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THE HEART & SOUL OF BOB GARCIA

Bob Garcia, who died in his sleep on 4/26, a week before his 82nd birthday, wasn’t a household name, but he was one of the great characters in music-biz annals. Neither was Garcia the ampersand of A&M Records, although some have described him that way—but he was the ampersand that connected A&M’s culture with several generations of staffers and artists who called the iconic Lot at 1416 N. La Brea home.

When I arrived at A&M from Mercury Records in New York (a far less enlightened label) in the fall of 1973, it was Garcia who welcomed me and imparted the vibe of the place—a vibe, I soon realized, he’d had a huge part in creating. At the time, he was in the office in the back of the publicity bungalow, the most rustic corner of the rustic lot (what other record company had its own carpentry department?). He wore a poncho, an extremely large dog lay at his feet and his eyes sparkled conspiratorially. I’d been brought in as the label’s editorial person, a variation of the job Garcia had been hired to do five years earlier, so we had that bond from the get-go. He made me feel at home, and he took me under his wing, as he’d continue to do with so many newcomers for the next three decades.

Garcia had moved up through the ranks since his initial role as bio writer. After heading publicity for a while, he’d transitioned into a job he make up as he went along. He was the archetypal artist-relations guy, and that’s how he’ll always be remembered. Garcia was the glue that bonded scores of roster artists with the rank and file of A&M; it was he, more than anyone apart from artist in residence Herb Alpert, who created the quintessential artist-friendly environment. It wasn’t all fun and games—he saved Joe Cocker from his demons more then once, to cite an especially crucial relationship.

Few of us knew his backstory—that he had a master’s in communication from Columbia, that he’d served in Vietnam early in the conflict, that he’d founded an underground newspaper, for which he’d interviewed Jimi Hendrix early in his career. This profile from The Many Faces of A&M, published in 1978, was loaded with revelations.

There was life after A&M for Garcia. He became deeply involved with NARAS, and he founded his own marketing company, the perfectly named Shedding Dog. But his name will always be synonymous with A&M for all those who worked there over the decades. The impression he made was indelible and universal.

When the word spread of Garcia’s passing, former label staffers offered their remembrances on the A&M Records Staff and Artists private group on Facebook. Here’s a sampling:  

Herb Alpert: “Bob Garcia worked at A&M Records for many years and without exception, was liked by all. Artists and employees admired his quirkiness and original personality that didn’t change with the times. I personally appreciated his keen observations on music, and life as he saw it. I loved Bob.”

Longtime A&M U.K. chief Derek Green: “Dear Bob, you were ‘a shelter in a storm—a Willow’ to so many of the Brit artistes, managers and staffers from across the pond. Back in the U.K., your bonhomie was legendary. Thanks for giving so much to so many of us lost in L.A. Travel well.”

Jill Glass Easton: “A true original, a raconteur, a style maven, a gentle man with the heart of an artist. He weathered the regime changes with good humor and acceptance—oh my God, can you imagine after decades in the business he got stuck in that little marketing building with us yammering young know-it-alls and never had an unkind word about any of it. I reread some of the greetings he'd sent on my birthdays—droll one-liners that made me laugh out loud last night. Thank you, Bob Garcia, for welcoming us into your world and always reminding us what we were there for.”

Diana Baron: “He was Bobby, I was kiddo. He was one the most unique, erudite, kind and gracious people ever. A square peg who found his space at A&M—it takes a Herb and Jerry to appreciate the gifts that Bob had. I loved his voice and wish I could hear it now—he had an accent I could never pin down and sent emails i could never completely decipher. Rest in peace, you wonderful man. Know how deeply you are appreciated.”

Larry Weintraub: “ What an incredible man. I learned so much from Bob and was so lucky to have gotten to work with such a legend. Not to mention such a kind and gentle soul. I close my eyes and I’m transported back to that office. I can picture the photos on the wall. The big dog. His stories about driving the van for The Police. And so, so, so many more. I will miss him.”

Cheryl McEnaney: “He was the most unique of characters and had the biggest of hearts. We are so fortunate to have crossed paths with him in this life, honestly.”

Colin Sowa: “My office was next door to Bob‘s. We bonded. He was always just strange enough to keep things interesting, and always had a giant heart. I’ll bet he knew where all the bodies were buried.”

Jonathan McHugh: “My office was also next to Bob on the other side of Colin. Bob was fully responsible for getting me to join the Grammys, which later led me to be L.A. Chapter President and later a Trustee for eight years, where I helped get Neil [Portnow] in there to change the dynamic of the place, add a soundtrack category and helped get music supervisors a chance to vote and later win Grammys. When Bob asked if I wanted to join NARAS, I remember asking Bob why I should get involved with such an old-boy organization, his response still sticks with me. ‘If you never try, you will never change anything and you will never know.’ I will never forget him for that motivation which brought me so many amazing friendships and business relationships and his Sex Pistols and the first Police tour in the van blew my mind! RIP, Garcia, you were weird but one of the coolest I ever met and worked with. And the first time I ever worked in an office with a dog in it!”

Christopher Ciketic: “He had the biggest heart. During my fundraising to participate in the S.F.-L.A. AIDS Ride 2, I asked him if he'd like to contribute. He asked, ‘What's your goal and how much have you raised thus far?’ I said, ‘$300 out of the $2,500.’ He said, ‘Well, you just hit your goal, kid.’ I'll never forget him for that.”

Jodi Jacobson Milstein: “Garcia had such an incredible presence at A&M and beyond. He was amazing to work with. Drove me crazy sometimes and inspired me most of the time. He will be deeply missed by so many people.”

Mariel Pastor: “He was such a legend and so modest. No one ever schooled me at the time about all that he was. All I knew was he had amazing stories and the artists loved him. He was always kind to me. I hope he wrote that book we begged him to write.”

 

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