In this edition of my blog series, Behind the Art, Foghat’s Linda Arcello-Earl talks wine, musicians, and music, as she discusses her lengthy history in the business. Another kindred spirit, Linda is a band manager and rock star wife, who juggles both in a busy, globetrotting life. Linda and I, and Roger and Dave share many similarities, and I look forward to the four of us sitting down one day to share a bottle of wine . . . or two. Enjoy Linda’s long journey through the past and present, both personally and with Foghat . . .
What prompted you to pursue the business side of music? How did you happen into it?
I never pursued the business of music. Just fell into it. In 1976 I was working two jobs (Chemistry secretary at a community college by day and waitress at a diner on weekends) and going to school four nights a week. I had an associate’s degree in psychology and was pursuing ‘higher’ education in ‘something’ . . . still not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had lived in Europe (mostly Amsterdam) for a couple of years and knew I liked to travel and learn new stuff but how that translated to ‘career,’ who knew?
At the time, the clerical staff at the Community College was being courted by the Teamsters union and the women ‘elected’ me as their spokesperson to approach the Dean with our ‘requests.’ When I did, none of the women stood behind me when the shit hit the fan. I was pretty upset, but this event changed my life. One of the women that I met through this just happened to be best friends with the wife and right-hand person of Foghat’s manager. She asked me if I was interested in checking them out for a job since they had offered it to her, but she couldn’t work for her friend. They had too much money. 🙂
I met Cheryl Outeda. We clicked. She gave me the 5 Foghat albums done so far to listen to and then I came back the next day and met Tony Outeda and was hired. I eventually became office manager during some of Foghat’s busiest years and learned much about the business side of music.
Who’s the first artist that got you started? What’s the story behind that?
A couple of years after my time with Foghat, their Lead/Slide Guitarist Rod Price left the band. I had become good friends with all of the band members. Rod’s parting was not friendly and he needed help with the split and to keep his career intact. I got involved first as a friend and then as his manager when he decided that he wanted to put a new band together and start writing again. We auditioned mostly local musicians from Long Island and Connecticut and put together NightWatch. They were a terrific band. Our biggest problem was finding a lead singer. Rod wanted Paul Rodgers, and of course he was not available. 😉 So finding a singer was getting ‘interesting.’ We auditioned several singers (Michael Bolton, Robert Fleischman, Ian Lloyd) and for some reason or other things didn’t work out. We ended up going into Bearsville Studios in NY and recording a 6-song demo, which turned out really well with our keyboard player singing. He had a very good voice but was really not a front man/lead singer. We still needed to find someone, but the band did go out and do a northeast tour just to get their feet wet. It was a difficult and strange time for Rod. He was having a hard time adjusting to his new status with a new band.
There were several record labels at the time very interested in Rod Price. He was an amazing slide player and co-wrote much of Foghat’s material. Since I was in touch with many of these folks, I let them listen to the demo. They were all anxious to see the band. Against my better judgement (and since that time, I always go by my gut) we did a showcase in NYC for several labels. They all, to a man/woman, told me that the material and the band were great, but we needed someone to front the band. We needed a singer. We did end up finding a guy with a terrific bluesy, gravelly voice in NYC. Did some rehearsals. But by this time, things had deteriorated with Rod and with a couple of band members. The band disbanded . . . things were ‘interesting.’ Let’s leave it at that.
In addition to Rod, I also managed Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland for a short time in the early ’80s. I had met Eddie when we did a ‘Blues Tribute’ show at the NY Palladium in 1977 with Foghat. I loved Eddie and we became friends, but he was a very old school musician who did not believe in agencies booking shows. He thought managers did all of that. I did not. (We remained in touch over the years, and Eddie was our special guest on LAST TRAIN HOME. He was 86 when we recorded that and we spent a few days together at our ‘band house’ in Florida. The stories and the man were fantastic. He, unfortunately, died in a car accident on his way back from a ‘gig’ at 87 years old. Way to go Eddie!)
