest, Mallette uploaded a clip of the performance to YouTube for the benefit of family and friends. She continued to post videos of Justin doing covers of R&B singles, until the online cache was discovered by marketing executive Scooter Braun. Though Braun and Usher manage Bieber, Millette keeps a close eye on her son, accompanying him on tour and acting as a very public cheerleader via Twitter. Her biography? “Yes Justin Bieber is my son. I have many other great qualities besides being his mom haha! No really.”

Here are 11 other momagers and dadagers who have made careers out of managing their offspring – for better and for worse.

By Caroline Bankoff

Related:
Justin Bieber Talks Sex, Politics, Music and Puberty in New 'Rolling Stone' Cover Story
Photos: The Tao of Justin Bieber

Photos: Justin Bieber's World

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Michael Jackson and Joe Jackson

Michael Jackson may have been the King of Pop, but he never really stopped answering to his father, Joe. Music’s most famous patriarch ran a very tight ship in Gary, Indiana, and his tendency toward emotional and physical abuse is well-documented. Responsible for the creation of the Jackson 5 – which was comprised of his sons Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael – Joe acted as manager during the early years, though his power dwindled as Motown CEO Barry Gordy assumed more control and, eventually, as his children left his management company (he also represented daughters Janet, La Toya and Rebbie). Though several Jacksons chose to cut personal ties with their father, Michael elected to maintain a relationship with him, honoring him annually with a “Joseph Jackson Day” celebration at Neverland Ranch and publicly forgiving him for his abuse – which he blamed, in part, on Joe’s difficult childhood.

Related:
The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Michael Jackson
The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Michael Jackson

Jim Smeal/WireImage

Britney Spears and Lynne Spears

When Britney Spears was eight years old, mother Lynne brought her from Kentwood, Louisiana to Atlanta to audition for The Mickey Mouse Show, only to learn that she was too young to join the cast. Undeterred, mother and daughter took a sublet in New York City, where Britney enrolled at the Professional Performing Arts School and landed a role in an off-Broadway musical. However, as Britney blew up – and, eventually, broke down – Lynne lost control of her (not to mention her younger daughter Jamie Lynn, who ended up pregnant at 16). After a number of public battles, including Lynne’s allegations that Britney was drugged and abused by former manager Sam Lufti, the two seem to have reconciled – though it’s Britney’s father Jamie Spears who currently acts as her legal conservator, giving him complete control of her assets.

Related:
Britney Spears: A Life in Photos
Britney Spears: The Rolling Stone Covers
Britney Spears' Universe: Her Family, Staff, Love Interests and Collaborators

Dan MacMedan/WireImage

Willow Smith and Will Smith

With one of Hollywood’s most highly paid actors as her father, 10-year-old Willow Smith doesn’t exactly need to be whipping her hair to make ends meet. However, Will Smith clearly believes in the value of instilling a work ethic at an early age. In 2006, then-eight-year-old Jaden Smith starred alongside his father in The Pursuit of Happyness (and he can be seen currently in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), and sister Willow’s aforementioned song remains unavoidable. Though Willow recently signed up to be managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Management Company, her father isn’t taking a passive role: he’s currently at work on a remake of the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, with Willow set to star.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Beach Boys and Murry Wilson

In 1967, Murry Wilson – the father of Beach Boys members Brian, Dennis, and Carl (and uncle to original bandmate Mike Love) – released an album of his own work called The Many Moods of Murry Wilson. An appropriate choice, it seems, for a figure primarily remembered for his violent temper (Brian has said he is deaf in one ear as a result of a beating by his father). A notorious micro-manager and tough negotiator, Murry handled the group’s business decision and acted their co-producer and publisher, eventually securing their first deal with Capitol Records. Though Murry was officially relieved of his managerial duties in 1964, he was determined to maintain a role in his son’s careers. In 1965, in an incident captured on tape, he drunkenly interrupted the recording of “Help Me, Rhonda,” to berate and criticize before muttering the immortal line, “I’m a genius, too!”

Related:
The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: The Beach Boys
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Pet Sounds

Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Lindsay Lohan and Dina Lohan

Lindsay Lohan got her start in the entertainment business at three years old, when her mother Dina signed her up with Ford Models. Dina’s star rose along with her daughter’s; as Lindsay’s personal life and wild behavior became national news, Dina was frequently pictured partying alongside her. A former dancer and singer with a taste for self-promotion and a willingness to discuss her daughter with the press, Dina has often behaved more like a hanger-on than a manager or parent, leveraging her relationship with her daughter into paid appearances, a TV show (Living Lohan) and free Carvel ice cream. Despite encouragement from everyone from Elton John to the staff of the Betty Ford Clinic to drop her mom, Lindsay has long defended Dina, calling her “the best mom ever.”

