Consider the following words spoken by a major Democratic party power broker in May:
“I will make a statement and I will back a candidate. It will come in the next few weeks when all the primaries are over and after I look over all the candidates and I see who’s got a shot at the nomination.”
Nothing special there, except that this statement wasn’t made by Richard Daley or George Meany. It was made by Jerry Weintraub.
Jerry Weintraub is John Denver’s manager.
He also promotes the concert tours of Frank Sinatra, Led Zeppelin,. Elvis Presley and Eric Clapton, among other music-business notables. And, because of a loophole in the 1974 federal campaign finance law, Jerry Weintraub has become a very important person — perhaps not yet as important as George Meany, but catching up fast.
Under the post-Watergate rules of electoral politics, a normal human being can contribute no more than $1000 per election to the candidate of his or her choice — a law that was passed to prevent the wealthy from throwing huge wads of cash around. But human beings, normal or abnormal, are allowed to do as much volunteer work as they want for political candidates. They can ring unlimited doorbells and lick unlimited envelopes and they can volunteer to sing. When someone like John Denver volunteers to sing, people will pay to listen. He can fill a stadium and raise $100,000 or more for the candidate of his, or Jerry Weintraub’s, choice.
It is perhaps no great coincidence that the two most successful candidates in the Democratic primaries — Jimmy Carter and Jerry Brown — were the ones who worked the rock-music beat most successfully. Carter’s campaign forces, depending largely on artists from Georgia’s burgeoning music business, raised about $350,000 through rock concerts and matching funds from the federal government. That’s enough to pay for several good-sized primaries.
Jerry Brown, who entered the campaign late but still managed to raise $150,000 through concerts (again increased by matching funds), relied on California artists. Although his personal taste runs more toward 10th-century Gregorian chants, Brown — like Carter — courted the rock stars. He had private dinners with Chicago, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Ronee Blakley (who eventually became his warmup act on the stump) and others . . . and regaled them with his knowledge of Zen and the Whole Earth Catalog. “He told us that people should make their choice based on the style and spirit and approach of the candidate more than anything else,” says Peter Asher, Ronstadt’s manager. “Essentially he said a lot of the same things he says on TV.”
But he took the time to say them in person, and that was impressive. “There’s a certain attraction that athletes and politicians and show-business people have for each other,” says Jeff Wald, Helen Reddy’s husband and manager (and a Brown supporter who eventually went to the Democratic convention as a Brown-pledged delegate). “They are a kind of American royalty and each group holds the other in awe.”
From time to time this year, the press has toyed with the curious spectacle of rock stars as political power brokers. It’s been portrayed as a cute and rather ironic twist on the campaign spending law. An innocent phenomenon: politically naive stars like Gregg Allman blithely stepping into roles formerly reserved for Howard Hughes and W. Clement Stone. A significant yet essentially harmless phenomenon: what sort of favor could Gregg Allman possibly ask of Jimmy Carter? The now-standard joke is that he’s in line to become Carter’s Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
But it may not be as innocent as all that. Gregg Allman didn’t just wake up one morning and decide, in the spirit of patriotism and for the good of the country, that he would help Jimmy Carter become president. He did it because Phil Walden, the president of Capricorn Records and a man who holds great sway over the future of Gregg and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band, was a major Jimmy Carter supporter.
In fact, most of the performers who staged benefits for presidential candidates in 1976 — and especially those who worked for Carter and Brown — did so at the behest of powerful figures in the record industry. Many grew to like the candidates they were performing for, but it wasn’t the innocent love affair between performers and politicians it seemed to be. The real relationship was between the music-business executives and the politicians.
This is something new. For a long time in this country — and especially during the McCarthy era — politics and music did not mix. Those few performers who dared to speak out, especially left-wingers like Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger, often found their careers badly damaged as a result. The record company executives usually encouraged their stars to keep quiet: politics was controversial and controversy hurt business. (Interestingly, ex-senator Fred Harris pretty much cornered the old-time radical folkies in 1976 with the support of Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, who says he raised $65,000 for Fred during a five-week concert tour before the Oklahoma populist’s campaign aborted in April.)
