CELEBRITY ACCESS

Industry Profile: Elaine Schock

— By Larry LeBlanc

 

This week in the Hot Seat: Elaine Schock, president of Shock Ink.

As a major figure in the music biz swirl, Elaine Schock gives importance and grace to personalized public relations.

As president of Los Angeles-based Shock Ink, her strategized advice to her clients may be discussed, analyzed, and agonized by them over and over; but the clarity, and passion of her commitment to them inspires journalists the world over.

"I've got the best publicist in the world, Elaine Schock," Toby Keith bragged in Billboard a few years back. "She kicks every other publicist's ass."

Now in its second incarnation, Shock Ink has a roster that also includes Willie Nelson, Fred Eaglesmith, David Lee Roth, Gabriel Iglesias, Heart, and Johnny Gimble.

Among her past clients are: Billy Joel, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Travis Tritt, Sinead O'Connor, Brooks & Dunn, Annie Lennox, Roberta Flack, Genesis, Trisha Yearwood, Rhonda Vincent, Dierks Bentley, Michael W. Smith, Phil Vassar, Melissa Ethridge, Henry Rollins, Buddy Guy, Harry Connick Jr., Prefab Sprouts, Lucinda Williams, Technotronic, the Stone Roses, and the American Music Awards.

Schock has directed national media campaigns for the Bangles, Bob Dylan, Huey Lewis & The News, and Billy Joel, among others. She booked an unknown Natalie Imbruglia on "Saturday Night Live" before her American debut album shipped to stores; and her aggressive media work laid the groundwork for the Dave Matthews Band's national breakthrough.

Schock's career began at Island Records in London in the '70s. This was followed by jobs at Casablanca, ABC, MCA in Los Angeles; and at Columbia, and Chrysalis in New York before setting up Shock Ink in 1987.

In 1996, Schock put her business on hiatus to be Sr. VP/Media & Artist Relations at RCA. She reopened Shock Ink in late 2000 after leaving RCA.

The Los Angeles Daily News once hailed Schock as 'The Queen of Controversy Spin."

After all, Schock deftly guided Toby Keith through his public spats with the Dixie Chicks, and with the late newsman Peter Jennings; dampened the media frenzy surrounding Billy Joel's divorce from Christie Brinkley; and tried to stick handle past the media bloodbath that followed Sinead O'Connor's Pope photo shredding incident on "Saturday Night Live."

You are a music industry lifer?

I am. I will always be.

Can you imagine yourself doing anything else?

No. It is the only thing I imagine myself doing.

Are you glad you are not handling John Mayer or Taylor Swift?

Yeah, I'm very glad I'm not doing either one of them. Though, the fact is that I love controversy. It invigorates you to figure out a way out (of a crisis). I've had my share of controversy. It's heartbreaking because it takes on a life of its own but also its energizing. You have to figure out a way, if you can, to plug it up. It's hard with all of the (media) outlets and everybody focusing on what's going on.

Has the media's handling of these events become more circus-like in recent years?

I think that it is much more difficult (to deal with) but (such stories) have always taken on a life of their own. For example, I handled Sinead O'Connor, and she tore up a picture of the Pope. She was one of my first clients at my company. I learned a lot from that. I also learned that a lot of (the life span of a controversy) is over with what the artist will or will not do. (That story) took on a life of its own but Sinead also had a life of her own. She had her issues, and the public certainly had their issues. It was never going to work out for her.

[Sinead O'Connor's career, particularly in the U.S. nosedived when she appeared on "Saturday Night Live" on Oct., 3 1992. She performed an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War" and tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II. This was apparently intended as a protest over the sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church. The following week, SNL host Joe Pesci held up the photo, explaining that he had taped it back together, and said that if it had been his show, "I would have gave her such a smack."]

Were you on the set?

Yes, I was on the set. Nobody knew that it was going to happen. I had negotiated what she was going to sing. Everything had to be approved. I had just had a baby, and I had to go back home and bathe it (between the rehearsal and the show). I came back, and Sinead had talked to G.E. Smith about changing songs.

