Quantcast
HOMB 2: DAVE GLEW, THE BRINGER OF ORDER

There was a glorious chaos to the record business when Dave Glew got his start. Scores of indie labels run by Runyonesque hustlers dotted the landscape, and an “anything goes” mentality at radio and retail added to the craziness. But no company could succeed for long without a sane, well-organized manager to run the machine.

For many years as a top exec at Atlantic Records, and throughout his landmark presidency and chairmanship of Epic, Glew was the guy who brought order to the chaos. During my years as editor of Record World, when emotions ran high because an Atlantic record didn’t get a bullet on the charts, Dave was a calm voice of authority that helped the relationship stay solid. When I was running LA Weekly and Dave was running Epic, his loyal and gifted associate, the late Polly Anthony, made sure things ran smoothly with one of our most important advertisers.

When I talked to Dave for this article, he was, not surprisingly, thoroughly prepared for some high-quality history.

“It’s 1961. I’m back home in Cleveland after serving in the Army, and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Dave recalls. “My Army buddy Ray Robertson calls and tells me he works for Dot Records, and they’re opening a branch in Cleveland. He asks if I want to work in the warehouse, and I say, ‘Sure.’ In those days, Dot was old-school acts like Lawrence Welk, Billy Vaughn, The Mills Brothers. They were also the kings of covering records overnight and shipping skid-loads of music.”

In other words, there was plenty for a warehouse guy to do.

Dave found he had a natural affinity for sales. “Over time, I rose to salesman and then Cleveland-area sales manager and branch manager. But Dot’s artists were so old-fashioned, and the music scene was changing so fast, that they couldn’t sustain their distribution business. We made a deal with Seaway Distributors in 1962, which was owned by John Cohen and his brother-in-law, Tommy Katz.

“John was an MBA who also owned several Disc Records retail stores. He became my mentor. Every Saturday, he taught me all about the business. We were marketing a new industry to a young audience, and I learned how to price and sell records, how to keep track of what was being played, what discounts to give, how to deal with returns. He showed me how to run a business—and also how to fuck it up.

“He distributed some amazing labels—Atlantic, Atco, Stax, Volt, Wand, Scepter, Jubilee. So now I’m a salesman not just for Dot, but for all these other labels. At that time, the music business in the Cleveland area was exploding. It was a great venue for bands. There were hot pop stations, FM stations, a huge college network, and incredible retail stores like Record Rendezvous.

“I was dealing with various people at Atlantic, like Lenny Sachs, Bob Kornheiser and Henry Allen. But there was another guy who would call me, and his name was Jerry Wexler.”

 “Anyway, in 1968, Seaway sells to Dot, which is then purchased by Gulf+Western, and they want me to come on board. So now I’m 27 and I’m in a whole new corporate world, with MBAs rolling in. They drilled me—‘Can you read a financial statement?’ Guess what? I could. I told them I needed a first-rate accountant, so we hired a young financial guy to crunch the numbers, because now it was all about reports.”

Wex Works Dave

In 1969, Wexler calls Glew and asks him to meet in New York.

“I’ve never been to New York, so I fly in and guess what, the address is Jerry’s doctor’s office! Jerry loved going to the doctor—did you know that?

 “I walk into the doctor’s office and Jerry’s sitting there. Before I have a chance to sit down, he says, ‘What are your ideas on how we’re gonna make Atlantic the biggest record company in the world?’ I was prepared and said, ‘First, you have to set up your own distribution. You put out 20 records at a time, and you can’t expect independent distributors to buy them all. Also, you have very few sales tools, and we’re constantly out of your records.’ He stops me there and says, ‘Do you want the job? It’s album sales manager.’ He threw in merchandising manager. I said, ‘Yes.’”

“In 1968, Seaway sells to Dot, which is then purchased by Gulf+Western, and they want me to come on board. So now I’m 27 and I’m in a whole new corporate world, with MBAs rolling in. They drilled me—‘Can you read a financial statement?’ Guess what? I could.”

On his first day, Wexler isn’t in the office. Kornheiser and Allen are, but they don’t know Dave has been hired. And he still didn’t know how much he would be paid.

 “Jerry comes in the next day and says, ‘I want to tell you who you report to. You report to me on sales and to Nesuhi Ertegun on merchandising.’ I’m thinking, ‘Did I make the biggest mistake of my life?’ This place is like the Wild West.

“The bottom line is that you figured it out. There was no politics; people worked together because the music was so incredible. If you look at what Atlantic put out between ’68 and ’71, it’s mind-boggling—Cream, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Aretha, Vanilla Fudge, Yes

Ahmet [Ertegun] was rarely there—he was traveling all over the world, signing people and in the studio. What people don’t realize is that Wexler ran that company and was in the studio.”

