Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the manager, producer and actor Peter Grant. For the biologist, see Peter R. Grant.
Peter Grant, (April 5, 1935 – November 21, 1995) was one of the most influential managers in rock and roll. He was a manager for The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, and Bad Company, a record executive for Swan Song Records, and was responsible for improving pay and conditions for musicians in dealings with concert promoters.
Grant was born in the south London suburb of South Norwood, Surrey. He attended Charterhouse public school until leaving at the age of 13, when he became a sheet metal factory worker in Croydon. Grant however was soon attracted to the entertainment industry and became a stagehand for the Croydon Empire theatre until leaving in 1953. He worked briefly as an entertainment manager at a hotel in Jersey before working as a bouncer and doorman at London's famous 2 Is Coffee Bar, where many figures in the British music industry got their start such as Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Tommy Steele, and others. He was spotted by a professional wrestler called Paul Lincoln, who gave Grant the opportunity to wrestle on television as "Count Massimo". It kindled his enthusiasm for acting and Grant was hired by film studios as a bit part actor, stuntman, and body-double.
Between 1958 and 1963, Grant appeared on a number of movies including A Night to Remember (as a crew member on the Titanic), The Guns of Navarone (a British commando), Cleopatra (a palace guard), and television shows The Saint, Crackerjack, Dixon of Dock Green, and The Benny Hill Show. He was also 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 gigs.
In 1963, Grant was hired by promoter Don Arden to act as tour manager for artists such as Bo Diddley, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Brian Hyland, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and The Animals. By 1964, Grant had started to manage his own acts including The Nashville Teens, The Flintstones , an all-girl group called She Trinity , The New Vaudeville Band and the early years of Jeff Beck and Terry Reid. His management was established in the same 155 Oxford Street office used by his friend Mickie Most, who previously used to work with Grant at the 2 Is Coffee Bar. Both Most and Grant set up the highly successful RAK Records label which produced a string of Number 1 hits throughout the 1970s.
It was in late 1966 that Simon Napier-Bell asked Grant to take over management of The Yardbirds, who were constantly touring yet struggling financially. Producer Mickie Most had suggested to Napier-Bell that his friend Peter Grant would be an asset to The Yardbirds, but as it eventuated, 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 persuasive presence was influential in The Yardbirds making money from its concerts for the first time. He also travelled closely with The Yardbirds ensuring that all costs were kept to a minimum, that members were also paid on time, and demanded publicity and artistic control by the band.
Without Peter Grant, it would have been doubtful Led Zeppelin would have been as successful. He negotiated a 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 producing albums rather than churning out singles. Live performances were more important than television appearances – if you wanted to see Led Zeppelin you had to experience one of their performances. By promoting Led Zeppelin's concerts he ensured that ticket profits wound up in the hands of the band rather than in the hands of promoters and booking agents. Grant's famous dressing room scene in the film The Song Remains the Same where he demands an explanation from concert staff on the sale of illegal photos, was typical of his no-nonsense dealings with people who tried to profit at the band's expense.
Grant was also instrumental in setting up Led Zeppelin's publishing company Superhype , in 1969. In 1974, Grant was the driving force in establishing Swan Song Records which gave Led Zeppelin further financial and artistic control over its own products. He also managed Bad Company and Maggie Bell . In 1975, Grant turned down a lucrative offer to manage Queen. When Grant was once questioned on what was the single most important thing a manager could say, his response was "know when to say no". In 1977, Grant was asked by Colonel Tom Parker to manage a proposed tour of Europe by Elvis Presley. Just as the negotiations had just begun, Elvis unfortunately passed away on August 16, 1977.
Marital problems and the death of drummer John Bonham took its toll on Grant's health and after the official breakup of Led Zeppelin he virtually retired from the music business. In 1992, he appeared in the film Carry On Columbus as a cardinal. On the afternoon of November 21, 1995 while driving to his home, Horselungs Manor in Sussex, he suffered a fatal heart attack. His son Warren was by his side. Grant was buried on December 4, 1995 at St. Peter and St. Paul's churchyard, Hellingly , Sussex.
Welsh, Chris (2002), Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2.
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