He went out of his way to make sure that she got the second song that she wanted even though it had not been agreed to in advance. He was the one who went to Lorne Michaels (executive producer of "Saturday Night Live"), and said, "She's an artist. Let her change her song."

When I got there G.E. came to me and said, "This is what we are going to do." I was like, "'Scarlet Ribbons' is such a beautiful song. Why change it?" That was the song that she was going to sing originally. G.E. was like, "You don't get it. You are not an artist" and blew me off. Sinead played me the Bob Marley song, and it was very nice but it didn't grab me as one of her songs. It certainly wasn't off the album ["Am I Not Your Girl"]. But, you go with what the artist wants.

Two weeks after "Saturday Night Live" Sinead performed at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute concert at Madison Square Garden and was greeted by a mixture of cheers and jeers. She left the stage in tears.

That was really unfortunate. That stemmed from "Saturday Night Live."

Did that appearance torpedo her career in America?

That certainly helped to torpedo her career. If she had come back with a great record after that, it would have all changed. The public will forgive you if you are talented, and if you come back with something that they love.

After her apparent public melt-down, Britney Spears returned to public favor with a decent album ("Circus") and a successful international tour. R. Kelly's career appears to be unscathed as well.

I would have thought R. Kelly wouldn't have gotten away with it but he did. He came back with "Ignition" (which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100), and it was brilliant. R. Kelly's (alleged) video went everywhere, and it wasn't nice. But he's so talented that he came back (with a hit). People will forgive you for anything if you can bring them some pleasure.

[After a video of a man purported to be R. Kelly having sex with an underage girl was released, he was indicted on several counts of child pornography in 2002. The case went to trial in 2008, with the jury ruling Kelly not guilty on all 14 counts.]

News cycles seem endless today, and controversies seem to get ramped up.

Before TMZ, there was always the National Enquirer. Everything is bigger today. (A controversy) does take on a life of its own but it's shorter. I think with John Mayer that whole problem is going to be over before Playboy is off the stands.

[John Mayer's raunchy Interview in the March, 2010 issue of Playboy has been covered by over 1,500 media outlets. In the interview, he appears as being racist, and homophobic; and he talks about sex with Jessica Simpson and about his sexual habits in graphic terms.]

In the Feb. 4 (2010) issue of Rolling Stone, Mayer provided far too much information about his self-pleasuring habits. Maybe he shouldn't be doing interviews.

But he can't help himself.

Well, he's still young.

He's not young; he's 33. Being 33, you are not that young. He should know better. He has gotten away with (past comments) because he tweets all of the time. He is used to giving out information. But he really should stop. He should just play guitar for awhile. John Mayer is a musician and he should act like one. He should act like he's got loads of talent. All of this other stuff, this unfiltered nonsense, doesn't help his career. At this point, it has hurt him it but that can change easily.

Taylor Swift is big on Facebook and Twitter.

That's part of her allure. And she does connect (with fans).

Tweeting is like having no filter to the public. When an artist is being interviewed, there's usually a publicist or manager involved. With Twitter, that filter is taken away.

It's totally taken away, and because (artists) are used to it, it becomes a habit. Some are addicted to it. It is one of those things where there's no filter. John Mayer doesn't have a filter. A lot of people don't have filters. I was reading (an interview with) Sandra Bullock where she's talking about her surprise for husband which was having her pubic hair made into a heart. I'm thinking, "Where's her filter?" She's an Oscar nominee. Don't tell people this. It is unnecessary.

[This year Sandra Bullock garnered her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of real-life Good Samaritan Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side"].

It was initially reported that the moonshine and marijuana bust of Willie Nelson's band members involved him.

He wasn't anywhere near there.

You've worked for Willie for 6 years. How do you work with Willie when everybody wants to interview him?

Willie doesn't do (all interview requests) anymore. Willie does a few interviews. Because I know he will do, maybe, a few interviews, it's the ones with the most bang for the buck.

Would you take TV over print?