I seriously became disenchanted with the management side of the music business at that point. Many hours of hard work which depended on people who were very creative and wonderful, but not always the most stable and reliable (musicians). I decided I’d rather just have them as friends. I went on at that point and started using computers and became a computer consultant and integrator for the next 18 years. Computers are not emotional, and things are black and white. Either they work, or they don’t, and there is some logic involved. 😉
Who all is on your roster? If only Foghat, how did managing them come about?
By 1997 my company, Business Support Corporation was doing really well. I had several clients and had set up tons of businesses. I had support contracts with many and billed by the hour. I loved my work and my clients. It was challenging learning about different businesses.
Then . . . Roger Earl came into my life in a different ‘form!’ He and I had been really good friends since the ’70s. We had been at each other’s weddings (both now divorced), and were very comfortable as friends. We had both been through some life-changing events, and Roger would come to NY to visit; hanging out together became like a safe-haven from the rest of the world. He would watch my dog and babysit my house while I went skydiving on weekends. We would have dinner with his daughters often and I became very close to them. And I was friends with his ex. It was all really cool. Roger and I were a lot alike in our thinking and approach to life. We eventually became more than friends.
At that point (1997) I wanted NOTHING TO DO WITH THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC. I told Roger I just wanted to be ‘fluff’ when I was with him. I was doing well in my own business and I enjoyed my computer clients.
Right about then, Linda Peverett (wife of Foghat Lead Singer, Lonesome Dave) was diagnosed with cancer. Linda and I had been good friends in the ’70s when we flew planes and went horseback riding together. Shortly after that, Dave was diagnosed with Kidney cancer. The tour ended and things were really difficult. Dave came back in the summer of ’99 after chemo ready to rock. They toured for four months before they both became very ill. Sadly, Lonesome Dave passed away on Feb 6, 2000; Linda passed away in December 2000.
So . . . the whole Foghat ‘thing’ was thrown into Roger’s lap, and who was the most likely candidate to help? Me. He really was unsure about putting the band back together, but they were badly in debt after cancelling so many shows due to illness. And, Roger is all about playing! So, he found the one singer that he and Dave had seen and liked a few years back (Charlie Huhn, who had fronted Humble Pie for 10 years and been with Ted Nugent for five of his best albums) and everything clicked. And here we are 15 years later. It was very difficult in the beginning and it has been a lot of work to make the band ‘viable’ again. That is another entire chapter. But we are now doing very well. Two studio and two live albums under our belt, along with two DVDs! Touring relentlessly, as usual, and the gigs are great.
My computer business has shrunk exponentially as the band has gotten busier. So now, only one client left: the Department of Neurosurgery at Stony Brook University Hospital. I have been there for 28 years, so I am reluctant to leave them. I love working with Brain Surgeons and musicians!
You also run Foghat Records. What all does that entail?
Our organization is totally self-contained. We do everything in house. Fortunately for us, we have a wonderful resident genius—our lead/slide guitar player, Bryan Bassett. Not only is he a great musician, but also an incredible engineer/producer. He has worked on hundreds of recordings and without him we would not be able to do what we do. We purchased our own recording equipment soon after the band started playing after the passing of Lonesome Dave. It was a difficult time but it was about the music and the creativity was flowing. The band wanted to make some new music. So instead of going into a recording studio where we had time and budget constraints, we purchased the equipment we needed and went to stay at a friend’s place in Florida. He had a large enough space for us to set up, and apartments for us to stay in, and the band recorded Family Joules in 2002. I have done most of the artwork for the band, which also helps; we had the CDs manufactured and released Family Joules in 2003. For the next two projects, a DVD and LIVE II, we worked with two smaller labels. We self-produced and gave them finished product, but we found that they did nothing to promote the releases. You can make the best record in the universe, but without proper promotion you might as well just stack them on the shelf.
So after some legal mumbo jumbo, we took LIVE II back and started Foghat Records and re-released LIVE II in 2007. Since that time we have released our 2010 Blues CD “LAST TRAIN HOME” and our 2013 DVD “LIVE IN ST. PETE” along with two singles and a Christmas single. We also put out “LAST TRAIN HOME” on vinyl and have licensed some live recordings to other labels.