In the early Sixties, politics became safer for celebrities as the Kennedy family actively wooed entertainment figures — especially middle-of-the-road types like Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams. Sargent Shriver, a Kennedy by marriage, might have been able to take advantage of the old Camelot repertory company this year if his campaign hadn’t been such an abysmal bomb. “I had friends — Neil Diamond, Tony Orlando and Dawn — who agreed to do benefits,” Shriver said in July, “and if I’d been able to stay in the race longer, I’m sure they would have.”
But more than anything else, it was the Vietnam War that led to the marriage of rock and politics. In 1968, performers like Simon and Garfunkel played fund-raising concerts for Eugene McCarthy. “Most of my political feelings were very strong anti-Nixon feelings,” says Paul Simon, who didn’t perform for a presidential candidate in 1976. “I wasn’t working for anyone as much as against Nixon in ’68 and ’72. I didn’t feel that positively or negatively about anyone this year.”
In 1972, Warren Beatty made the first organized attempt to recruit rock acts for a political candidate. By then it had become an accepted — even expected — fact of political life that performers would take a stand. Beatty’s appeal to initially reluctant stars like James Taylor was purely on the issues: Are you against Nixon? Are you against the war? Then do something for George McGovern.
“I became involved because there was a clear-cut ethical issue in 1972, the war,” Beatty says. “I called individual artists — I never really dealt with managers and executives — mostly friends of mine who I thought would be interested in making a moral statement.”
Beatty was wildly successful — both artistically and financially. He was able to raise an estimated $1.5 million for McGovern — a figure that dwarfs the amounts raised for the candidates this year. At the same time, he was able to lure stars ranging from Barbra Streisand to the Grateful Dead, and even managed to temporarily reunite Simon with Garfunkel, Nichols with May, and Peter with Paul and Mary. The effect on the McGovern campaign, he says, was two-pronged: not only was a lot of money raised, but a lot of free publicity was generated.
(The Republicans, meanwhile, were countering with such nonrock acts as the Osmond Brothers and Frank Sinatra singing on national TV for the Republican ticket, and Sammy Davis Jr. debasing himself for Nixon.)
In 1976, though, there was no antiwar movement and no Nixon. With few exceptions, campaigns were run on personality and technique rather than overriding moral issues. “I didn’t make a phone call this year,” says Beatty. “I made a few personal appearances for candidates, but since the ethical issues were not as clear-cut or urgent as during the war, I wouldn’t call other artists and ask them to make that sort of commitment.” Indeed, many of the people Beatty lured onstage in 1972 haven’t performed for a presidential, candidate in 1976 — James Taylor, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and the Grateful Dead.
The Jefferson Starship, a group that’s often had its own peculiar relationship with political music, also didn’t get involved this year. “We’re not really into national politics,” leader Paul Kantner explains. “We’re more into global politics. Modern American politics is really a feudal — not to mention futile — system, and a really inept manner of dealing with problems. We investigated McGovern four years ago, and in ’74 Mayor Alioto of San Francisco wanted us to work for him. This year we were approached by Tom Hayden, Carter and Brown. But we didn’t want to get involved with it — not with the people who are around now. There are no statesmen right now — and if there were, they wouldn’t need rock bands. It’s unfathomable, an untrustworthy group of people, like dealing with the mafia or the Red Cross or something.”
But while the morally committed have generally opted out, others have become active. Business leaders of the music industry, perhaps encouraged by the fact that there were no big issues and therefore few opportunities for controversy, did almost all the benefit organizing in 1976. And since rock music has come into the American mainstream, the politicians could associate more freely with the performers than ever before, wooing the youth vote while raking in cash.
