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January 8, 2009 

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Bob Lefsetz & Others Pay Tribute
Industry Legend, Bud Prager, Dies, He Was 79 - Bob Lefsetz & Others Pay Tribute
Posted: January 8, 2009
MONTAUK, NY (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) Bud Prager, longtime label executive and president of E.S.P. Management, Inc., lost his year-plus long battle with Esophageal Cancer at his home in Montauk, N.Y. on December 22nd. Born In New York City on January 16, 1929, he was a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, where he was the recipient of the school music award. He attended Hartwick College and New York University. On his return from active duty in the U.S. Army in Korea, he began attending law school at night while working full time, receiving his LL.B. from New York Law School.

He started his music industry career working for SESAC, one of three performing-rights organizations in the U.S., attaining the position of General Manager. During this period, he was also one of the founding members of the Country Music Association in Nashville.

From there, he went to Warner Bros. Records as an independent producer, then to Warner Bros. Music as an independent publishing affiliate, setting up their original Gospel Music division.

In the 1960s, he formed independent label Windfall Records with Felix Pappalardi, who produced the three Cream records (Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire, the first double album to be certified platinum, and Goodbye). The record company grew into Windfall Music Enterprises, which included artist management, publishing, production and recording divisions.

Pappalardi and Prager helped bring together and managed MOUNTAIN who would go on to write 'Mississippi Queen' and perform at Woodstock. After Mountain disbanded, guitarist Leslie West and Cream bassist Jack Bruce were brought together by Prager and became WEST, BRUCE & LAING. Later, Prager founded Phantom Records, distributed by RCA Records, and eventually, ESP Management Inc.

In 1976, Prager began a 17-year management affiliation with Foreigner. After repeatedly being turned down by all the major labels, Prager secured a deal with Atlantic Records. The "group that couldn't find a label" went on to sell tens of millions of albums. In 1986, Prager helped "resurrect" Bad Company, with former Ted Nugent vocalist Brian Howe replacing Paul Rodgers.

Damn Yankees, featuring Nugent, Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger, was another successful band in the late 1980s co-managed by Prager. He also co-managed Megadeth from 1995-2001, helping the hard-rock outfit led by original Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine find platinum success.

Between his record label, publishing and management interests, Prager was involved with Whitesnake, the Youngbloods, the Chambers Brothers, Free, Mitch Ryder, Dann Huff, Frank Filipetti, Gary Kurfirst, Mike Renault, Mylon and others.

At his death, Prager was president of ESP Management and on the board of directors of MRD, a Toronto-based royalty recovery service.

In addition to his career, he was an avid golfer, bridge player, and sports fan.

He leaves behind his wife of 42 years, the former Gloria Mahaney, son Evan S. (ESP II), daughter-in-law DJ, two grandsons, Ethan S. (ESP III) and Liam, and brother Harold of Arkansas.

A memorial service will be planned for early '09. If you would like details, email

Bob Lefsetz & Others Pay Tribute To Bud Prager

Bud told me he cut the Scotti Brothers in on Foreigner, gave them a percentage from record one.

He recited how he rescued the uber-talented Terry Thomas from a life of drudgery by selecting him to produce the reconstituted Bad Company.

Bud told me how he convinced Atlantic to let his best friend Felix Pappalardi produce Cream.

Today, Bud Prager was reunited with his old buddy in heaven.

A great manager can't work for anybody else, he's sui generis, he cares. Through sheer force of personality, he bends wills, he gets his act a slot, he schemes until his proteges break through.

Conventional wisdom is labels break acts. This is untrue. Behind every legendary performer is a great manager. Bob Dylan would still be little Bobby Zimmerman without Albert Grossman's direction. The Beatles wouldn't have become icons without Brian Epstein. Aerosmith wouldn't have broken through without David Krebs. Rather than study the label legends, dig deeper and discover the managers, who believed, oftentimes when no one else did, and shepherded their charges to greatness.

Bud Prager cared. He was compassionate. He could argue minutiae with you til dawn. No detail was too small for his attention. He may be gone, but the acts and records he brought into the marketplace will live forever.