Being our own label is very time-consuming, but worth it to have the control on how it is or ‘is not’ marketed. We have distribution through Ingrooves/Fontana. They do a good job for us. They get placement on the digital sites, and we were able to get several ‘featured releases’ both on iTunes and Amazon.
Having been in the business since the mid-’70s when WB/Bearsville was handling our sales, I’ve seen how the market has changed. It is nearly impossible to get radio play for any new material. The stations may play it once or twice but then they revert back to SLOW RIDE, FOOL FOR THE CITY, I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU, or STONE BLUE—the Foghat standards.
I tried to get creative with LAST TRAIN HOME since it was more blues-oriented than the last several Foghat releases. The reviews were terrific and we regained many of the fans that we lost during the ‘Slow Ride’ days: the Blues-ers.
So, I got a list of all of the tertiary blues radio stations across the country and sent out over 2,000 CDs to the PDs. Really, it was about the music. Not about anything else. Foghat has always been about the music, and I enjoy that about working with these guys. The reviews poured in. Sales were not bad either. Nothing like the ’70s but OK.
We also hired a publicist for all of our releases and for the few months prior and about five months post-release, all hell would break loose at the office: setting up interviews, promos, radio giveaways, etc. Fun and exciting times for everyone.
These days it doesn’t really translate to $$ earned…lucky to break even sometimes, but the band loves to play and tour, and the new music keeps everything fresh and everyone still excited to play.
As a woman in a male-dominant business, what gender-based obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Basically, I don’t pay attention to gender-based obstacles. I have been fortunate enough in my career that if someone has that much of a problem working with a woman, I can either not work with them, or pass them off to someone who can deal with them. I can’t be bothered by that kind of attitude. Often, I find that it is just the initial ‘testing’ conversation to see if I really know what I am talking about and then we are on level ground. But sometimes that never happens and I walk.
I remember making a deal with someone back in the ’70s during my Foghat years and they told my boss that they agreed to it because it was ‘cute’ the way I approached it. OK, cool. Whatever works. I was always business-like. I guess if someone wants to construe that as ‘cute,’ so be it, as long as I get what I want.
When I was first hired by Foghat’s manager in ’76, one of the first things he had me do was call the various crew guys and tell them some ‘stuff’ that they had to do. That went over really well! A chick discussing what they had to do. OH NO! lol It was interesting.
At the time I had a hang glider and I was the only woman in the New York State Hang Gliding Association. I had only flown off 100-150’ foot ridges at the time, but was learning and trying and owned a glider. Our sound engineer, Bob Coffee, was also taking flying lessons at the time, and we found a mutual interest in flying, and we went out on a Saturday to try to fly the glider.
That night he took me down to the local bar and told the guys on the crew ‘she’s not so bad . . . she flies.’ They proceeded to get me pretty drunk on Jack and Wild Turkey and to this day 40 years later I am still good friends with most of those guys. Just saw a few of them this week.
Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d “made it” as a music industry professional?
When I was asked to be on the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation in Memphis in 2011. I really was surprised and honored. I had to respectfully decline since I was so busy with the band and our various projects, and I did not feel I could give what was needed to make a difference for them. If I can’t give 100%, I’d rather pass and let someone who can do the job have it.
How is managing your husband, and how do you make it work?
Roger is great. He has no problem with women. In fact, he tells people on a regular basis that Foghat is run by women. My assistant, Rose Nangano, is an amazing person. She worked with me back in the ’80s with my computer business and I called her “Radar.” She could read my mind and we worked so well together. I wished her back to NY (not really…timing worked out) and she came to work with us in 2007. I would be in the loony bin without her. We also have Audrey Dwyer for 13 years now, our bookkeeper, and Jessica Steg-Earl (Roger’s daughter) who helps out with social media. They are both amazing human beings and very bright and all of them have a great sense of humor. They take a lot of the load off both Roger and me. So he is surrounded by women!
