Steve Schenck was a regular at the Fillmore East back in the day. Schenck began attending shows at the legendary venue when it opened in 1968 and became a fixture at the weekend concerts. He got to see the Allman Brothers Band, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Steve Miller Band, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, the Beach Boys and his favorite band of all time, The Who.
It was his constant presence at the iconic venue that scored him his first paid gig in the music industry.
“I was hanging out there relentlessly and I became friendly with a couple people on the outside security staff and the usher staff,” says Schenck. “One night, somebody didn’t show up for work and it was like ‘Hey, wanna put on this green t-shirt and tell people to put out their cigarettes?’ I said, ‘Okay. Sure.’ It was $17.50 a night. Big money.”
Schenck was never officially hired by the Fillmore East, but he recalls his first crew chief at the venue was Dave Hart, who now runs Powerline Entertainment.
“I would habitually go hang around there on Fridays and if somebody didn’t show up, I’d get tapped. Occasionally at that point, even if I didn’t have a ticket for the show they would let me go hang out and watch the show,” Schenck tells Amplify.
When he was hanging around, Schenck recalls promoter Bill Graham coming out to the line of music fans waiting to buy tickets and asking them who they wanted to see next at the Fillmore.
Around the same time, Schenck was attending college at SUNY New Paltz and working on the concert committee that brought him into contact with his future partner Sandy Pearlman. The two were also introduced to a band called Stalk Forrest Group, who would later be renamed Blue Ӧyster Cult.
“From that point it wasn’t long before I was firmly entrenched in the management business with Sandy and that list of clients included Black Sabbath (DIO era), Romeo Void, Aldo Nova, Uriah Heep and, of course, Blue Ӧyster Cult,” Schenck tells Amplify. “We also took a stab at being in the record business (acquiring 415 Records from Howie Klein) and also a recording studio in the Bay area.”
In 1993, Schenck went into business with longtime friend and agent for many management clients Neil Warnock and opened The Agency Group in New York which kickstarted Schenck’s 25 year career in the agency business.
“In the second year of that enterprise I brought Dave Kirby into the company and a year or so after that hired a young man by the name of Andrew Goodfriend, who became Dave’s assistant,” Schenck says. “I left in ’98 and a few years later those two (Kirby & Goodfriend) and Mike Monterulo left to form booking agency TKO (The Kirby Organization). After Dave’s passing Andrew and I stayed in constant touch and in 2014 I finally ‘joined the firm.'”
Amplify caught up with Schenck to find out about five of his most memorable shows, including the one that changed everything back in 1965.
Blue Ӧyster Cult w/Cheap Trick, UFO, Pat Travers at San Diego Stadium in California
Aug. 5, 1979
I’m going to split this between events I worked on and some that are strictly “fan boy” and will start here with an amazing day with the amazing Blue Ӧyster Cult who I have been fortunate enough to have in my professional and personal life for over four decades. This was one of a number of stadium events done with similar lineups during the summer of ’79 but this was the big one. A proof of concept that “live” is what really matters, as we were touring behind an album that was under-performing compared to the previous four “certified gold” LPs. 55,000 seats sold out – to this day the biggest show Blue Ӧyster Cult ever headlined. All of the acts brought their “A” game and Blue Ӧyster Cult just killed. Proof positive of just what a great live show they delivered that evening (and continue to do nightly!).
Paul Rodgers—The Royal Sessions Live at Royal Albert Hall in London
Nov. 3, 2014
A true labor of love for a great cause. I have worked with Paul on various projects going back nearly 25 years, but this night was extra special. Paul had recently released The Royal Sessions, an album of covers of Memphis “soul classics” recorded at HI Studios with many of the players from the original recordings, to great critical acclaim. I had discussed the idea of bringing this iconic music with many of those musicians to London with his producer/partner Perry Margouleff. It came to reality with the idea that all proceeds would be donated to Willows Animal Sanctuary, a charity to which Paul and his darling wife Cynthia are the “Patron Saints.” I watched the first part of the show from front of house as arguably the best voice in rock belted out intense renditions of some of the greatest songs ever written. I then went back to watch the rest of the performance from the side of the stage. I plopped myself down on a road case only to be surprised at my “perch” moments later by Robert Plant who sat down next to me and gazed as the sheer vocal intensity of Paul Rodgers and those amazing players brought the entire packed house to it’s feet. Am amazing night of music, and we raised $75,000.00 for the charity.