Dave was a fast learner, but there were a few bumps in the road. “One time I call a staff meeting in the conference room, and I get a big sheet and I write down all the steps to launch a record. I paste it on the wall and I’m going through it when Nesuhi comes in and freaks. The sheet I used was a painting that was worth $25,000. What did I know?”

WEA at the Creation

When WEA distribution was created, the execs from Atlantic struck a deal: WarnersJoel Friedman can run it provided Nesuhi runs WEA International. [Wexler famously said, “The worst branch distribution is better than the best independent distribution.”]

“Then they needed a team to set it up, which was me, Eddie [Rosenblatt, from Warners] and Mel [Posner, from Elektra]. We were the label guys working with Joel. The concept was to have eight branches with some satellite offices in key markets where you could put sales and promo guys. L.A. was the first branch and I pushed to open up Cleveland next, because there was a lot going on in that area. We traveled for at least a year and a half, interviewing people and looking for warehouses. We built what ended up being one of the great distribution companies of all time. And we all—Eddie, me and Mel—got along.

“Later on, Joel became more and more the guy who thought he ran the company and didn’t need label interference. He worried about the bottom line and wasn’t as flexible, but we hashed it out. In most territories Warners had their own staff, and Mel and I would work together to share staff.”

“One time I call a staff meeting in the conference room, and I get a big sheet and I write down all the steps to launch a record. I paste it on the wall and I’m going through it when Nesuhi comes in and freaks. The sheet I used was a painting that was worth $25,000. What did I know?”

By the mid-’70s, Nesuhi Ertegun was gone, Wexler was gone, and Jerry Greenberg was president. Dave says, “Jerry Greenberg spent most of his time working with Ahmet doing some great signings. I never knew if I reported to him; we were more like partners. The growth was unbelievable. All of a sudden you’re in an album business and a cassette business, where catalogs were being repurchased for use in cars. I thought it was very important to get close to the key managers, like Tony Smith [Genesis] and Bud Prager [Foreigner]. My wife and I showed up constantly backstage. The job was way more than just day-to-day marketing.”

With momentum came the resources to try things. “With Roxy Music, we put out three different covers and all of a sudden people were buying all three. Things didn’t always go smoothly, as when the shrinkwrap melted at the plant that was preparing the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers cover with the zippers.”

A Call From Tommy

By the late ’80s, Dave had been at Atlantic for nearly two decades. Then came a call from Tommy Mottola, whom Dave knew when he managed Hall & Oates.

“He had tried to get me to go to RCA after he managed to get Hall & Oates away from Atlantic. So we have dinner, and he says some changes are gonna happen at a major company, and would I be interested in being part? I said, ‘Look, I’ve been a loyal soldier at Atlantic. But I was blocked. Ahmet, Sheldon [Vogel] and Doug [Morris] were ahead of me, and I would never be a president. I said I’d be interested if I could be a president.

“Then I have dinner with Tommy and Walter Yetnikoff, and they tell me Tommy will be named president of CBS Records shortly and they wanted me for VP of Epic. The CBS structure didn’t allow for presidents of divisions, but they hinted that there was something going on and they could put a guarantee in my contract that I would be president of Epic Records within six or nine months. So Ann and I go to dinner and she gets a napkin out and we put down numbers—signing bonus, parking spaces, outrageous stuff. I meet them again and show them the numbers, and they say, ‘You got it.’” Dave adds wryly, “And I think I should have asked for more.

“I get someone to draw up the contract, and I take it back to Walter and Tommy on a Friday night. They look at it and they say, on the spot, ‘We will sign this contract, but you must sign it now before you tell Atlantic you’re leaving.’ So I did.”

Dave goes back to Atlantic on Monday to resign, and, just like on his first day, he can’t find anyone in charge.

“Finally, I found Doug and told him. That afternoon Steve Ross calls and asks me to come upstairs. I go upstairs and he says, ‘You’re leaving—why?’ I say my goal was to become a president, and he says, ‘You have a contract with us.’ I say, ‘No I don’t,’ which shocks him. He says ‘We’ll match the offer and I’ll give you Warner Communications shares and we’ll figure out a way to make you president.’ I went back down and told Doug I gave Walter and Tommy my word and I’m going. Guess what? They escorted me out of the building.”

So ended Dave’s 19-year relationship with Atlantic.

“You have to realize that in ’87-88, the WEA thing had bounced back from the down years, and we had a huge marketshare; CBS had maybe half of that. But Tommy doesn’t lose, OK? He was gonna figure out how to be the top record company.”

The Epic roster was quite out of date when Dave arrived. “I said to Tommy, ‘I know how to do marketing and how to be a leader, but you’ve gotta help me on the A&R side.’ And that’s who Tommy was, going into the studio and making fucking records.

“I go in as senior VP/GM of Epic/Portrait/CBS Associated Labels, and around nine months later, they made me president.”

