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David Libert Dies: Alice Cooper’s Ex-Tour Manager, Shep Gordon Protégé & The Happenings Co-Founder Was 81

David Libert, a founding member of the ’60s pop group The Happenings as well a tour manager for Alice Cooper and Prince, manager for George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, the Runaways, Living Colour and many more, died February 20, according to a post on his official Instagram page. He was 81.

The title of Libert’s 2022 memoir is Rock and Roll Warrior, and it’s an apt one. Over the course of his decades in the music business, the Paterson, NJ-raised Libert found success as a musician, songwriter, road manager, concert promoter, author and (briefly) drug dealer, for which he spent about a year in prison.

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Just out of the Air Force in 1961, Libert started The Happenings with four other kids from Paterson. The group’s major hits were “See You in September” in 1966 and a cover version of George & Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” the following year, both of which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Two other singles, covers of “Go Away Little Girl” and “My Mammy,” hit to Top 15.

Despite that success, Libert decided to leave the group in 1970 to pursue other interests that had roots in his unique role with The Happenings.

“I was also the manager of the band. I liked it because I was dealing with record companies and booking agencies, promoters and publicity firms,” said Libert in a recent interview.

His big break came when he connected with supermensch and ubermanager Shep Gordon. Gordon managed Alice Cooper — among many other acts — but, according to Libert, “didn’t want to have to be on the road” because he had so many other responsibilities than just being on tour.

“I owe Shep almost everything that I learned about the business, no doubts,” Libert once said. “Not just tour managing, which I did not know really much about it, before meeting him but a lot more too. Working with Alice was really a tremendous job, travelling the world, hanging out with Alice and the band. It was just one big happy family, back then. I learned from Shep also how to handle complex situations and what it takes the whole touring machine going day in, day out. Shep wasn’t only a business administrator, really, he was part of the creative force of it all,

Libert became the Alice Cooper Band’s road manager in 1971 and lasted in that grinding gig until 1975. It was the peak of the group’s commercial success, when it racked up five consecutive Top 10 albums including the chart-topping Billion Dollar Babies. He also contributed backing vocals on that smash 1973 LP.

In Rock and Roll Warrior, he wrote of the tour manager gig: “There was no job manual, no job description, and no one telling me what my job was. My initial perception was a collection of about thirty or so crazy-looking people, completely unsupervised and crawling all over everything like giant insects. Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? I just quit my nice, convenient, cushy job road managing Rare Earth for this insanity? I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.”

What he discovered, however, was that Cooper and his crew were pros.

“All the people that worked for Alice were professionals. They really knew what they were doing,” he said. “There was a lot of equipment and props. Before anyone else, we carried our own lighting systems and sound systems and staging. It was my responsibility to make it run like a well oiled machine. It taught me responsibility, discipline and how to work with other people.”

Somehow, Libert said, he thrived in that environment.

He later started his own firm, the David Libert Agency, which caused a decades-long split with Gordon which, according to Libert, was healed after he published his memoir and the two reconnected.

The David Libert Agency represented a diverse lineup that included legends such as George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, spinoff Bootsy’s Rubber Band and up-and-comers like The Runaways.

Libert’s relationship with Clinton was key in his smooth interactions with Prince — who, according to others, could be difficult.

“When Prince was playing in Detroit for like, seven days in a row, it was during Thanksgiving that we all went up to George’s farm in Michigan for Thanksgiving and this was a huge deal, for Prince,” Libert recalled. “I don’t think I had ever seen him acting like he did, like a fan with his biggest idol. I guess that my association with Clinton was a key factor, in my working relationship with him, because he never came off like a jerk to me. To me, it was amazing that Prince would even care about what I thought about him, but likely, he did and it was nice.”

In the ’90s, he worked with “Cult of Personality” group Living Colour, which he called “one of the very best live bands that ever existed,” but broke up at the peak of their popularity.

“They were an amazing band,” Libert said. “I genuinely love those guys, they are very intelligent, disciplined, politically astute. It was a pleasure hanging out with those guys. I think that their downtime period, prior to breaking up the band, in the end it really hurt them. Who may predict what they would have become, if they stayed together? I am confident that they could have become as popular as bands like U2, Bon Jovi…”

Also in the category of “ones that got away” was Guns N’ Roses, whom Libert recalled being introduced to in about 1985 when they were living in a storage locker without a bathroom or running water.

“I went over there to check them out and was immediately impressed. Their songs were special and they were extremely disciplined when it came to the music. They practiced several hours a day, their songs were terrific, and their musicianship was high quality. I liked everything about them. They were the real deal. They were never not Guns N’ Roses. They were always Guns N’ Roses if they were together or hanging out individually. You knew that there was no way in hell they were not going to make it. I wanted to manage them.”

The issue with landing Guns N’ Roses was having the money to get them off the ground.

“I went looking for money and I failed in that pursuit,” he admitted. “So I had to walk away because I couldn’t have been a benefit to them.”

Here is the post on Libert’s Instagram page announcing his passing:

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