Powerline’s Entertainment’s Dave Hart is one of the few people who can say he got his big break in the music industry by taking on the biggest promoter in the game. While going to film school at NYU, Hart’s friend got him a job as an usher at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East venue. He wasn’t the most senior of the ushers, but when a pay dispute arose about five Crosby, Stills, and Nash shows Hart was the first to speak up to Graham.
“There was only one show per night. Normally, when we worked at the Fillmore, there were two shows a night. We would get paid $15 a night so the equivalent of $7.50 per show,” Hart explained of the five night residency.
Hart pointed out to Graham that even though there was only one show per night, it costs the ushers the same amount in subway, cab, or other fare to get there.
“The next day he called me into the office and said ‘You’re a smart kid. We’re going to give all the ushers a raise to $9 for each Crosby, Stills, and Nash show,'” Hart told Amplify.
Then Graham asked Hart if he wanted a job, specifically a different job.
“I was 15 credits away from graduating from NYU film school. My main instructor was a guy named Martin Scorsese,” Hart said. “I wasn’t crazy about film. I loved rock and roll.”
Hart said yes to the new position and began working at Graham’s agency, Millard Agency. Hart was given the opportunity to work with Janis Joplin, Santana, and Cold Blood from the start and during his time there they signed Billy Joel, the Beach Boys, and the Kinks.
“I was a real anglophile. I knew all the English bands,” Hart said. “I was really well-versed in the music when Herb Spar (of Millard) offered me the job. I went to a lot of shows. I saw the new bands when they came into New York from England, Jeff Beck for one.”
It was a dream entry job for Hart who grew up seeing shows by The Who, The Marvelettes, and more at the Brooklyn Fox and other venues in New York.
Hart went on to work for other agencies, became a promoter/talent buyer in New Jersey, and then running outdoor concerts.
“I then got hired by the Nederlanders to buy their talent for their outdoor venues which at the time were the best,” Hart said of the position he took from 1984-1990. “That was probably the most powerful booking job in the business. I booked probably 200, maybe even 250 dates a year. That was a time when the shed business was exploding.”
Throughout all his positions in the industry, Hart held onto a management company. Hart now runs Powerline Entertainment with his wife, Ronni, and continues to have his hands in many facets of the music industry. Hart is the tour producer for Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band and works as management and consults for a number of artists including Edgar Winter, Eric Burdon, Nathan East, Linda Eder, Tom Wopat, Alisan Porter, and more.
“I do it all. I’ve been an agent. I’ve been a manager. I’ve been a tour producer and I continue to do those things,” Hart told Amplify.
Amplify caught up with Hart to find out about five of his favorite shows.
Ray Charles at Carnegie Hall in New York
May 13, 1962
This was the first concert I attended on my own. A friend and I took the train to New York City, and sat in the balcony while Ray Charles ripped up the audience with his soul and country. Ray was led out on stage and sat at the piano, and the crowd initially responded politely…and then he got into the hits. “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit The Road Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” The room lit up as the Raelettes danced up a storm. The audience got on its collective feet and the ushers totally panicked. We clapped our hands red at the encore, “Tell Me What I Say,” and left Carnegie Hall in a daze. This was a great way to start attending concerts.
The Beatles at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York
Aug. 28, 1964
My girlfriend and I were comparatively nonchalant about the new band from England. Her dad did the insurance for the venue, so we had killer seats looking right down on the band. Five sets of barriers were in front of the stage, and when the show started, the event became an athletic event as young girls tried to jump the barriers to get to the band. The sound was deafening, not from the Beatles’ music but from the 16,000 screaming fans. The songs barely came through the din. This event was about the hysteria caused by the Beatles’ new look and sound. A row of ten girls behind us fainted like dominoes, one after the other. Each had to be revived, to recover and scream again. The band actually sounded together in this mayhem, and we were close enough to hear the music. One young lady made it over the fifth barrier and got tackled by the police just in front of the stage, much to the amusement and disgust of the guys. 50 minutes of music and this incredible scene was over. I have never seen anything like this show.
Jeff Beck Group at Steve Paul’s The Scene in New York
June 22, 1968
Jeff Beck comes out with Rod Stewart as his lead singer, Ron Wood on bass, and Mickey Waller on drums and flattens the crowd in this tiny club with 110 DB guitar gymnastics. The band gets half way through the songs from their first LP, Truth and Jeff breaks a string…Jimi Hendrix steps in while Jeff is restringing and rocks the house with “Red House.” The place is going nuts. Beck returns and Ron Wood and hands Hendrix his bass. Hendrix flips it upside down to play left-handed and the band rocks a Chuck Berry song. My head rang for a week after this show, and I didn’t care.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen at Fillmore East in New York
March 28, 1970
Joe Cocker and Leon Russell led a band of wild characters into the Fillmore for this raucous concert extolling the mighty sounds of a choir, a horn section and a rockin’ band, with multiple drummers- Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, and Chris Blackwell. The singers were Rita Coolidge, Donna Washburn and Claudia Lennear, and they could cry you a river. Dogs and children wandered across the stage as this powerhouse group blew through “The Letter,” “Feelin Alright,” “Delta Lady” and many more for a memorable concert and album. I took the day off and sat in the lighting booth to enjoy a spectacular birthday.
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band at Radio City Music Hall in New York
July 7, 2010
Ringo and the band had a great set that night, with Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer rousing the crowd with their hits and Ringo powering through “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Photograph.” Joe Walsh, among others, jumped in for “A Little Help From My Friends” and Radio City rolled out a birthday cake shaped like a drum set as the crowd sang happy birthday to Ringo. He stabbed the cake with his drumsticks and walked off the stage to the cheers of the audience. But this show was not done. As Ringo walked to the backstage elevator, Joe Walsh made him stop, and as he came back to the stage, Ringo heard the beginning of “They Say It’s Your Birthday” from the band. As the lights came up, there was Paul McCartney on bass leading the song, and the crowd went berserk. The roar sounded like 1964. Ringo jumped on his drum set, but initially didn’t have sticks as they were buried in the cake. Luckily enough another set appeared and the song rocked Radio City for a while as they hadn’t rehearsed an ending. Finally they stopped. Paul and Ringo hugged on stage to the loving approval of the Radio City crowd. Wow.