Because of the new campaign law, the music industry became the only place politicians could go to get a lot of cash quickly. Even the movie stars, whose endorsements seemed so important in 1972, couldn’t fill a stadium and raise $100,000 in a single night. And, like any other business, there were ways the music business could profit by the use of its newfound power:
• Tax Breaks. On the federal level, Senators John Tunney and Alan Cranston of California were two notable liberals to vote this year against an amendment designed to curb the abuse of tax shelters, according to Bob Brandon of Nader’s Tax Reform Research Group. “We can only assume that the reason why they went against the amendment,” Brandon says, “is because they were against eliminating the tax breaks for the entertainment industry.” He points out that the tax shelter for those who invest in movie and record production costs the federal treasury an estimated $10 million each year.
On the state level, Elektra/Asylum chairman of the board Joe Smith tells a story about how he was once pulled away from a charity dinner honoring Jerry Weintraub to convince Governor Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would lighten royalty taxes on California record companies. “It was an unfair taxation,” Smith says. “It was a double tax and I told Brown that and he agreed. I spent most of that Saturday night in the phone booth — I had to miss hearing Sinatra sing — and it was a pain in the ass.” Ironically, Smith worked for Jimmy Carter in the presidential campaign this year.
• Copyright Laws. John Tunney, who was supported by record company executives in his reelection bid this year, made an impassioned speech in the Senate against a law that would have forced record companies to pay a greater percentage of royalties to composers. “The record companies, many of them, are in weak condition,” he pleaded, without offering any evidence to support his contention . . . and got his version of the bill passed through the Senate.
• Antipiracy Laws. Capricorn president Phil Walden lobbied for and eventually got a tough law against tape piracy in Georgia, a law that was strongly supported by Jimmy Carter. On the federal level, Joe Smith has been the chief music-industry lobbyist for antipiracy and copyright laws.
But perhaps more important than the laws and the tax breaks are the intangibles. The thrill — for both the performers and the executives — of being on the inside. “Under Nixon, we were treated like outlaws,” says Joe Smith. “They tried to censor our lyrics and came down hard on drugs. We don’t want that to happen again.”
While Phil Walden could say that he wasn’t after anything from Carter, he certainly didn’t mind mentioning that he’d been consulted by the Carter people on the arts plank of the new Democratic party platform. Phil Walden, formerly a scruffy kid from Macon, Georgia, was now a consultant to the next president.
So music-business executives have jumped in with both feet. The action has centered around Georgia, where Carter started early, and California, where it became most intense . . . and where the potential for abuse became most apparent.
“Jimmy Carter was smarter than all of them,” says Jeff Wald, who rounded up bands for Jerry Brown. “He was the first to understand that performers would be in a pivotal position this year.”
Carter began wooing the music business as early as 1973, when he was still governor of Georgia. During one of his jaunts about the state, he stopped in Macon for a visit with Phil Walden at Capricorn Records’ headquarters. Walden, who is 36, remembers a nice, friendly chat, the governor expressing an interest in helping to promote the state’s record industry.
But Jimmy didn’t stop there. He came back to listen to a Dickie Betts recording session, invited Georgia bands to the governor’s mansion (and sometimes greeted them wearing Levi’s and an appropriate T-shirt), invited Walden over for dinner, invited Walden along when he made speeches, attended Capricorn’s annual picnic. Members of the Marshall Tucker Band were shocked one evening in March when they bumped into Carter at the Charlotte airport and he remembered each of them by name.
Walden has considerable clout in the music world, based mostly on his longtime association with Otis Redding, whom he managed, and the Allman Brothers Band, which he helped form. As president of Capricorn, the fleshy, garrulous Walden was able to make Carter the most prominent candidate in the music industry while he was still Jimmy Who everywhere else.
When Bob Dylan’s 1974 tour passed through Atlanta, Carter invited the whole troupe — plus Walden — over to the statehouse. Since then, Carter has gone around quoting Dylan’s lyrics and referring to Bob as his friend. One of the three opening quotes to Carter’s autobiography came from Dylan’s “Song to Woody [Guthrie].” He mentioned Dylan as a “source of my understanding about what’s right and what’s wrong in this society” during his now infamous Law Day speech, quoted from “Maggie’s Farm” when he spoke to the National Association of Record Manufacturers in January, and when he accepted the Democratic nomination for president in July, paraphrased “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”: “We have an America that, in Bob Dylan’s phrase, is busy being born, not busy dying.”