I can still remember the first time I heard "Feels Like The First Time" on the radio. I drove straight to Music Odyssey on Wilshire and bought the album. Good isn't good enough, we're truly only interested in great. Bud Prager was a great manager.


I am notifying you of the passing of Bud Prager in Montauk L.I. today, Monday Dec. 22/08.

He died after a year long battle with cancer.

Announcements and press release will be forthcoming, but the family will choose a later time at which there will be a memorial for Bud. He would not have wanted to interfere with any holiday/family good times, as we all could use as much cheering up as possible these days.

However, for those of us who knew the passion and energy of this guy, he will be greatly missed...and a true believer in music and music creators has passed away.

best regards,

Marty Simon



I heard you already got news from Marty about the passing of my close friend and long time mentor, Bud Prager early this evening. As you know he was one of your subscribers, and occasional contributor.

I've been in touch with Bud every week (often 2-3 times a week) for the past two decades. I heard from both his wife, Gloria, and his son, Evan, this evening. They asked me to let you know that they are putting together an official obit/statement that they will be releasing in the very near future. There will be a memorial service sometime after the end of the year. Arrangements yet to be made....details to follow.

From me:
Bud's management history goes back as far as Leslie West, Cream, Felix Papalardi, and various other artists until he co-founded FOREIGNER with Mick Jones and managed their career to the top of the charts and 100+ million sales, setting the stage for the "corporate rock" era.

Bud was also my partner in the formation of the Damn Yankees, featuring Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, and Michael Cartellone.

He was one of the greatest friends and smartest guys I've ever known. My life won't be the same without him.


Doug Banker
McGhee Entertainment



Thought you might appreciate a couple of thoughts I sent to Rich Totoian who alerted me to Bud's passing. Rich was very close to him -- having worked for Bud for much of a few decades. I was fortunate enough to be part of Bud's team as an independent marketer many times.My thoughts to Rich about this truly remarkablel man:


So sad to hear of Bud's passing - how old was he. Was he recently ill? Always liked him -- he was very much a maverick amongst his peers - colorful and engaging in all he seemed to do. He was like a godfather to you and showed me only kindness. He really had the best ears for real rock music of anyone in his age bracket (could hear hits we often couldn't) and he was generous literally to a fault. He loved a good joke and would even enjoy being the foil of such. Such a great and appreciative audience for all the "schtick" you could come up with. Remember Hageed Halibib???

He was a really good guy and unlike many others in the biz, his word was his bond -- he paid and did not try to screw all of us he hired.

There is presently little left of the industry as we knew it, lived it & prospered in it. And now, a major player who made it so good for so long has left us.

I can still picture that great white head of hair and that smile.

Rest in peace, Mr. Prager


Ron Farber


Amen Bob, may Bud rest in peace.

George Ghiz


From: Pete Anderson
Subject: Re: Bud Prager/nice job ..& true


Thanks Bob...this is really true of Bud. I knew him some and met with him to show him some songs once, about 10 years ago at his office off Robertson by the Troub and he sat right there and listened to EVERY SONG we played (with an act I worked with) and he said, patiently and thoroughly...OK, THIS ONE'S GOOD, THIS ONE'S NOT GOOD AND THIS SONG'S GREAT AND HERE'S WHY...he gave us a lot of confidence and he was generous with his time and unusually supportive and enthusiastic and, indeed, caring. His anecdotes about the greatness of songs (he told us the story of I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS) really stuck with me as to melody and in needing to be UTTERLY MEMORABLE and SINGABLE...I loved my meeting with him, and think about his exuberance and his supportiveness and downright FRIENDLINESS all the time. My friend and colleague Ned Shankman had made the original call to him on my behalf as a songwriter & friend to bands, but when we went in to meet with Bud, it was as if I'd known him for 30 years. He was that warm and welcoming and outgoing. I really appreciate these kind words you've put forth on Bud's behalf and I could not agree with you more...Alden Marin


Toby Mamis:

Bud was old school, in the proper (good) sense of the phrase.