Aided by a crack team that included Richard Griffiths, Hank Caldwell and Polly Anthony, Dave engineered a turnaround of, well, epic proportions.

“One of the first things that happened at Sony was I got Michael Jackson thrown in my lap. The Bad album had been out around nine months, and [Jackson’s manager] Frank DiLeo was the first guy I met. You have to understand that Michael’s whole thing was having hit singles. He did not care how much you spent. And you could never say ‘video.’ He’d say, ‘Glew, they are not videos; they are short films. Please tell your staff to say short films.’ I’d get calls on weekends at two or three in the morning, ‘Glew, you have to get me a #1 single. What do we have to do today?’

“I’d give him a budget, and he could care less about the amount, so I would charge it to royalties. He could spend $6 million on a video, and they really were short films. My first marketing plan was to reenergize Bad globally. It sold 5 million.”

In his first two or three years, Epic signed Pearl Jam, Spin Doctors, Suicidal Tendencies, Bad English and Alice Cooper, and turned around Gloria Estefan’s career.

Then there was Celine Dion. “I love the Celine record the first time I hear it and I take it up to Tommy, and Tommy loves it.” The time was right for the next Mariah Carey, and Tommy did what he does best, closely managing everything from song selection to recording to the master plan for global success.

“I remember telling Rene [Angelil, Celine’s manager], ‘This is the next Barbra Streisand’.”

Glew’s decision to put Celine on 550 Records gave Polly Anthony and her crew the opportunity to break what turned out to be one of the biggest artists of the decade.

Sony’s structure was different than WEA, and Glew stressed to Mottola that he assert himself as the boss of the heads of the company in Europe and elsewhere. “If we could leverage our marketing clout with our global artists—Michael Jackson, Gloria, Mariah Carey—on a worldwide basis, no one could touch us.”

It took a few years, but the proof was in the sales: “We would focus on those records that fit and we would hammer on everybody—we sold tens of millions.”

“The CBS structure didn’t allow for presidents of divisions, but they hinted that there was something going on and they could put a guarantee in my contract that I would be president of Epic Records within six or nine months. So [my wife] Ann and I go to dinner and she gets a napkin out and we put down numbers—signing bonus, parking spaces, outrageous stuff. I meet them again and show them the numbers, and they say, ‘You got it.’”

In 1994, Dave was named Chairman of the Epic Group, with Griffiths becoming president. And the hits kept coming, with Rage Against the Machine, Oasis, Ben Folds Five, Jennifer Lopez and more.

Dave is especially proud to have signed AC/DC, a band he’d been tight with at Atlantic.

“Here’s how I won them over: I knew Atlantic had taken the packaging on their CDs down to one page. That’s what the labels were doing to save a few pennies. We brought Angus [Young], who was the one calling the shots, to our offices in New York and, with Steve Barnett, made a great presentation—with the help of Sony’s amazing art department—of special packaging we’d prepared for all the old albums. He loved it. He said, ‘They don’t even talk to me at Atlantic.’ I gave them $30 million for the catalog and one or two studio albums. We had a five-year deal, and we recouped in three years.’”

The mentoring Dave received from Cohen and Wexler has been paid forward to many industry stalwarts. One was Barnett, whom Dave brought to Epic in 1996 and who rose to the presidency of Epic and the chairmanship of Columbia before assuming his current role as Chairman & CEO of Capitol Music Group. Another was Polly Anthony, a beloved executive who worked side by side with Dave at Sony for many years—rising to the presidency in 1997—but who died of pancreatic cancer in 2013, at just 59 years old. Dave says of her, “I cannot express enough what an incredible person she was.

“I pride myself on my people,” he says. “I had incredible people. I treated them right, and they really worked hard. Jerry and John taught me a lot about how to treat people. I remember Jerry saying to me that not everybody can be president. I tried to lead by example. I went to MTV probably 10 times as chairman of the company to get Pearl Jam played, which they didn’t want to do.”

When he looks at the problems in the business today, Dave says, “Thank God I got out at the right time.” 

A LEGENDARY START (UPDATE)
Posthumous release looks massive. (7/13a)
CHART STORY: POP SMOKES THE COMPETITION
A "Moon" shot. (7/10a)
PHOEBE BRIDGERS LOOKS AT LIFE FROM BOTH SIDES NOW
Is a Best New Artist nom in the cards for acclaimed writer/artist? (7/13a)
JHEN√Č AIKO'S REIGN
The gradual ascent of a gifted, prolific artist. (7/13a)
TOP 50 STREAMED SONGS AT MIDYEAR
IGA is on a roll. (7/10a)
THE 2021 CONCERT RUSH
Would you like some Swiss cheese with your nachos?
ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Oh, sorry--we were just singing to ourselves.
MARY TRUMP
Family is everything.
K-POP STANS
Are they coming for Kanye? Yes.
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)