We make it work. I was hesitant at first to work with my husband because I love our life together. It takes some managing to separate the business from the love affair. But we do it. We make time for each other. I am a workaholic. Roger is good at having fun but had also gotten very organized in business. He has learned to be pretty damned efficient. Those who knew him in the ’70s would be amazed. 🙂
I told him when we were first together that the word ‘recreate’ comes from the word ‘recreation.’ So he is in charge of recreation! He is a fantastic cook, so he makes dinner and then drags me away from the computer for an incredible and usually healthy dinner and a great evening together. He takes very good care of me.
We also both love to travel, and when we are on the road, we always make time to do something for ourselves. As they say, “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” and we are enjoying the journey. Sometimes we are away much more than we are home so we try to stay healthy; we both like to go to the gym and pretty much like the same foods. Our biggest problem? He can eat more than most humans and stay thin. That, I believe, may be grounds for divorce. 😉
When business gets intense (which it often does) and decisions have to be made, we discuss things. We agree 95% of the time. When we do not, he usually defers to me in the business end, and I always defer to him on the musical and band end. He is great with the guys in the band and crew. Very fair. And the truth is, I like Roger. We have been friends for 30 years and know each other pretty well. Back then, we would never have worked out as a couple, but after going through what we have both been through we are great together. Neither of us likes to argue (been there, done that), so we have never really had an argument (maybe one). There is no need to raise a voice or yell at anyone, and he is my partner in that. Then go home and have a few cocktails!
I can’t think of anyone I would rather spend my life with. He is a great guy.
Foghat Cellars produces some tasty wines from one of my favorite regions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. How did you and your husband get into the wine business?
Foghat played the California Mid State Fair in Paso Robles, California on August 1, 2007. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from winemaker, Steve Rasmussen, asking if we were interested in making a Foghat wine. It was coincidental since just two weeks before, after a show while we were all drinking wine, we were talking about Sammy Hagar selling his Cabo Wabo Tequila brand, and we jokingly said we should have a Foghat wine since we have always been about wine.
So after several conversations between Steve, Roger and me, we flew out to California to check out the wine-making process. We were hooked. Steve is a very well-respected winemaker (Talley Vineyards, Sierra Madre Vineyards) and we all agreed that we wanted to make really great wines and not just lend our name to a brand. So there we went. We decided to bottle up 90+ cases of a really nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles that Steve had in barrels. Just testing the waters. The 2005 Cab was fantastic . . . eventually. 😉 When we first bottled it and tasted it, we were not too impressed. But being total novices in the wine business, we deferred totally to Steve. He can tell you what something is going to taste like next year. So by the time we released the wine in late 2008 it was delicious.
While we were out there, we told Steve that we wanted to go out help pick the grapes with the pickers. He thought we wanted a photo-op, but we said no. Let’s get there at 7 AM when they start and really learn how it’s done. It was hard work, but we stayed with them (they were much faster than us and we cut our hands up pretty good!).
Since then we have been out for several harvests and done everything from picking, sorting, crushing, etc. Our 2010 Pinot Noir was all done the old fashioned way and Roger and I were out there for a week, and were ‘punching down’ the wine in the tanks two or three times a day. We would fall into bed at about 8 PM and look at each other and go WTF?, and start laughing.
The people in the wine industry are very cool. Scientists and farmers. And we love hanging out with them and learning. The business in growing slowly, they say you start your wine business for your grandchildren. I can see why. I just got my TTB license and NYS Winery license as well, so we can make and sell wines in NY.
We’ll see where it all goes. In the meantime we have some delicious wines: a 2007 & 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2010 Pinot Noir and 2010 Chardonnay. The Chardonnay won a Bronze Medal at the Orange County Fair in 2014.
Dave and I have been working on a very similar project for the past few years, and I’m happy to say there will be a Meniketti wine release this year.
That is very cool! You live in such a great area and are surrounded by wine and people in the industry. Good luck! We will have to toast both of our wines one evening!
What makes you want to research an artist that’s unfamiliar to you?
Usually if I have seen them live. We did the Simple Man Cruise VIII last fall with Lynyrd Skynyrd. They had some fantastic younger and/or less known artists on the ship. We had a blast going to some of their shows. When I got back I certainly researched their careers and where and how they were getting on.
Where do you live and why?