I worked with Bud and Foreigner for 6 years at Atlantic. My West Coast Regional Promotion territory included Los Angeles and KMET (The Mighty Met!), the first radio station in the United States to play Foreigner, followed by 1 hour as KLOS added it..... Bud became a good friend, as did Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, and I can attest that Bud was one of the most diligent & respected artist representatives I've ever met in my 52 years in the music/record industries. I didn't know of his passing until your email arrived this evening, which obviously makes it a sad day for all of us who knew and worked with him. I knew he was having health difficulties last year, around the same time I was going through my cancer episode. I'm so sorry he didn't make it all the way through. Bud has left a giant hole in our industry, but a wonderful legacy.

Barry Freeman


A fine tribute, Bob. Bud was a goodun and will be missed.

Never was there a time when this business needed managers of imagination, of unswerving belief in the artist, dedication to the cause and of canny marketing instincts.

And you're right. Sheer force of personality could well be the greatest asset. Hell, you could cut movie deals on the life stories of some of these characters. How about a manager's hall of fame? Or at least a rogue's gallery?

Marty Melhuish



Bud Prager was a MENSCH

Neil Lasher


thank you
......and rest well bud.... give my best to albert and brian.

Andrew Loog Oldham


This makes me very sad. I went to college with his son Evan and know first hand how truly great he was.

David Brinkley


Bud Prager.

They just don't make them like that anymore. I spoke with Bud when he was in the hospital and told him he'd be fine, he said "I hope so but you're usually wrong."

25 years ago, at the start of my career, I had signed the most horrific deal. An all encompassing management, publishing, production deal giving away everything in exchange for 150 dollars a week. My daughter was just born, I needed the money and I need entry into the business.

After about a year my paycheck was stopped and I was discarded. Lost and destitute, somehow I got to Bud. He got me a proper lawyer, free of charge, and untangled me from the mess I was in.Once a week I'd make the trek to NY from south Jersey to play him songs.

Man, talk about intimidating. That musty old office, him sitting behind that imposing desk with all those gold records hanging up around him and his size dwarfing me.

He would put the cassette in the machine, listen to the song until the first chorus, shut it off then throw the tape back to me across the desk saying "If you can't get it past me, you can't get it past anyone."

I kept going back because more than anything, I wanted to impress him. After a million tries, I did and he got me my first Top 40 hit.My writing and producing career took off and Bud never once asked for anything, never asked for commission. He'd say "I'm not managing you, I'm your friend"
Thank God I had a great career but he never once called in the marker.

On one of my birthdays around midnight, my doorbell rang. Bud drove down from NY and he standing there and said "Here, it's your birthday, where's the food?"

He was tough as nails, it was always like going to see the principal or headmaster, but you knew he cared.

One time in his office I asked him "Is Foreigner Mick and Lou?". He looked at me like I was nuts and said "Foreigner is Mick and ME!"

When I transitioned to manager I was even more blessed in my career. The year we were managing India.Arie and she was nominated for the 7 Grammy awards on her first album, Bud called me after the nominations and said "Is that you managing her? You must have had a good teacher."I did and he was.

I called him when I heard he was sick and we spoke at length about the business, about my new journey as a label owner, about life. brIn the middle of it he said "I'm still waiting for you to bring me Nelson."

Back when Nelson were huge I was very close friends with them and when they were looking for management I mentioned them to Bud.
They never got together but he still remembered that call from 20 years ago.

He was the best in every way. A manager of great wisdom, knowledge and vision. A father figure who knew how to turn your screws and make you better and above all, a great man with heart and soul hidden under a tough guy exterior. The prototype.

We always use the term "We lost one of the great ones." This time we have.

He was Bud and he will be missed.

Jack Ponti


thanks for writing about bud
bud and i were partners in mountain from 1969-1974 hope he gets to hang with fe who also left us too early

gary kurfirst


I interviewed Bud for my book The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx (he managed Tommy Shaw and Glen Burtnik both at one point, as well as Damn Yankees later), and really enjoyed getting to talk to him. Bud was one of those great no-bullshit characters who would just tell it straight, which is why some of the people he has managed were a bit resentful afterward. He wasn't one to stroke some spoiled musician's giant ego. When he took over managing Bad Company right after the Fame and Fortune record came out, he told them bluntly, "Your record is dead." They said,"What do you mean, it just came out two weeks ago," and he said,"I don't care, it's dead. I'm telling you, radio is resistant to you without Paul, you've got to change your strategy." They were upset with him for saying that, but they listened, and after that he put them with Terry Thomas (whom he had dsicovered when he hired him to produce Tommy's Ambition album) and they had a huge multi-platinum run with Terry.