Not necessarily. It depends. We do really well with print, and it really works for Willie. The TV stuff we will do, but it's time consuming so I'm really selective. This really works for Willie. He sells a lot of records.

Everybody wants Toby Keith as well.

Every artist is different. What Toby will give me is a lot more than what Willie will give me. Willie, however, is giving me a lot more now than he did, say, a year ago. It really depends on what Willie is doing. Willie records all of the time; he tours all of the time. He wants to golf and have a family. He is the busiest artist I've ever met. Toby will give me a couple of weeks, but he will work non-stop.

Johnny Gimble's new album, "Celebrating With Friends." was released Feb. 16th on CMH Record. It features Willie, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, and Garrison Keillor as well as the album’s producer Ray Benson.

How do you work an album by a legend who is now in his 80s and was a member of Bob Wills' famous swing band, the Texas Playboys.

You push it where you can. You push it country because Johnny does have that. You push it Texas because he's there. Then you shoot for mainstream (media) and hope for the best. It's been a fight. All of the (media) things I wanted initially I got a lot of them. But a lot of times people just ignore that it's Johnny Gimble. I think he deserves better, but everybody is getting involved in other things, and they don't do as much on him as they should. He is available for interviews, and I have made that perfectly clear.

The media overlooks so many iconic figures today.

And they won't always be here. Because they won't always be here, this is really the time to take the opportunity (to do an interview). When it's too late, it's too late. They have missed an enormous opportunity to talk to a legend. It is beyond me why everybody wouldn't say, "I need this interview." It's history. You only get to talk to these historical people for so long.

Alan Jackson's new album "Freight Train" will be released March 30th. The title track was written by Fred Eaglesmith. Not bad for a Canadian singer/songwriter who is supposedly flying below the radar.

I think Fred would tell everyone that he's flying under the radar but I don't think he really is. He had the Miranda Lambert cover ("Time to Get a Gun") and Toby had a cover of his (with "White Rose"). I love Fred. He's a brilliant artist. He's so much fun to watch. I steal all of his jokes. If you haven't seen 10 Fred Eaglesmith shows then you are selling yourself short. He's everything you want an artist to be. He's very sweet, funny, and he's very smart. I'm dying to post his new songs. They are so brilliant."

There is a lack of music trade press today.

There is no trade press, really. You do get straight-ahead trade press but it's all straight-ahead. It's all the news that fits. Only a small group of people read. Billboard, Even when it was big, only a small group of people read it. (Freelance journalist) Melinda Newman will do (music industry-related stories) sporadically (in newspapers) like the Washington Post but she doesn't often have the normal (big) outlets. And, Phyllis Stark just started her (industry) newsletter (Stark Country).

In the '70s Robert Christgau wrote that there were five powerful American music critics critical to a new artist's career. You can't say that today.

No, you can't. If you didn't have those five important writers agreeing on an artist, you were basically screwed. They all loved Tom Petty, for instance, but not everybody likes Tom Petty. So it's better (today). Instead of having those important writers, there's something for everyone.

You worked with Billy Joel for years.

I was his publicist for 14 years. I took him on when I was working with Howard Bloom (the Howard Bloom Organization). I didn't want to. In those days, I was so punk. Howard wanted me to do Billy Joel. I ended up liking Billy a lot.

You handled his media when he and Christie Brinkley divorced in 1994. You deliberately broke that story.

We broke it where we thought it would do the least damage. We also broke it soon so nobody else could get it. I knew well ahead of time that (the divorce) was coming. So we had figured out how to do it with (the divorce) not being scandalous.

Billy Joel is an artist still largely misunderstood by the media.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he didn't have filters either (years ago). I had to talk to him at length about this. He would get hurt (by media criticism). I would have these long conversations with him, and say to him, "If you start feeling angry, just call me. I will talk you down. Don't call anyone without calling me first." It took a long time before that took. It could be an interview with a publication that had 3,000 readers and, at the same time, he would be on the cover of Rolling Stone. He would only think of how misunderstood he was by that journalist who only had 3,000 readers.

How does an artist handle bad reviews?

