S.S. Fools - The Story
By Michael Allsup
1975: B. J. Management
Burt Jacobs was part of the team at Reb Foster Associates that had been the original managers of Three Dog Night. Burt had formed his own company and we were excited to be involved with our old friend again. S.S. Fools signed a management contract with Burt and he was ready to work hard for us. During our 3 Dog Night years, we were relentless in hammering Burt about his "weak" toupee, but he just didn't care and snarled lovingly at us when we would start with the jokes. (In fact, if you're reading this Burt, I labored long and hard in the digital realm "buffing" your piece to make you look good. So there!) Burt's background as a youth was that of a "bookie" back east and it translated very well into his position with Reb Foster Associates in the music industry. He was known as a very hard nosed negotiator, but he had a great sense of humor and always made sure that "The Dog" never left a trail of blood with any promoters. The first rule of the music business: Make sure they ALWAYS make money. This was done by a beautifully conceived creative pricing approach that lowered our guaranteed fee in exchange for a break point after a certain amount of ticket sales were achieved. At that point we would get a high percentage of the gate.
Let's take a hypothetical figure. Instead of charging a $10.00 guarantee for the band, Burt would drop it to $5.00 per date (with $2.50 in advance) which made the promoter sleep better prior to the gigs due to a lower guarantee , but after $5.00 in ticket sales we would often have a 70/30 split with us getting the 70% to go towards our costs which included personal and financial managers and touring costs and salaries. Of course to apply this strategy it is mandatory that you be aware of the capacity of each venue, the history of the promoter, and have very clear contractual definitions concerning back line equipment and lighting companies, the type of promotion to be used, how often, and a definite written time line when it will be implemented. It's something for all upcoming rock bands to consider. Always make sure that the people who bring you to town make money. ALWAYS. You'll be back if they do. It was not uncommon for our percentage at the break point to generate more than the guarantees. Of course it takes hit records, a good band and wonderful fans to do that. Some entertainers think the audience doesn't know diddley about music. I beg to differ. They ARE the best critics. They are the ones who know if a song/band is good or not, so don't fall into that lofty trap of patting yourself on the back thinking you can feed the masses whatever you want, as long as you get some local air play. It just isn't so and you'd damn well better be appreciative of the smiles you see. Very few things last forever. Oh, and one more thing: Musicians: Stop playing like you think you have an audience full of musicians out there. Of course, today darn near everybody DOES play guitar, but that's not the point. If you're out there trying to impress the musicians by playing right on the edge of your ability all the time ... you will find people walking out after a few numbers and that's all you will have left ... musicians. Audiences across America have a more sophisticated taste concerning "what is good" than do most of the finest musicians. Not all, but most. Trust me on this. It's the gospel truth. If you want to know the lyrics to a song ... ask a female. Something inherent to being a girl/woman. Guys are melody and rhythm nerds. Women are lyric nerds. Of course, this isn't 100% written in stone, but almost. Check it out and see if you don't find it to be true. Musicians, in great part, are just dysfunctional nerds following their dream in hopes that some of you will like what they're doing so they don't have to get a real job. If you do like their music, it gives validity to their quest and, heaven forbid, a means of making a living that is somewhat respectable in our society. Big money figures. I can hear you saying, "So why would you guys ever have to perform again in your life if you made all that money?" Financially? Don't ask. Too embarrassing. Why do we perform? Oh please. Surely you know by now that we love it. Big money doesn't necessarily mean that musicians aren't pure in their love of music. The love of music and entertaining audiences is the key and source of it all. If you think we always made big figures, you'd be wrong. When we first started we were getting $500 - $750 a night for the entire group. The managers made a considerable initial financial investment in our band in the lean, start up period that tends to be forgotten down the line. Oh, they made good money as we climbed the record charts, but their original investment was critical to the band's needs early on. I guess I'm trying to say "thank you," after the fact. "Thanks" Burt Jacobs. "Thanks" Bill Utley. "Thanks" Reb Foster. Now back to S.S. Fools.
While touring in Three Dog Night we played in Florida many, many times. Back in the early 70's we met a young man named Jamey Dell. Joe Schermie had told him he ought to come out to the west coast and maybe he could find a slot in the music business as a road manager. A few years passed and Jamey did just that. Burt agreed to give him a shot at being the road manager for S.S. Fools. He did great, but our touring would be over way too soon, although my friendship with Jamey would grow to new heights and last a lifetime.
We had been rehearsing at Stage 4 and finally did a presentation for Columbia record executives who offered us a contract. After some negotiations we had a "signing" party at Burt Jacob's house.
Below are a number of pictures from that day.