When Bud first met Tommy, it was right after A&M had dropped him after the What If debacle, and Tommy's attorney, John Branca, called Bud and said Tommy was going to need new management and a fresh approach if he was going to move forward, would Bud be interested in meeting him? Bud was aware of Styx, so he said yes, and he asked Branca to send Tommy's newest record. After listening to What If he called Branca back and said,"I'll give you a thousand dollars right now if you can honestly tell me that this album would ever be on your listening agenda." John laughed and said no, it isn't, and Prager said, 'That's because it's atrocious. Therefore I suggest you not set up this meeting, because it's going to be a very painful meeting for Tommy Shaw." And Branca said,"That's exactly what Tommy needs right now, is the truth, and you're just the man to give it to him." So they met, and Tommy brought along his assistant, and they're chatting, and when the subject of What If came up, Prager said,"I don't understand why someone as well-regarded as you would even make a terrible record like this," and Tommy flipped out and said,"You can't tell me that, you can't insult my album without specifics." So Prager made him sit there while he reached into his pocket for some notes he had taken; he made Tommy sit there while he shredded the album track by track, pointing out all of its obvious weaknesses one by one by one. Finally Tommy, crestfallen, admitted that he had been under the influence for a lot of the writing and production of What If, and Prager said,"Well, there's a great excuse. Is that what you want me to tell the radio guys?" Whereupon Tommy's roadie jumped up and said, "You can't talk to Tommy like that. He's down." And Prager - and this is why I loved the guy - said, "Shut up and sit down, or you can leave any time you want, either one of you." LOL. The next day Tommy called him up, having been so humbled, and asked him to be his manager, and he took Tommy from down and out and having been dropped, to a huge comeback with Damn Yankees.

A fond farewell to Bud Prager. There will never be another character like him.



I didn't know Bud well but, in an industry of mostly forgettable characters, he was unforgettable. He was respected, loved and hated, all the things a great manager must be. I've got to say that when the cards got cut, he always had a great hand.

A manager's responsibility is to treat his clients in a fiduciary modus operandi. A manager who isn't willing to draw blood occasionally to better and help advance his artists career and life. Bud did this but, he did it with class. Remember him fondly, he earned it, even if he was skinny and had hair.

Niles Siegel


Bud Prager was a Large Teddy Bear with a Gruff exterior and a heart of gold...I worked with him when I was at A&M with the band Giant...."Bud Prager calling" would always send a chill up my spine as I never knew whether he was going to ream me for a store not having one of his records or something positive that happened in my market...Either way another one of our trailblazers is gone and that makes me sad...

Al Marks


Bruce Springsteen and Mike Appel Shep Gordon and Alice Cooper
Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols
Chris Stamp & Kit Lambert and The Who
Bruce Allen and Bryan Adams/Loverboy/BTO Ray Danniels and Rush
Col. Tom and Elvis (took him to the top and then took him down)
Irving and The Eagles

Michael McCarty



I've known and adored Bud for nearly 30 years. Marty Simon and I have been building a small company with Bud for the last 3 years. Even when he became ill, talking about our project seemed to energize and make him feel better. He loved to focus on how to make things work and do them better. Marty and I would squabble like little brats until Bud would invariably "see it correctly" and set us straight. He was a North Star for us and a long list of people.

We were elated when he gave us the indication he was improving.

In 1985 I was in London working with Richard Donner on the film Ladyhawke. Bud called and said he was coming to over to attend a wedding and maybe we could grab a dinner. He bitched about the wedding being an 8 hour drive from London. Coincidentally Donner had mentioned he was attending the wedding and was going in a friend's helicopter. While Bud was on the phone I asked Dick if they had an extra seat on the chopper. Dick said jokingly "How important is Bud?" I said he's the best and most important manager in music. Donner said "Shit, I can see the headlines now; Chopper goes down with Prager and others".