I tell all of the artists--and they all get taken aback by this--but I say, "Don't read your reviews. For one, you are never as good as they say you are; and second, you are never as bad. The good reviews will say that you are a God." That kind of thing messes (artists) up forever. It is among the worst things that can happen to artist when they start believing that.

Rod Stewart has been vilified by music journalists for years; he's had numerous mediocre albums; but all the bad media kept him alive in the public's eye.

It is one thing for media to keep you alive; it is another thing to want respect. Rod Stewart was never as respected as he should have been. And he's even less respected today. He's much better than that.

His recent R&B album "Soulbook" is incredible.

And he won't get the respect (from the media) because he lost it long ago.

Artists often say that many newspaper concert reviews are unfair.

I have seen reviewers leave a show and report on it like they were there the entire time. I have complained to editors. If I knew the editor pretty well, I would say that this is a pretty bad review but the (reviewer) didn't see the whole show. The fact is that the reviewer went to the show disliking the artist--fair enough—but, at least stay, for the whole show.

You get retractions but editors don't always believe you.

That's true. For example, I handle David Lee Roth. Two years, there was a fake David Lee Roth in Canada. I told (journalists) that it was a fake David Lee Roth and they didn't believe me because the police had said, "No. We have David Lee Roth. We saved him from his peanut allergy." David Lee Roth doesn't have a peanut allergy, and guy doesn't even look like David Lee Roth. I was insulted for David.

The fake David Lee Roth, dressed in flashy rock-star duds, bought drinks for people in a bar, and got up and sang.

He did. Finally, I said (to the journalists) "You guys are wrong. I don't care what the police say. David Lee Roth was singing in front of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden that night." Finally, they checked that out. But they didn't believe me when I first called. They thought I was lying.

[A wire service story reported that two Ontario Provincial Police officers had stopped David Lee Roth in a rented car for erratic driving near Oakland, a hamlet south of Brantford, Ontario. The story said the officers saved Roth after he suffered a severe allergic reaction to nuts while driving.

A follow-up article reported that Roth, after spending the evening in Brantford General Hospital, left with two nurses and strutted to the nearby Liquid Lounge, where he performed with a local band.

The two officers, hospital employees, and club patrons all thought they had spent some quality time with Diamond Dave. However, on May 23, 2008, the day the accident happened, Roth was performing at Madison Square Garden with Van Halen.]

What media would you try to attract for a debut album by a new pop band with members in their mid-20s? Not young kids.

You take it to the same places you have always taken it. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and where (a story will be) syndicated. You still go to Rolling Stone. You go to the places that you have always gone. And, you do that with even younger acts. You still want to be legitimate. That's important. For someone new, they need to be legitimate. They can't just be a celebrity.

How about a music project by a new young teen artist?

You start with the Disney Channel if you can. You do whatever you can with Nickelodeon. Try and get those choice awards (Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Fox's Teen Choice Awards). You meet with all of the teen magazines. You give them everything you can beauty-wise because, for teens, that matters more than anything. Then you try and get the legitimate (mainstream) publications.

The way that Taylor Swift broke was going to her base which is country.

She's so cute that it was hard not to like her. She could also go to the glamour magazines, Seventeen and Teen Vogue.

When you were growing up in the Valley (San Fernando Valley) in North Hollywood, did you have much music in the house?

We did have music in the house, but we had to blast it loud because my parents were so hard of hearing. My mom liked the Beatles, and Johnny Mathis as well as (the soundtracks) "West Side Story" and "South Pacific."

You worked in London in the '70s?

I went to London from Los Angeles after high school. I wasn't even 18. I graduated from high school early. I went over there on a fluke because in those days (young) people went over to Europe. It took me no time at all to get a job. I knew people in the record business, and I worked at Rolling Stone for about a week, and then at Island Records for the rest of the time I was there.

Rolling Stone then had a British version.

I was the receptionist for a couple of days but I ended up having a roommate who worked there. William Burroughs would come over for dinner, and so would John Paul Getty (III), the kid who lost his ear (during a kidnapping in 1973).

