STIGGY PASSES — One of the great, legendary characters in the music business has passed: Robert Stigwood. Stiggy, the former music manager who produced the highest-grossing film musical in Hollywood history — Grease — along with Saturday Night Fever, Tommy and Broadway shows including Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, has died. He was 81. Stigwood managed the Bee Gees during their heyday, and Robin Gibb’s son confirmed the news on Facebook. He called Stigwood “a creative genius with a very quick and dry wit.” Born on April 16, 1934 in Adelaide, Stigwood relocated to England in the 1950’s and launched a theatrical management agency. By the mid-60’s, he was focusing on music. He managed Cream, the supergroup featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, through their years of international stardom and also repped the Brothers Gibb, who scored multiple U. S. and U. K. hits from 1967-72. Clapton and the Gibb Brothers both saw career declines in the early 1970’s, and Stigwood turned his attention to Broadway. He produced the 1971 hit Jesus Christ Superstar, the first major show from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Stigwood also produced the 1973 film version.
Also in 1973, Stigwood launched RSO Records, which would become one of the most successful labels of the decade. By 1975, Stigwood and RSO had revived the careers of Clapton, whose classic 461 Ocean Boulevard topped the LP charts for a month, and the Bee Gees, who had reinvented themselves as disco kings with a slew of hit singles. That year, Stigwood also produced Tommy, Ken Russell’s take on the Who’s rock opera album. The film starred Who singer Roger Daltrey along with Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed and a gaggle of music stars including Elton John, Tina Turner, Keith Moon and Clapton. But all that was a warmup for Stigwood’s Biggest Year.
After more RSO success with the Bee Gees’ 1976 hit album Main Course (their album produced by the much missed Arif Mardin), Stigwood persuaded the group to deliver several songs for the soundtrack of his next project. The result was Saturday Night Fever, a time capsule of the disco era based on a 1976 New York magazine cover story, by Nik Cohen titled The Tribal Rights Of The New Saturday Night,about the local fame of an outer-borough dance-hall legend (the story later was revealed as fiction). The film made a movie star of Welcome Back Kotter actor John Travolta and turned the Bee Gees into global megastars. If the movie was a hit, its RSO soundtrack album was a monster. The double LP single handedly entrenched disco as the music of the era, spending nearly six months at No. 1 in the U.S. alone and spawning a slew of smash singles including four chart-toppers. It remains among the 15 best-selling albums of all time here in the U.S.
By the mid-1980s, RSO Records had closed and its catalog sold (at one point in 1978, the label’s acts held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a combined 21 consecutive weeks with six different songs). But in the meantime, Stigwood had enjoyed more success on Broadway, producing Rice and Lloyd Webber’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which ran for nearly 20 months and scored a Best Musical Tony nom. He also produced the 1999 musical version of Saturday Night Fever on Broadway, and Grease was revived in 2007.
When music-business people gather and reminisce about the early-glory days in the industry; Stigwood’s name always comes up. I’d put him up there with the likes of Ahmet Ertegun; Brian Epstein; Ron Delsener; Tony Stratton Smith; Mo Ostin; Jerry Wexler and Bruce Lundvall … a classic for sure. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore. RIP Robert!
NCIS DOWN ONE —Some positively shocking news from TV-Land; though not entirely unexpected: Michael Weatherly a stalwart of CBS’ NCIS franchise is hanging up his badge. Fan favorite Weatherly, who has played (Very) Special Agent Tony DiNozzo since the mothership series launched in 2003, confirmed via Twitter yesterday that he is leaving the show at season’s end.
The character is one of only four to appear in all of the show’s nearly 300 episodes, along with Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) and Dr. Donald Mallard (David McCallum), leaving Harmon, Perrette and McCallum as the only remaining original cast members of the long-running crime procedural. The news came hours before the midseason premiere last night of NCIS, a crossover episode with NCIS: New Orleans.
CBS said in a statement: “After 13 years on NCIS, Michael Weatherly is leaving the show at the end of this season. He is a valued part of the CBS family, and the immense charm and talent he brings to the screen as “Very” Special Agent Tony DiNozzo has helped make NCIS what it is today – the #1 drama in the world. We thank Michael for all of his contributions to this successful franchise and look forward to continuing to develop projects with him as part of our ongoing development deal.”
I’ve always liked Weatherly, though for the past several seasons, his character has taken somewhat of a backseat to the major proceedings. Ironically, the scenes in which he stepped up (in character of course), he was terrific. Odd that Harmon hasn’t issued a statement yet, as the show is his, hook, line and sinker. Weatherly just began his own production company, with CBS, and has several shows in the works. We wish him all the best.
LIGHT OF DAY — With a goal of topping last year’s record-breaking half million dollars raised in its ongoing battle against Parkinson’s disease, Light Of Day Winterfest 2016, presented by the Asbury Park Press, expands to New York City for the 2nd straight year in its ongoing battle against Parkinson’s disease with special showcase, starring Willie Nile & Band with Dramarama, The Weeklings, Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan and the Gary Douglas Band, with a special appearance, Wednesday, January 13 at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room (www.thecuttingroomnyc.com).
The New York Times called Buffalo-born Willie Nile “one of the most gifted singer-songwriters to emerge from the New York scene in years.” Uncut Magazine called him “A one-man Clash.” His album Streets of New York was hailed as “a platter for the ages” by Uncut. Rolling Stone listed The Innocent Ones as one of the “Top Ten Best Under-The-Radar Albums of 2011” and BBC Radio called it “THE rock ‘n’ roll album of the year.” His single from that album, “One Guitar,” a “Top Pick of the Week” in USA Today, has become an unofficial anthem at Light of Day concert events. And it’s no wonder: Willie is one of the few artists to have participated in Light of Day every year since the beginning. In fact, a portion of proceeds from his upcoming album, due in early 2016, will be donated to Light of Day.
SHORT TAKES — No sooner did Guns N’ Roses announce their reunion, than Axl began canceling gigs; as the GNR frontman has apparently pulled out of his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live set for last night. Rose was no longer listed as a guest on Kimmel’s website either. It’s unclear why Rose canceled his appearance on Kimmel, though fans shouldn’t fret. He will indeed be reuniting with fellow Guns N’ Roses founding members Slash and Duff McKagan to headline Coachella 2016. The festival announced its 2016 lineup earlier this evening. Rose previously appeared on Kimmel in 2012 … Micky Dolenz to attend tonight’s performance at School of Rock … Per Cindy Adams: The Friars Club, honoring Sinatra’s 100th birthday this Monday at the Pierre, is having conniptions. To be frank, Frank, their Abbott, rarely went there. Old-timers also snarl about naming their dining room after him. Anyway, the hoo-hah’s emcee is club “president” Larry King, who heretofore was just the club’s Dean. Norm Crosby, Tony Danza, Tom Dreesen, Shawn King, Steve Tyrell, Dionne Warwick, pros who worked with him, are scheduled to appear. So far Fetty, Kanye, Pharrell, Beyoncé, Nicki and King Kendrick have not RSVP’d … and, great series on Bobby Darrin this week in Kent Kotal’s Forgotten Hits. Brilliant! (www.forgottenhits.com)
Till next time… Don’t forget to tell us what you think! Leave your comments below!