I found out Bud loved bridge. A dear friend is Jill Meyers who has a film music clearance company. She is a world champion. I asked if would like to meet her for a lunch thinking it was something inconsequential. I swear it was like my 14 year guitar playing nephew when he met Steve Vai.

Bud is an irreplaceable jewel of a person. I really cherish the fact that I knew him, laughed with him and shared a friendship with him.

Joel Sill



I'm so sorry to hear this. I got to know Bud when I was the Atlantic Records label manager for Warner Canada in Foreigner's late 70's - mid 80's heyday. We sold a pile of those records in Canada and throughout it all Bud was attentive to the market - where some managers thought that life stopped north of the 49th parallel - always efficient and a true gentleman to boot. too soon.

Kim Cooke


I was a young dj in Memphis when I first met Bud and Rich Totorian. What great people and they knew we were serious about breaking Mountain. Played Mississippi Queen ten times in a row. ...Bud never forgot about us and the four hundred thousand watt station. RIP BUD

Jon Scott former WMC FM DJ


Hello Bob,

I couldn't agree more that a manager far outweighs the label in contributing to an artist's success. I represented Albert Grossman for many years and was constantly amazed by his resourcefulness in negotiations. If a label didn't accept Albert's first offer, the terms went up, not down! Even as a lawyer, I learned a lot from him.

Bob Gordon


Bob: Colonel Tom Parker told me that the object of personal management was to build duration into the act. Bud was a creator of time honored careers for artists who will never be forgotten. His legend will fade as those who understand what he brought to the game join him on the big back stage in the sky. But, the music that was born of his meticulous pursuit of perfection, cradled in the protection of his endless charm, will endure forever. Rest in peace Bud Prager, I remember you. Pax. Hartmann


Well written...better said...thanks. Bud was a leader...a bright...all-around "good guy" and one tuff SOB (when he had to be). He is already missed...big time.

Jerry F. Sharell


Bob thanks for that beautiful tribute to Bud. What I most admire about your writing is with brevity of words you say so much. Here is my response to Joel Denver last night. Perhaps you could cut and paste it in a future column. It would mean a lot to me and get to your vast readership, and to people that I know, but have lost touch with. Felix said when Bell Records fire you, and they will because you care to much about our band, and are not playing the company game. You have a job with me for life. I got canned and walked into Bud's office. His first words were oh no, now we have to pay you? What a ride. Two and one half years on the road with Mountain.

Thank you.

Richard Totoian

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Totoian
To: Joel Denver
Subject: Re: Bud Prager

He was diagnosed, with cancer of the esophagus . He went through the usual treatment at Sloan Kettering both in NYC and Long Island closer to his home in Montauk. He told us a couple weeks ago that the doctor gave him six months to live. We knew he didn't have much time but didn't expect his six months would be more like one. Very sad. One of the finest men I every worked for. Felix Pappalardi told Bud to hire me back in The Mountain era, as I was working for Bell Records and they didn't get the potential of this band even as" Mississippi Queen" was inching its way on radio playlists. Felix and Bud both knew that I had a passion for this band. I was traveling with the band setting up interviews while calling others for an add. That's when Felix became partners with Bud and named their company "Windfall Management." Later after my days at A&M and Epic, I worked for him at ESP Mgmt. for ten years. Foreigner, Bad Company, Giant ,Glen Burtnick, Tall Stories, Megadeth, COC. and many other groups got the "Bud treatment" of going over their songs, and suggesting certain changes. "What do I know you are the artist, he would say, but if you can come up with a different chorus etc. I think you have something." Most responded in a positive way. Bud cared about people and he respected talent. He had a sharp mind for a put-down but was easy to break into his famous laugh when you gave it back to him. The "silver fox" shall be missed.Rich T.

On Dec 23, 2008, at 4:15 AM, Joel Denver wrote:

Hey Rich ...

Sorry to hear of Bud's passing. My condolences. He was a great man and loved music, and the bands he managed. What happened?

Thanks -- Joel

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Totoian
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 5:50 PM
To: Joel Denver
Subject: Bud Prager

Hi Joel just wanted to let you know that my old boss at ESP Mgmt.
and Felix Pappalardi's partner at Windfall Music passed away about an hour ago. Montauk LI.
Rich Totoian

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