For all his attempts to make Dylan his poet laureate, Carter has been unsuccessful, thus far, in luring him onto the bandwagon. When Tom Beard, Carter’s rock liaison, tried to call Dylan’s manager, the response was “Jimmy who?” But Beard’s still trying to get Dylan to perform one of a series of voter-registration concerts Carter is planning.
Dylan, as usual, could not be reached for comment.
Phil Walden was considerably easier to convince than Bob Dylan. Even before the presidential campaign began, Carter had him hooked. Walden served on Carter’s national finance and steering committees, and immediately began to recruit his associates in the record business. “I must have written 500 letters to people in the industry early on,” he says. “The letters brought more snickers than anything else. You know, Jimmy who? I’ve been working constantly since then. I tried to look for people in the industry who would have influence . . . I’ll work six or seven months to get a guy like Jerry Weintraub to support us . . . It was not unlike trying to sell a new group, and Carter was very cooperative; he always did what we advised.”
If Walden’s efforts in the early days drew snickers in the music world’s power centers of New York City and Los Angeles, he was considerably more successful in luring Southern bands — especially his own Capricorn artists — to perform for Carter. He claims it was regional pride and a genuine affection for the candidate that led the Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker to perform. “But I’d be deceiving myself if I said that I didn’t have any influence,” he adds.
There’s been some speculation, unproven and perhaps unprovable, that Jimmy Carter used his influence too. Some find it suspicious that Gregg Allman, who was once treated for heroin addiction, was so easily able to turn state’s evidence — and testify that the band’s road manager, John “Scooter” Herring, had sold him cocaine (Herring was sentenced to 75 years in jail). But Walden bristles at the suggestion that Carter had anything to do with getting Allman off . . . and he gets downright angry when people wonder why so strait-laced a politician as Carter would want to associate with performers who are nearly as well known for their drug use as their music.
“Why does everyone cite Gregg Allman?” Walden asks, “Linda Ronstadt had her nose cauterized and Jerry Brown dated her.
“As long as we’re aboveboard, as long as we’ve made the admission that we’ve had drug problems in the past, we’re okay. We’re not hiding anything. The other candidates are the ones who should worry. I don’t hear anyone talking about Ronstadt’s nose.” (Asked for a response, Ronstadt’s manager, Peter Asher, referred to Rolling Stone #183 where Ronstadt talked freely about her nose: “I don’t put anything up my nose anymore,” she said. “Except, occasionally, my finger.”)
For his part, Carter was asked last year about the Allmans’ lifestyle; they had just played a benefit concert for him in Providence, Rhode Island. “These people have been friends of mine a long time,” he said, “and if people don’t like their lifestyle, they don’t have to vote for me.”
If Phil Walden sounds slightly bitter about the groups that performed for Jerry Brown, he has good reason. Both Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles record for Elektra/Asylum. The chairman of the board of Elektra/Asylum is Joe Smith, who just happened to be one of Walden’s earliest recruits to the Carter bandwagon. For a while, it looked like Smith would be able to lure his artists into the Carter camp as Walden had done. But then Jerry Brown entered the race and Joe Smith ran up against a music-industry power by the name of Paul Drew.
“I don’t have nearly as much power as people think I do,” says Paul Drew. But even if he had half as much power as people think, he wouldn’t be any slouch. Drew, 41, is one of a very small group of people in the music business who can decide what becomes a hit and what flops. He’s the man who controls the programming for RKO’s 13 radio stations across the country, which include Los Angeles’s powerhouse, KHJ, and Boston’s WRKO. Drew’s programming decisions are heavily influential with non-RKO stations as well. His choices are to record people what sunspots are to astronomers. It is said to be impossible to get a record higher than about Number 20 on the national charts without RKO airplay.
Drew is short and stocky, lived in Atlanta for a decade (ironically, Phil Walden met his wife at Drew’s going-away party) and generally is considered a megalomaniac with a penchant for hanging out with stars: Elton John is one of his chief cronies.
