Brian de Courcy, veteran concert promoter and artist manager, has passed away in Melbourne after a battle with non-COVID pneumonia.
In the mid-60s, when 17-year old Michael Chugg arrived from Tasmania to crack the music biz, de Courcy was booking dances in 40 clubs across Melbourne, and managing top-draw artists such as Merv Benton and the Strangers.
de Courcy had previously worked while under-age at an ad agency (fooling his parents by leaving home in his school uniform) and was once sacked from a radio station for playing Black music against its format.
He had by then started to build what was to become one of the largest private collections of vinyl records, comics and film memorabilia.
Over the weekend, Chugg told TIO that de Courcy was “an original and one of a kind.”
“He was an amazing music man, and turned me onto a lot of great bands and music.”
Like many promoters from that era, the always impeccably dressed de Courcy was a showman, drawn to the epic and over-the-top, and partial to using his sense of theatre.
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It was he who suggested that the Sunbury festival book the unknown Queen – who got bottled off by bikies while the crowd roared “F– off, Pommies!”
He was behind the infamous Frank Sinatra 1974 tour when the singer called a female journalist “a two-bit hooker.”
Unions stopped food, drink and maid services to his Sydney hotel room, and his plane from being refuelled so he could leave Australia.
Quizzed by an ABC TV crew on Frankie’s violent reputation, the passive de Courcy stared into the camera, “I’ve smashed a journalist myself, and you’ve probably smashed someone too.”
In the 2003 movie about that tour, “The Night We Called It A Day”, Joel Edgerton played Rod Blue, a character based on de Courcy.
In the movie, Blue flies to Los Angeles to pitch to Sinatra’s manager by declaring what his music means to him personally.
The singer overhears, takes a liking for the kid’s chutzpah, and agrees.
The Australian promoter was also mentioned in Alan Clayson’s book, “John Lennon,” when the Beatle recalled meeting him backstage at Melbourne Festival Hall during their 1964 visit.
“He had a handshake like a fookin’ bear” adding he could tell “he wasn’t a p***.”
Among other projects de Courcy initiated, or was part of, were the It’s A Long Way To The Top tour, the 1988 World Expo, and the famine charity shows E.A.T. (East Africa Tragedy), Oz For Africa and the Australian leg of Live Aid.
Because of the charity shows, the then-prime minister Bob Hawke wanted to reward him with a gong on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
De Courcy replied, “Sorry, Bob, I don’t volunteer for these things to get an award from the Royal Family, or anyone else for that matter.”
In America, he worked on the 20th anniversary of the Monterey Pop festival, the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic “Great Balls Of Fire” and one of California governor Jerry Brown’s three presidential campaigns.
He also represented the Australian rights to the Elvis Presley estate, as well as those of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
He also looked after media personalities such as Molly Meldrum, Gavin Wood, Garry McDonald/ Norman Gunston, Barry Humphries, Jennifer Keyte and Denise Drysdale.
Wood, then a radio presenter and the voice of Countdown, believes de Courcy’s success lay with two elements.
“A knowledge of pop culture that was impressive, and a gift to see the future,” Wood told TIO exclusively over the weekend.
“I always said that Brian gave great phone. His big voice could convince anyone on the other end of the line to believe in him.
“He was a visionary from the sixties right to the end of his colourful life.
“We have lost another pioneer in the music industry.”