|August 1, 2016
The Rosebud Agency Celebrates 40th Anniversary
1976 - 2016
The Rosebud Agency wound down its role as an active booking agency at the start of 2014. Agency founder Mike Kappus continues to work on special projects in addition to select artist management as he has for the past 46 years. This includes overseeing music related business for the estates of JJ Cale and the late Captain Beefheart. Kappus has also begun work as an Independent Board Director for the new Jonathan Logan Family Foundation as well as consulting for San Francisco's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, among other new projects.
Established in 1976 (surely a contender for one of the longest-running sole proprietorship agencies), Rosebud expanded from an initial North American focus to booking performances in Europe soon after and has represented its artists worldwide ever since. Over 37 years, the company has accomplished a good deal; its intentionally small artist roster has racked up over 116 Grammy® nominations and 28 wins, plus dozens of Gold and Platinum records globally.
Artists with over 20 years tenure at Rosebud included John Hammond, who was represented by Rosebud for nearly 37 years, Loudon Wainwright III, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the recently deceased JJ Cale, who worked with Rosebud for 30 years. Cale, Robert Cray (22 years), and the late John Lee Hooker (25 years) were all management clients as well.
In addition to the above, over the years Rosebud has also represented Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers and later Mavis Staples' solo career, Charlie Watts, Ry Cooder, Ben Harper, T Bone Burnett, Michael Bloomfield, Rubén Blades, The Neville Brothers, Captain Beefheart, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Mose Allison, Zap Mama, John Lurie, ¡Cubanismo!, Antibalas, Willie Dixon, Femi Kuti, Tony Williams, John Hiatt and many more. A full list of artists represented by Rosebud over the years is noted at here.
One unprecedented highlight for Rosebud included booking George Thorogood's epic 50/50 tour, coordinated such that the band played all 50 states plus Washington, DC in 50 consecutive days. All dates were routed to average just under 250 miles driving per day in Thorogood's Checker cab, flying only between Hawaii and Alaska, the mainland start date in Portland, OR and one other detour to play with The Rolling Stones at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Rosebud factored heavily in the growth of a number of artists. Signing with the agency in 1983, Los Lobos grew from playing LA clubs when they first joined the roster to supporting U2 and touring the world in the wake of their #1 single, "La Bamba", from the #1 album of the same name. In other instances of breaking down barriers for non-mainstream artists, Robert Cray's double platinum Strong Persuader CD, his first outing as a Rosebud-managed artist, reinforced the commercial viability of Blues. Kappus followed that by taking on management for then booking client, John Lee Hooker, acting as executive producer of the Blues legend's comeback CD, The Healer, and each CD that followed until his passing in 2001. These resulted in Hooker earning his first Gold records and first Grammy® Awards - 4 Grammys in total including 2 for Don't Look Back, co-produced by Kappus and Van Morrison. All this while Hooker was in his seventies and nearly 50 years into his recording career.
Kappus also acted as executive producer or co-producer on CDs by JJ Cale, Pops Staples, Robert Cray, Duke Robillard, Loudon Wainwright III, co-management client Trombone Shorty and John Hammond (scoring Grammy® nominations for 4 of 5 projects with Hammond). Those select projects on which Kappus was executive producer or co-producer earned 14 Grammy nominations and 4 wins. Those projects included collaborations with Keith Richards, Ry Cooder, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Herb Ellis, Charlie Musselwhite, Jimmie Vaughan, Lenny Kravitz, Bonnie Raitt, Booker T. Jones, Nick Lowe, Tom Waits, Johnny Winter, Canned Heat and Eric Clapton to name a few. Kappus also acted as associate producer on acclaimed documentaries on JJ Cale and John Lee Hooker. Among other awards, the Blues Foundation named Kappus Manager / Agent of the year in 4 separate years (no other agent or manager has won the award more than once).
Kappus initiated the HART Fund for The Blues Foundation in 1999 with his own personal funds, supplemented by proceeds from special W.C. Handy All Stars tours he organized to help fund the campaign. The W.C. Handy All Stars were made up of a revolving cast of the best in blues - all winners of W.C. Handy Awards (now known as Blues Music Awards). The concept was to bring to the blues world the same type of artist support that the R&B Foundation had established at the time for that genre - providing financial assistance to artists in need, for everything from paying medical and dental bills to burial costs. The HART Fund has gone on to thrive and attract supporters from around the world, helping artists in need every year while building funds for future rainy days. Kappus continues to support this and numerous other non-profit organizations in various ways.
In addition to booking and management duties, Kappus made CD deals for Mavis Staples, Bettye LaVette and Charlie Watts and was instrumental in helping Buddy Guy secure the record deal that resulted in his comeback albums, beginning with his breakthrough Damn Right, I've Got The Blues in 1991. Kappus was also hired by Van Morrison to oversee promotion and marketing for his April 2008 CD, Keep It Simple. The record's entry in the Billboard pop charts at #10 marked the highest ever US chart position in Van Morrison's lengthy career at that point.
As head of The Rosebud Agency, Kappus has also incorporated policies focused on environmental and social responsibility issues into the company's daily routine. The Rosebud office was converted to full solar power in 2000 (the largest such installation in San Francisco at the time) and was named in the first wave of green business certifications in San Francisco. Kappus' environmental concerns also drove him to coordinate 2 compilations for non-profit, Earthjustice, featuring artists from Tom Waits and Willie Nelson to Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Rubén Blades, Michael Franti, Ani DiFranco, Keb Mo, Ruth Brown, Etta James and many more.
The Rosebud Agency booking side went out on a very high note as Rosebud artists scored eight nominations and collaborated on many more in the 2014 Grammy Awards. Charlie Musselwhite brought home three nominations while the late Allen Toussaint was honored with two nominations, with one each going to Mavis Staples, James Cotton and Jim Lauderdale. Charlie Watts, Trombone Shorty, Mavis Staples (featured along with The Staple Singers), The Savoy Doucet Cajun Band and BeauSoleil's Michael Doucet also contributed to additional Grammy nominated projects that year.
The Blues Foundation inducted Mike Kappus into the Blues Hall of Fame the day before the Blues Music Awards on May 7, 2014 in Memphis, TN. The Blues Music Foundation has described Kappus as "the kind of manager and booking agent any musician would want" and "one of the most respected men in the business." Kappus has since been chosen to induct Eric Clapton in 2015 and Elvin Bishop in 2016 into the Blues Hall of Fame.
The Rosebud Agency continues with Kappus and key staff handling special projects. In addition to the on-going work, the office continues to sort, document and donate materials from Rosebud’s 40-year history (including over 45,000 contracts alone) for archiving at the Southern Folklife Collection at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
Mike Kappus' bio can be found at rosebudus.com/founder.