When Paul Drew calls up a group and asks a favor — such as performing for a politician — the group cannot help but listen. And so Drew took it upon himself to make the phone calls for John Tunney’s Senate campaign and for Jerry Brown’s presidential campaign.
“When Paul calls there’s something implied,” says a music-business executive. The implication is that if you’re nice to Paul, he’ll be nice to your next record.
“We don’t do benefits for politicians,” says Aaron Russo, Bette Midler’s manager. “We sold some tickets to Jane Fonda for one of Bette’s concerts and Jane resold them at a higher price to raise money for Tom, but that was no benefit. I think it’s morally wrong. I think most people, but not all, do it for the wrong reason: they figure that if they get busted or need political favors somewhere down the road, they’ll have an in. And once the radio stations and people like Paul Drew start getting involved in politics, you’re doing the concert so he’ll take care of your records.”
Music-industry sources also speculate that the reason why Drew is so interested in politics is that he’d like to get into the business himself someday, perhaps as an appointed Federal Communications commissioner. (It’s interesting to note that Phil Walden also has that. But quality of leadership [in Georgia] has improved dramatically, and that’s the only reason I considered running: to improve the quality of leadership.”)
The funny thing is that before Drew started making phone calls, it had seemed more like 1972 than 1976 in California. Proposition 15, the referendum to severely limit the use of nuclear power, had replaced the war as the big issue . . . and Tom Hayden, running against Tunney in the Democratic primary, had replaced George McGovern as the candidate (both Hayden and Proposition 15 were clobbered in the June 8th election). People like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt, who had rarely been involved in politics before, were performing benefits regularly. “Jackson is the type of guy who usually doesn’t give politics two seconds’ worth of thought,” says Mark Hammerman, Browne’s manager. “But Jackson really got caught up in the antinuclear business. He really cared about that. He leaned on the Eagles to do a concert for it. He told them: ‘Wouldn’t you rather do a concert than have your kids eating plutonium in their cornflakes?”‘
Ronstadt says she got involved because she read a book about Berlin before Hitler took over, and how “all the intelligent people thought it was chic not to get involved in politics. So I started reading the Wall Street Journal every day and, you know, I got caught up in it. I decided it was important to get involved, to do something. Then we got real caught up and it began to get pretty complex and frightening.”
The climax of the campaign against nuclear power came on May 1st, when Ronstadt, the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett raised nearly $100,000 for Proposition 15 at a concert in Sacramento. Jackson Browne would have been there too, but for the death of his wife a few weeks earlier.
Two weeks later, the Eagles, Ronstadt and Browne performed what had to be the weirdest political benefit of the year, the Jerry Brown concert in Maryland on May 14th. None of the performers seemed too excited about the candidate. In fact, the week before the concert, Ronstadt and Browne were talking about canceling out. And the day after the show, Ronstadt was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that she kind of liked Morris Udall better than Brown anyway. (She claims the quote was taken out of context and thinks Brown was the best candidate around.)
Mark Hammerman, Browne’s manager: “It was kind of strange. The strongest feelings Jackson had about Jerry Brown that week were negative ones. When he heard that Jerry wasn’t taking a stand on the nuclear thing, he got real hot. He called up the Eagles and wanted to cancel.”
But why, then, did he go ahead and perform?
Hammerman: “Well, it was more stop-Carter than pro-Brown. And Jackson felt he owed the Eagles a favor after they had agreed to do the antinuke concert for him. And it seemed like a fun thing to do — all of them getting up there and playing together. In our case, we were just swept along with it, and why not?”
Linda Ronstadt’s version: “Jackson wanted to cancel and I did too. The Eagles were on the fence. So we were in a bad position. We didn’t want to seem to support his [Jerry Brown’s] position, but we had already committed ourselves to a concert. We would’ve left the promoter holding the bag and this guy was our regular promoter. If we canceled, it would’ve really looked bad. So we played it.”
Irv Azoff, the manager of the Eagles and an alternate delegate to the Democratic convention committed to Brown, wouldn’t acknowledge that the Eagles had any second thoughts… and wouldn’t let any members of the group talk to Rolling Stone about it.