David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars at Carnegie Hall in New York
Sept. 28, 1972
Now on to the “fan boy” segment! I was early fan on the Bowie phenomenon. I was working in a record store and was regularly going to midtown Manhattan newsstands to buy NME, Melody Maker, etc. to see what the latest from England was. A music fan/girl friend of mine was taking the common “backpack” around Europe post high school graduation trip in the summer of ’72 so besides the list of LPs that were not available in the U.S. that I asked for I also gave a list of shows to go see, one of which was Bowie at the Rainbow in London. She came back raving about it and when the NYC show was announced we grabbed up tickets. What a show! A classical music intro to blinding strobe lights, the costumes, the inherent decadence, and a stellar band led by guitar god Mick Ronson. The setlist was all encompassing from the Ziggy album to a Jaques Brel cover, from early fan faves like “Width Of A Circle,” “Life On Mars” and “Changes,” to a Velvet Underground cover. Quite the debut. Oh yeah, and that girl – I married her!
The Who, Sweetwater, It’s a Beautiful Day at Fillmore East in New York
May 16, 1969
Anyone who knows me is well aware the The Who were/are my favorite band. I had seen them quite a few times before this night and as was my super-fan habit I had purchased ticket for all four weekend shows (two Friday, two Saturday). These shows included the live debut of a major portion of the new double album, Tommy, and the buzz surrounding this was huge.
As the story goes they were playing for their lives as this was deemed to be the “make it or break it” point in their career and boy did they deliver. They were on fire right out of the gate playing with an intensity that I have never seen the likes of since. As the end of the show was getting close the entire crowd was on their feet as they played “Summertime Blues.” All of a sudden a man in a t-shirt and work-boots sporting a crew-cut (not regular East Village concert attire at the time) came running down the aisle right past me and jumped on the stage. He attempted to wrestle the mic away from Roger Daltrey who was having none of it. At this point Pete Townshend does a double “windmill” and lands one of his famous scissor kicks right in the guys groin. The guy gets pulled off the stage and the band finished the song with more power than anything I’ve experienced since. The crowd is now virtually all standing on their seats going nuts.
When the song ended Bill Graham came out and explained to the crowd that the building next door had caught fire and everyone needed to evacuate the building via the side doors which was done in an orderly fashion. It turned out the man who jumped on stage was a plainclothes cop who wanted to evacuate the building. The late show that night was re-scheduled to Sunday afternoon. I went to the other three shows that weekend and they were amazing, but nothing matched the intensity of that Friday early show. And that my friends, is hands down the greatest rock show I have ever seen!
The Beatles at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York
Aug. 15, 1965
Well this one brings us full circle as without it we never would have gotten to the first show listed here. Although likely nobody realized it at the time this changed everything for the touring business that I would eventually make a career of. The parade of support acts just seemed endless and I think I was more excited to see the radio and TV personalities (Murray the K, Cousin Brucie, Ed Sullivan). I was all of 12 years-old and the greatest band that ever existed brought not only the amazing songs, a remarkable performance/presence and those iconic outfits they wore that night, but you could just about feel the entire culture change as you sat in the packed stadium of screaming youths. True that you could hardly hear a thing for the screaming, but you knew you were in the presence of greatness and that things would never be the same again. For me it may have been the greatest spectacle I ever witnessed and cemented me as a die-hard music fan who would need to be next to the music for my entire professional life.