Peter G Grant 1935 – 1995
June 25, 2010
Peter “G” Grant 1935 – 1995 was an English music manager, who managed the popular English bands The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, amongst others, and was also a record executive for Swan Song Records
Peter Grant was an advocate of homeopathy,
He attended Sir Walter St John School in Grayshott before the Second World War, and completed schooling at Charterhouse School in Godalming after the evacuation.
After the war, Grant returned to Norwood until leaving at the age of 13, when he became a sheet metal factory worker in Croydon. He left that job after a few weeks and obtained employment on Fleet Street delivering photographs for Reuters.
Grant was soon attracted to the entertainment industry, and worked as a stagehand for the Croydon Empire Theatre until 1953, when he was called up for National Service in the RAOC, reaching the rank of Corporal.
He worked briefly as an entertainment manager at a hotel in Jersey before being employed as a bouncer and doorman at London’s famous The 2i’s Coffee Bar, where Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Tommy Steele and others got their start.
Australian-born professional wrestler Paul Lincoln, who also co-owned the 2i’s bar, suggested Grant appear on television and gave him the opportunity to wrestle under the titles “Count Massimo” and “Count Bruno Alassio of Milan,” using his 6 ft 5 in frame to good effect.
This kindled his enthusiasm for acting, and he was hired by film studios as a bit part actor, stuntman, and body double. Between 1958 and 1963, Grant appeared in a number of movies, including A Night to Remember (as a crew member on the Titanic), The Guns of Navarone (as a British commando) and Cleopatra (as a palace guard). He also appeared in television shows such as The Saint, Crackerjack, Dixon of Dock Green, and The Benny Hill Show.
He was Robert Morley’s double on many of that actor’s films. The money he made from these ventures was invested in his own entertainment transport business. As the acting roles dried up, Grant made more money taking groups such as The Shadows to their concerts.
In 1963, Grant was hired by promoter Don Arden to act as the British tour manager for artists such as Bo Diddley, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Brian Hyland, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and The Animals.
His management was established in the same 155 Oxford Street office used by his friend, record producer Mickie Most, who had previously worked with Grant at The 2i’s club. Mickie Most and Grant together set up the highly successful RAK Records label, which produced a string of hits throughout the 1970s.
In late 1966 Simon Napier-Bell asked Grant to take over management of The Yardbirds, who were constantly touring yet struggling financially. Mickie Most had suggested to Simon Napier-Bell that Grant would be an asset to The Yardbirds, but as it happened, his arrival was too late to save the band.
The experience, however, did give him ideas which were put to good use later with Led Zeppelin…
Grant’s no-nonsense approach to promoters, and his persuasive presence, were influential in The Yardbirds making money from concerts for the first time. Grant travelled closely with The Yardbirds, ensuring that all costs were kept to a minimum, that members were paid on time, and that the band retained artistic control. Unlike most other managers at the time who rarely set foot in a music venue, Grant’s approach was hands-on.
In 1968 The Yardbirds dissolved, with all band members departing except guitarist Jimmy Page, who promptly set about constructing a new group consisting of himself, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones. Originally dubbed the “New Yardbirds,” the group became known as Led Zeppelin, with Grant assuming the position as their manager. His trust and loyalty to Led Zeppelin was such that his managerial arrangement with the band was via a gentlemen’s agreement.
It is doubtful whether Led Zeppelin would have been as successful without Grant as their manager. He negotiated the group’s sizable five-year record contract with Atlantic Records, and his business philosophy would eventually pay off for the label.
Grant strongly believed that bands could make more money, and have more artistic merit, by focusing their efforts on albums rather than singles. Live performances were deemed more important than television appearances – if one wanted to see Led Zeppelin, one had to experience their performances in person.
Led Zeppelin’s particular success in the United States can partly be credited to Grant’s keen sense of U.S. audiences and the vast underground movement that was sweeping the country.
It was his sound knowledge of the American touring scene which thrust Led Zeppelin into the forefront of the burgeoning American rock market, and under his stewardship, by far the majority of Led Zeppelin concerts were performed in the United States, resulting in massive profits for the group.
He ensured that the vast bulk of ticket profits wound up in the hands of the band rather than in the hands of promoters and booking agents, and is reported to have secured 90% of gate money from concerts performed by the band, an unprecedented feat.
By taking this approach he set a new standard for artist management, “single-handedly pioneer[ing] the shift of power from the agents and promoters to the artists and management themselves.”
Grant’s determination to protect the financial interests of Led Zeppelin was also reflected by the sometimes-extraordinary measures he took to combat the practice of unauthorized live bootleg recordings. He is reported to have personally visited record stores in London which were selling Led Zeppelin bootlegs and demanded all copies be handed over.