I live on a houseboat on Long Island, New York. Close enough to NYC to enjoy Manhattan and do what I need to do business-wise, but far enough to enjoy lots of peace and quiet. Moved there in 1977 while I was working for Foghat. Craig MacGregor (our bass player) had been renting it and then bought a house and I moved in. I continued to rent it for 10 years and then managed to buy it from the owner. It was built in 1927 and anchored in Port Jefferson Harbor for awhile as a speakeasy. It is just cool. Actually own ½ acre of property, so we have a couple of real buildings on it: a cottage, garage and a couple of big sheds.
We have a big deck out over the water, and Roger can fish right there. Been there 37 years and 17 with Roger. He lived in the next harbor for many years before we were together. So we both plan on being planted there some day. 🙂
What is your morning routine?
Wake up. Check email. Make coffee . . . get sucked into the computer! I work at home, which is Foghat headquarters, so we have people in our home every day (except weekends), but they are all cool. Like family. When Roger is home, I try to make an effort to bring coffee up and hang out with him for awhile when he gets up. Sometimes it’s just too busy.
What constitutes a productive day at work for you?
A day with no complaints. 🙂 Only kidding. Usually if I’ve wrapped up a project. There are usually 20 going on at once, so completion is a good thing.
Is there anything unusual about your workspace? What do you keep on your desk? What’s the view from there?
My office is in a section of our living room. My desk is in front of a window overlooking the harbor, but there are days when I don’t even get to look out, it gets so busy. I have to force myself to remember to chill and smell the roses (or in this case, look out the window). I have two computers and often my laptop and work on all three. Since I do most of the graphics and video editing, and most of the accounting and software setup for the band as well, I have multiple projects going constantly.
Do you have a peculiar habit?
Bad habit? Yes . . . I don’t always tighten the caps on things. Bad habit all my life. When Roger and I first got together, I told him I come with a ‘disclaimer.’ “Cannot be responsible for caps and tops being put on properly. Please always check before grabbing.” But I did say that I would try to change, but no promises.
Please recommend three songs (any genre, any artist) and tell us why you like them.
Joni Mitchell—“Carey” and everything from “’Court & Spark” and “Blue.” Just a huge Joni fan.
Joe Walsh—“The Friend Song.” “Songs for a Dying Planet” is one of my favorites. Again, a huge Joe Walsh fan.
Bonnie Raitt—“Something to Talk About.” Love her playing and her songs and lyrics.
As I’m also an author, I’d love for you to recommend three books and tell us why you like them.
I love to read, and read to relax, so that is a hard one . . . and I’m looking forward to reading your book! I will go with some recent ones since there have been so many favorites.
Wild—Cheryl Strayed. I just thought it was cool that she chose this route instead of the drugs/alcohol/poor, poor pitiful me lifestyle. She is a great role model for young girls.
Life—Keith Richards. Just a cool read.
Trilogy—Ken Follett: Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, Edge of Eternity. Fascinating read on history since the turn of the century (20th) to present. I thought that looking at history through the eyes of several families in different countries that were involved in the wars and the politics and the shaping of things today was fantastic. And Ken Follett is a great writer. I find reading straight ‘history’ books a bit dry. But if you can make it seem real to me, I’m there.
Do you have an industry friend who helps and inspires you?
My husband has been in this business for 50 years. He does inspire me! And he has a great ‘take’ on people and situations. We can discuss anything.
I also have a very close relationship with our agency and our agent, Charlie Davis. All of the guys there have been in just about every end of the business at one time or another, and we all get along great. I love to run ideas by them when we go out to Ojai, CA to visit them.
Also my friend Suzi Blosser VanWarmer. She worked for Bearsville/Warner Bros back in the ’70s & early ’80s in LA. Managed her late husband Randy VanWarmer’s career when they moved to Nashville, and has just been an all-around voice of reason in my life. I can run anything by Suzi and get a real answer.
Do you play a musical instrument?
No, I wish I did though. Just always loved to sing. Roger bought me a certificate for piano lessons a few years ago since I always wanted to play. I took a couple, but I seriously do not have much free time, so it can’t happen now. You have to practice, practice, practice, and unless I can carve out between 4-6 AM, I am doomed. 😉
Do you have any superstitions?