Pam Francis/Getty

Beyoncé Knowles and Matthew Knowles

In 1995, Matthew Knowles quit his job as a salesman to become the manager of the earliest incarnation of Destiny’s Child, adjusting the lineup, booking local gigs in Houston, and running organizing a summertime “boot camp” to improve the girls’ singing and dancing skills. When his professional gamble paid off with a 1997 record deal with Columbia, he maintained control of the group, though it seems that his daughter Beyoncé’s interests were his first priority. In 1999, citing favoritism, original members LaTavia Roberson and LaToya Luckett requested a personnel change and found themselves unceremoniously dumped from the group (they later sued for breach of contract). Knowles now manages Beyoncé’s solo career, though though he was reportedly close to losing his job this summer, when his daughter learned he had cheated on wife Tina with actress Alexsandra Wright.

Related:
Hip-Hop Royalty: How Beyoncé and Jay-Z Run This Town

Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty

Judy Garland and Ethel Milne

Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, first appeared on stage as a toddler, performing with her older sisters in a Christmas concert at her father’s movie theater in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Realizing she had something special on her hands, mother and former vaudevillian Ethel Milne appointed herself the girls’ manager and launched a campaign to get the group, dubbed The Gumm Sisters, onto the big screen. The trio made their film debut in 1929, when Judy was seven, but Ethel soon pulled her most talented daughter out of the group to travel the country as a solo act until she was signed by Louis B. Mayer (it was then that she adopted her stage name). Garland went on to become something of a momager in her own right, encouraging the careers of daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft, who appeared with her on The Judy Garland Show.

Photo: Judy Garland and Liza Minelli, November of 1960.

Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Jessica and Ashlee Simpson and Joe Simpson

For a former psychologist and minister, Joe Simpson appears to be surprisingly clumsy when it comes to maintaining a healthy family dynamic. As manager to daughters Jessica and Ashlee, Joe has gained a reputation for being both overbearing and bungling. (Recent missteps include insulting a group of combat veterans scheduled to perform with Jessica on a PBS Christmas special and killing her chances of an American Idol judgeship), and has been known to meddle in his daughter’s romantic relationships (in the wake of his 2006 divorce from Jessica, Nick Lachey told Rolling Stone, “I don’t pretend to understand Joe. And I can’t speculate about what he did or why he did it or for what purpose.”) And, of course, who can forget his infamous observations about his “sexy” eldest daughter’s “double Ds”?

Photograph courtesy of Deb Antney via Twitter

Waka Flocka Flame and Deb Antney

Though some artists come into the music business with parents who are just starting out as managers, rapper Waka Flocka Flame had the good fortune to have a mother who was already established as the manager of Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj. Deb Antney, the founder of Mizay Entertainment, built her firm to establish Gucci Mane as an artist, but has since expanded her roster to include Waka, OJ Da Juiceman, Cartel MGM and reality star Heidi Montag. Antney has had some setbacks in her career – Minaj fired her last year, she was detained in a raid of Waka's house in Atlanta and has been accused of running a prostitution ring – but that hasn't kept her from relentlessly promoting her son's music career. She's so fiercely protective and media savvy that when he was questioned by police about a shootout in North Carolina she had posted a YouTube video explaining the situation within 24 hours of the incident.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Hank Williams Jr. and Audrey Williams

Though he’s best known as his father Hank Williams’ son, it was Hank Williams Jr.’s mother, Audrey Williams, who was the real force behind his career. Audrey was frequently featured in her husband's music, contributing backup vocals, recording duets and, it’s rumored, penning the lyrics to “Mansion on a Hill.” When Hank Sr. died in 1953, she turned her energy toward her son, encouraging him to record and perform covers of his father’s music and dressing him in stage costumes that were mini versions of those worn by her late husband. Eventually, however, Hank Jr. tired of his role as a "Hank Williams impersonator,” and cut ties with his mother in order to pursue his own musical style and tastes.

Arnold Turner/WireImage

Usher and Jonetta Patton

When it became clear that her son Usher had exhausted the possibilities of the church choir, Jonetta Patton moved her family from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Atlanta in search of a big break. At 11, Usher landed a place in an R&B quintet called NuBeginnings, but Jonetta quickly pulled him from the group, eventually finding a place for him on Star Search, where at 13 he was discovered by an A&R rep. After signing with L.A. Reid, Patton appointed herself her son’s manager, but Usher hasn’t always been convinced that mother knows best: In 2007, he fired her, allegedly because she disapproved of his marriage to stylist Tameka Foster, from whom he is now divorced. She was hired back in 2008 but, in 2009, as tensions surfaced over girlfriend Grace Miguel’s involvement in the making of Raymond vs. Raymond, Jonetta agreed to once again sever their professional relationship.

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Miley Cyrus and Tish Cyrus

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus may be his daughter’s professional role model, but it’s mom Tish who seems to be pulling the strings. Of course, as the wife of a megastar, Tish has had access to some pretty specialized advice, particularly in the form of Dolly Parton, who is Miley’s godmother. It was Parton who suggested that Tish hire Jason Morey to manage alongside her. However, the increasingly heavily-tattooed 18-year-old may not be under mom’s thumb for that much longer, if her recent behavior – including lap dances and salvia smoking – are any indication. As Billy Ray Tweeted in the wake of the latter controversy, “Sorry guys. I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time myself. Im [sic] so sad. There is much beyond my control right now.”

Related:
Rockers in Twilight: Miley Cyrus, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger Let Their Fangs Out

Show Comments