He also monitored the crowd at Led Zeppelin concerts in order to locate anything which resembled bootleg recording equipment. At one concert at Vancouver in 1971 he saw what he thought was recording equipment on the floor of the venue and ensured that the equipment be destroyed, only to later learn that the equipment was a noise pollution unit being operated by city officials to test the volume of the concert.
On another occasion, at the Bath Festival in 1970, he personally threw a bucket of water over unauthorised recording equipment.
Grant’s famous dressing room scene in the film The Song Remains the Same, where he demands an explanation from concert staff about the sale of illegal posters, was typical of his no-nonsense dealings with people who tried to profit at the band’s expense.
Grant is also recognised for the complete and unwavering faith that he placed in Led Zeppelin. Unlike some other managers of the era, he never compromised his clients by exploiting them for short-term profit, instead always putting their interests first.
This was demonstrated by his decision to never release the popular songs from Led Zeppelin’s albums as singles in the UK, in respect for the band’s desire to develop the concept of album-oriented rock…
Grant’s past experience in handling stars such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent also provided him with an excellent grounding in managing the pandemonium which frequently surrounded Led Zeppelin, particularly whilst the band was on tour.
Grant himself said that ”Led Zeppelin looks after the music and I do everything else - and if it takes some strong measures to get our way, then so be it”…
Grant was instrumental in setting up Led Zeppelin’s publishing company, Superhype Music, in 1968. He was also the driving force in establishing Swan Song Records in 1974, which gave Led Zeppelin further financial and artistic control over its products.
Although initially he solely managed Led Zeppelin, in later years he additionally assumed management of other bands signed to Swan Song, such as Bad Company and Maggie Bell. In 1975 he turned down a lucrative offer to manage Queen…
In 1977, Grant gave his approval for Led Zeppelin’s tour manager Richard Cole to hire John Bindon to act as security co-ordinator for the band’s concert tour of the United States. John Bindon had previously provided security for actors Ryan and Tatum O’Neal.
Towards the end of the tour, a major incident occurred during their first concert at the Oakland Coliseum on July 23, 1977. Upon arrival at the stadium, it was alleged that John Bindon pushed a member of promoter Bill Graham’s stage crew out of the way as the band entered via a backstage ramp.
Tension had been simmering between Bill Graham’s staff and Led Zeppelin’s security team during the day, and as Grant and John Bindon were walking down the ramp near the end of the concert, words were exchanged with stage crew chief Jim Downey, which resulted in John Bindon knocking Downey unconscious.
Within minutes, a separate off-stage incident involving Bill Graham’s security man Jim Matzorkis (who was accused of slapping Peter Grant’s 11 year-old son Warren over the removal of a dressing room sign), escalated into an all-out brawl.
Led Zeppelin’s second Oakland show took place only after Bill Graham signed a letter of indemnification absolving Led Zeppelin from responsibility for the previous night’s incident. However, Bill Graham refused to honour the letter because legal advice told him that he was under no obligation to agree to it’s terms.
Members of the band returned to their hotel after the concert, and were woken the next morning by a surprise police raid after Bill Graham had decided to press charges.
John Bindon, Richard Cole, Grant and John Bonham received bail and continued the tour to New Orleans on July 26. When all four finished the tour, a suit was filed against them by Bill Graham for $2 million. After months of legal wrangling, Led Zeppelin offered to settle and all four pleaded nolo contendere, receiving suspended sentences and fines.
Marital problems, diabetes, cocaine addiction and the death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham all took their toll on Grant’s health, and after the official breakup of Led Zeppelin in 1980, and the subsequent folding of the Swan Song label in 1983, he virtually retired from the music business to his private estate in Hellingly, East Sussex. This is the house that is featured at the beginning of the film The Song Remains the Same.
Towards the end of his life, however, he conquered his addiction and lost a significant amount of weight.
Grant subsequently sold his estate, and moved to nearby Eastbourne, where he was offered the civic position of local magistrate for the town council, but turned it down.
In 1992, he appeared in the film Carry On Columbus as a cardinal. In his remaining years, Grant became a keynote speaker at music management conferences such as In The City, where he was lauded by latter-day peers.
On the afternoon of 21 November 1995, while driving to his home at Eastbourne, Grant suffered a fatal heart attack, his son Warren by his side. He was 60 years old.
Grant was buried on 4 December 1995 at Hellingly Cemetery with the funeral service held at St. Peter and St. Paul’s churchyard, Hellingly, East Sussex. His eulogy was read by long time friend Alan Callan. Coincidentally, it was the 15th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s official breakup.
His final public appearance had been at the final night of the Page and Plant tour at the Wembley Arena in July 1995.