And so the question remains, why did the performers play a major concert for a politician they disagreed with? A possible answer may be Paul Drew.
Drew (also a Brown-committed delegate) had made the initial calls to Ronstadt and the Eagles (the Eagles had called Jackson Browne) and as a result, a dinner was set up at Tana’s restaurant in Los Angeles where the performers met with the governor. Irv Azoff says the Eagles were so impressed with Brown that they voted to play the show, and within 72 hours the Maryland date was set up and sold out. He denied that Drew’s involvement had anything to do with it.
But another source, close to the groups involved, says, “I wonder how much pressure was brought by Drew’s involvement. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that had something to do with it.”
And Linda Ronstadt says, “Yeah. The Drew business was really scary. That sort of thing opens the door for blackmail. It didn’t happen in our case. I mean, if it did happen, I would scream. I would. I really don’t care. I feel I owe something to the people who buy my records and so I’d scream.
“But in this case, I went and met with Drew and I talked to him and I liked him . . . so there was no feeling that he was pressuring me. But you have to figure that at some point there might be a person in his position who would be unscrupulous and say, ‘Do it or you’ll never have another Top 40 record.”‘
But there are more subtle forms of pressure.
Not surprisingly, Paul Drew doesn’t feel that he’s done anything wrong. “As a citizen, it’s my right to get involved,” he says. “I probably wouldn’t do anything different tomorrow than I did yesterday.”
But he does admit he was aware of the impact his calls could have on the groups involved. “I’m sure I was probably thinking about it back then, and so I was especially careful in my words. I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
The words didn’t really matter, though. The very fact of a phone call from a man who can make or break a Top 40 record was enough … and Drew says, in retrospect, “I guess it doesn’t surprise me that someone would react that way. I don’t think everyone would react that way.”
But Ronstadt did and so, apparently, did Chicago . . . which almost backed out of a concert for Brown at the Anaheim Convention Center. “Drew almost blew it,” said a source close to the group. “The FCC ought to investigate that.” Drew’s involvement violated the very principles which originally made Brown attractive to Chicago. Jim Guercio, the band’s manager, says that now he is more interested in doing benefits for causes than politicians. “My politics are to feed, clothe and educate people. Every fucking date, five or ten percent [of the receipts] ought to go to an orphanage, or to buy a fire truck or something.”
In the last few weeks of May, as the California primary approached, a lot of people in both music and politics were beginning to get paranoid because of the machinations of Drew and other music executives. Fred Branfman of Tom Hayden’s campaign claimed that 15 acts had mysteriously canceled benefit concerts and speculated that it was due to industry pressure. Jane Fonda, who recruited rock groups for her husband’s campaign, said many artists had given her personal commitments. “In a few instances,” she added, “artists did admit that they had been directly pressured by Tunney’s people or by their record company not to do concerts for Hayden.” Sources on the Hayden campaign staff suggest Bill Graham, who had produced four benefits for Hayden earlier in the year, was now under pressure from the industry and had told acts like Santana and Boz Scaggs not to perform. Graham says this is ridiculous. “I don’t like losers because they’ve always got to blame somebody,” he adds. “They blow everything out of proportion. Carlos [Santana] never committed himself 100%. He had no band. He’s not some schmuck who’s gonna show up in L.A. and say, okay, who’s playing tonight, what key?
“We did benefits for Hayden and you know what really annoys me? They didn’t call and say thank you. You think I like to put Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne on in San Jose and say, here, you take the $10,000 instead of keeping it for myself?”
It is entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, that the groups that Fonda recruited had never really made firm commitments. It’s also probable that cancellations like Santana’s were innocent of any intrigue. But the presence of Paul Drew working for Tunney had poisoned the atmosphere and made everyone’s motives suspect.
In a way, what Drew did was no different than the corporate executives who “asked” their subordinates to support Nixon financially in 1972. As Drew contends, it is entirely ethical for a radio programming executive to involve himself in politics as a private citizen. But the nature of Drew’s job gives him a measure of power over the livelihood of rock artists. When he solicits those artists for a political candidate, the conflict of interest in undeniable.
If Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and the Eagles encouraged any young people to get involved in politics, it certainly wasn’t apparent that night in Maryland. Both Washington D.C. daily newspapers canvassed the crowd and found few emotions stronger than apathy. The Washington Star reported, “A random sampling of 20 ticket holders turned up only ten who are registered to vote in Tuesday’s Maryland primary; of those, only six planned to go to the polls and four of them were for Carter.”
Other comments from the crowd:
“I don’t even know who he is.”
“I’m going to vote for Carter. (Brown) talks too much and doesn’t make enough sense.”
“I’m for Ronald Reagan. I like the way he cuts all those cheats off welfare.”
Some concertgoers may have become aware of the political nature of the music only after they arrived at the show. Strategically placed around the lobby were Brown volunteers with little white slips of paper to be filled out by the ticket holders so their “donations” (the money they’d spent for the tickets) would be eligible for federal matching funds. The Brown people — who disagreed with just about everybody by describing the crowd as politically enthusiastic — claimed that 14,000 of the 18,000 in the hall signed the white slips (Carter people claim their sign-up rate ranged from 35% to 70% per concert).
When Brown mounted the stage to address the audience, though, his major purpose was (as planned in a strategy session before the concert) to show his face and then get out before the kids started throwing things at him. So he used the word “consciousness” and the word “youth” and thanked everyone and quickly repaired to the front row to listen to the Eagles.
Other candidates used pretty much the same strategy at benefits: a brief appearance at the end of intermission, introduce the headline act and get out fast. Jimmy Carter would say: “Tonight’s a night for music and not for politics, but I want to tell you four things:
“One. My name is Jimmy Carter and I’m running for president.
“Two. I don’t intend to lose.
“Three. I need your help.
“Four. I’d like to introduce my friends the Allman Brothers.”
Warren Beatty says the crowds in 1972 were considerably more interested in politics, but still McGovern would keep his remarks short. “A long political speech would have been a comedown,” Beatty adds. “After all, these things weren’t seminars.”
Jimmy Carter’s involvement with rock executives continues. On Monday, August 2nd, he met in Washington D.C. with several entertainment figures, including Walden, Smith, Sussex Records president Clarence Avant, actress Shirley MacLaine (Beatty’s sister), Philadelphia disc jockey George Woods, as well as Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan. At the meeting a committee was formed to organize a series of concerts designed to spur voter registration and raise funds for the Democratic National Committee, a perennially debt-ridden body. According to Smith, four to eight benefits are planned in the time remaining before the election.
Jerry Weintraub was invited to the D.C. conclave but did not attend. However, on August 7th, he flew to Plains, Georgia, for a brief meeting with Carter. This issue went to press before the results of that meeting were announced, but on August 6th Weintraub acknowledged that he was committed to Carter and said that he “imagined” some of the artists he represents would work for Carter during the remainder of the campaign. He would not say which ones, but industry gossip centered around John Denver and Frank Sinatra.
It is vaguely frightening to think that Jimmy Carter could raise money to run for president from a bunch of stoned out, apathetic kids who didn’t know who he was, except maybe as the guy who introduced the Allmans. The Brown benefit in Maryland is even more frightening: three major acts raising money for a candidate whom at least two of the acts weren’t very happy with. The real winners that night were Paul Drew, who walked away with his reputation as a power broker enhanced, and Jerry Brown, who walked away with an estimated $90,000.
Linda Ronstadt said later, “In a way, we were taking advantage of the audience. These people came to hear some music and we were trying to slip in the message at the end, like slipping a pill in a hamburger or something. We were jamming it down their throats and that turned me off. I think the campaign law is unfair, and I doubt I’ll ever get involved on that scale again.”
And Paul Simon adds that it isn’t just the audience at a political benefit that is being used: “It’s kind of degrading, you know. You’re acting as a shill, bringing the kids in for the music, then giving the money to a political candidate.”
And he adds, “I never thought we’d have influence on the candidate. I always knew we were people to be used and discarded.”