What phrase do you over-use?
Do you have a funny story related to your job, whether it be planning a tour, or on tour, or at a meet-and-greet with one of your artists?
Yes. We did a show in Texas and they had an after party for us. There were some very successful oil industry folks there. The women were gorgeous and the men were successful business men. After several drinks, one of the men and his wife approached me with a drink and some small talk.
He: “Hey I hear that Foghat are doing really well.”
Me: “Yeah, they are. “
He: “I hear they are touring a lot and released a new record and they are working on a DVD.”
Me: “Yep.” Then . . .
He: “But, I hear that you manage them. Is that so?” He looked incredulous.
He: “But isn’t that really hard work?”
He: “Hmm. But what do you do if you have to get tough with someone?”
Me: “I get tough.”
He: “But, but what if you have to get really mad at someone?”
Me: “Well, I rarely have to get really ‘mad.’ I can usually work things out with people. But . . . if I have to get really mad, I get MAD!”
He and his wife looked positively shocked! Unbelievable? Not really.
Then . . . it gets better . . . his friend came over. Slightly inebriated, or very inebriated, and put his arm around my neck and said: “So Linda, can I ask you a kind of personal question?” I said, “Go ahead, but I will decide whether or not I will answer.” He said, “When you met Roger and got into the music business, were you like a really, really big groupie?” I looked him in the eyes and said, “Oh, you have no idea!!” His face lit up and he said, “Really?!” I said, “No. Gotta go now!” LOL
What is something about yourself that is essentially unknown and maybe even surprising?
I’m a skydiver.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
Do it because you love it and love to play. Not because you want to be a rock star. Be professional and don’t be an asshole. Don’t drink or get high before you play. Take your talent seriously. It is a gift.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the business side of music?
Don’t do it! No seriously, do it because you love what you are doing and really care about the music you are working with. And listen to everyone out there. Everyone has a story, albeit some are bullshit. Don’t waste time with the people who are all talk and lip service. Keep your ears to the ground.
If you are in a management position, surround yourself with great people, and once you do don’t be afraid to delegate. No need to control everything, just know when to step in if needed. I would also try not getting very caught up in the gender thing. Men and women approach things differently (thankfully), and both sides when put together can be awesome. I look at our band and organization as a marriage of sorts. I try not to let things fester, and probably because I am female, I like to get things out and discussed so we don’t have too many issues and built up crap. That is what kills so many bands. We have great people in our organization and we are all grownups (of sorts LOL). I love working with all of them!
Thank you, Jill, for asking these questions. You made me think a lot about my motivations for doing things and reflect on how the hell I got here. LOL Been a long, strange trip so far. And since Roger plans to never stop playing, I guess I am never retiring!
Audrey Dwyer, Bearsville Studios, Blues Foundation, Bob Coffee, Bonnie Raitt, Bryan Bassett, Business Support Corporation, Cabo Wabo Tequila, Charlie Davis, Charlie Huhn, Cheryl Outeda, Cheryl Strayed, Craig MacGregor, Eddie “Bluesman” Kirkland, Eddie Kirkland, Foghat, Foghat Cellars, Foghat Records, FOOL FOR THE CITY, Humble Pie, I JUST WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU, Ian Lloyd, Ingrooves/Fontana, Jessica Steg-Earl, Joe Walsh, Joni Mitchell, Keith Richards, Ken Follett, LAST TRAIN HOME, Linda Arcello-Earl, Linda Earl, Linda Peverett, LIVE II, LIVE IN ST. PETE, Lonesome Dave, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Michael Bolton, New York State Hang Gliding Association, NY Palladium, Paul Rodgers, Robert Fleischman, Rod Price, Roger Earl, Rose Nangano, Sammy Hagar, Sierra Madre Vineyards, Simple Man Cruise, SLOW RIDE, Steve Rasmussen, STONE BLUE, Suzi Blosser VanWarmer, Talley Vineyards, Ted Nugent, Tony Outeda