Q&A with veteran booking agent/manager Charlie Ellicott of Marin Artists, started out in the music business in 1966

"Music is critical to the masses. It communicates their feelings, their hopes and even their anger. I want music to sooth the soul, take us to a place of joy, nostalgia, surprise and maybe even enlightenment."

Charlie Ellicott: Peace, Love & Music

Charlie Ellicott started out in the music business in 1966 playing guitar and acting as manager/booker in a college band in Philadelphia. Originally from Long Island, he left college in 1967 and moved to New York City. In 1968 while managing a head shop on St. Mark's Place, Charlie heard that Bill Graham was hiring a new crew around the corner on Second Avenue at the soon to be opened Fillmore East. Charlie started working for Bill when the Fillmore East opened on March 8, 1968. In July of 1968 Charlie moved to San Francisco and took up residence with The Flamin' Groovies at the " Eleventh Avenue Circus". He went back to work for Bill Graham as stage manager at Fillmore West and Winterland until 1970. In 1979 Charlie went on the road with Maria Muldaur as a roadie and after one tour was promoted to Tour Manager. In 1983 Charlie retired from the road and established his first booking agency, Marin Artists. Clients included Maria Muldaur, David Crosby, Doug Sahm, Dan Hicks and Merl Saunders. 

(Charlie Ellicott / Photo by Heidi Ellicott-Pesic)

In January of 1991 Charlie established Ellicott Talent Group. A partial list of artists represented by ETG through 2009 includes Elvin Jones, Jimmy Smith, Ramsey Lewis, Shirley Horn, Nancy Wilson, Branford Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, Charlie Byrd, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, Randy Brecker, Benny Golson, Kevin Mahogany, Jimmy McGriff, Hank Crawford and others. In June of 2013 Charlie moved on and created his third agency, Alpha Dog Artists, representing Jazz great Benny Green, R&B legends Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, The Sons Of Champlin, the legendary It's A Beautiful Day, Blues masters Bex Marshall, Latin Rock legends, Malo (Suavecito) and more. March, 2018 Charlie have rebranded the agency MARIN ARTISTS. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The messages in the music underscored what I was seeing and hearing in my youth. I was drawn to the culture, the music inspired and influenced me to the point I just HAD to make music myself, to dive in to the movement, to bring joy and love at the same as speaking out loudly about the corruption in government, the hypocrisy of our elders and most of all, protesting the shameful "war" in Vietnam.

What characterize Marin Artists philosophy? Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

Marin Artists is a boutique management and booking agency whose philosophy is characterized by representing unique, talented, bookable artists. My most important meetings/experiences are many; 1966 - attending my first rock concert and meeting the Kinks backstage, I wanted to be them!; 1967 - joining a blues band in NYC and subsequently opening for Linda Ronstadt at the Bitter End in NYC; 1968 - I was hired by Bill Graham to be an usher and stage hand at the newly opened Fillmore East; 1969 - After moving to San Francisco in 1968, I was hired again by Bill Graham to be the stage manager at Fillmore West and Winterland.

The next significant meeting was with MARIA MULDAUR in 1979. She hired me to be her road manager and I toured with her for 3 years and then retired from the road to open Marin Artists. Most important meetings/clients are too many to list so here is a short list: ETTA JAMES, ELVIN JONES, ART BLAKEY, JIMMY SMITH, LYDIA PENSE, BILL CHAMPLIN, JAMES BROWN, SHIRLEY HORN.                 (Photo: Charlie Ellicott, California 1976)

"The messages in the music underscored what I was seeing and hearing in my youth. I was drawn to the culture, the music inspired and influenced me to the point I just HAD to make music myself, to dive in to the movement, to bring joy and love at the same as speaking out loudly about the corruption in government, the hypocrisy of our elders and most of all, protesting the shameful "war" in Vietnam."

What were the reasons that made the 60s to be the center of Folk/Rock/Blues/Jazz researches and experiments?

I am not an expert on the reasons but as an observer and participant, I can say it was a perfect storm, a perfect timing of social awareness, of creativity born of a feeling of freedom and frustration. The middle class was thriving, there was a lot of money to be made and the record companies recognized that "...something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear...", so they invested heavily in a maturing market that had money in their pockets.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Creativity, melody, lack of formula. I haven't fears for the future of music. It is an endless cycle of creativity and crap. In my opinion, we are in a period of crap, but this is the way of the music world.

What has made you laugh from Fillmore & Winterland, as stage manager and what touched you from Bill Graham?

Good question! My biggest laugh was the night Bill was dosed with Bear's (Owsley) primo LSD. It was Bill's first trip and possibly his last, but he was a joy to behold. The show was at Fillmore West and the bill was Sons Of Champlin and The Grateful Dead. We were always prepared to be dosed when either or both of those bands came in and that night was no different with exception of seeing Bill with a smile on his face that was ear to ear! And to top off the evening, after we had cleared the room, Bill had the basketball hoops lowered and The Fillmore Fingers basketball team was born in a purple haze of Acid!

"Creativity, melody, lack of formula. I haven't fears for the future of music. It is an endless cycle of creativity and crap. In my opinion, we are in a period of crap, but this is the way of the music world." (Photo: The famous music venue, Fillmore West at 10 South Van Ness Ave. San Francisco, California 1970)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music and life?

Music is the universal language of love. It transcends all races, religions, politics. If there was a God, it would be its voice. In life I've learned that you have to constantly work on making yourself a better person.

Are there any memories with Elvin Jones, Jimmy Smith, Maria Muldaur, and Doug Sahm which you’d like to share with us?

Hanging backstage with Elvin Jones at SF Jazz Festival w/Carlos Santana & Milt Jackson; first time I met Jimmy Smith he grabbed me by the balls!; breakfast at Mama's Royal Cafe in Mill Valley w/Doug Sahm after an all-nighter; touring with Maria Muldaur and her band of incredible, crazy musicians in the early eighties.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music is critical to the masses. It communicates their feelings, their hopes and even their anger. I want music to sooth the soul, take us to a place of joy, nostalgia, surprise and maybe even enlightenment.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to have attended Woodstock (as crew, not audience! haha). However, as I was working as stage manager for Bill Graham in San Francisco at the time, I had to stay home and run the scheduled shows at Fillmore West that weekend. At least I got to take over Bill's role as emcee!

Marin Artists - Home

(Photo: Charlie Ellicott)

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