Then you got a job as a file clerk at island Records.

I was just a kid; I worked cheap; and I was bright. It was so impressive to me that all of these artists that I'd known about would come in including Traffic and Sandy Denny. I loved Sandy Denny. I loved all of those (Island artists) because they hung out (at the office).

And I learned a lot because it was a roundtable system. That's how Chris (owner Chris Blackwell) wanted everything. So you always knew what was going on.

When someone got fired, I was put in as a junior publicist. They paid me $100 a week and I took newspaper articles, pasted them on regular paper and filed them. Brian Blevins was the chief press officer, and there was Nick Hepburn and Vivien Goldman and me in the press office. Vivien gave me her apartment on Bonchurch Road (in London) which she had taken over from Chrissie Hynde.

Being so young and American, British music journalists and artists would have loved you.

I was the "in girl." Everybody loved me. The artists loved me. Having a teenager who had an American accent was different than anyone had known. It made me extremely popular.

You got kicked out of Britain by the government?

I didn't have a work permit. So after three years (the Home Office) came down on me. I was told that I had 48 hours to leave the country. I wasn't even 20. So leaving the country meant nothing to me. Okay fine, so my adventure is over. I left Bonchurch Road. It was easy to leave. I had nothing. It took some time before they really came after me. I knew they were going to come after me, but I wasn't deported. I have been able to go back there.

You then came home to Los Angeles and landed a job in the publicity department at Casablanca Records.

Sure, because I had learned (about publicity). Once you've learned, you can be anywhere. Being at Casablanca was completely the opposite of island. Being young, I still didn't get the respect. Susan Munao was the head publicist and I worked as her head assistant.

Was LA then a tough town to break into the music business?

I never had any trouble breaking into anything. I never had any trouble walking into the music business. Being cute was really helpful. It helped me through my career (in the music industry). People helped me along the way. If you were good at what you did, and you were cute--and were not promiscuous—they will help. (Male peers) have to want you, but they also have to admire you. Having all of those things really worked in my favor.

That meant never dating musicians.

I've never dated a musician. I would turn them down nicely. (A relationship with a musician) is the fastest way to ruin a career. Even in those early days, when I didn't think of this as a career, I knew better. I knew from being at the label, and witnessing all of that (behavior). If I wanted to be taken seriously, even for a short period of time, I had to behave differently.

After Casablanca, you worked at ABC Records and MCA

In those days, you could get job offers really easily. There were a lot of record companies. If you kind of became a star at one record company another record company wanted you.

At 21, you left MCA to head to New York.

MCA was so dull. I did get to work the Rossington-Collins Band. That was cool but they were totally crazy. I got to work Donnie Iris and a few artists that were really good. But everything there was so stiff and corporate. I was still single and I hadn't been (to New York) much before.

In New York, you worked for music industry publicist Howard Bloom.

I had a lot of friends at Rolling Stone, and (editor) Jim Henke got me that job. Howard had a great client list. I also knew Paul Nelson (a pioneer of rock criticism who was instrumental in launching and supporting the careers of Bob Dylan, the New York Dolls, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon). I could tell how legendary he was by being around him. He had that blond hair, the hat and he only smoked Sherman’s (Nat Sherman cigarettes). The (veteran) New York music writers were all so crazy. Being young, it was great to hang out with them. Working with Billy Joel kind of changed my life. I married one of his consultants. Later, Billy became one of my first clients when I opened my PR firm in New York.

As an associate director of publicity at Columbia Records, you worked with the Bangles, Billy Joel, and Bob Dylan.

I did indeed. I worked with all of them. Al Teller was my boss. He ran Columbia (as its president).

You were still pretty young.

When I worked at Columbia, I didn't know how important (veteran producer) John Hammond was in the music business. I found out much later. He had an office there. I knew him because I would see him every day, but I didn't know him to work with. He was much older at that point. He was very gentlemanly. I didn't know how important he was or anything about a bunch of other people that were around. (Beat poet) Allen Ginsberg would hang out at Columbia office every day. He would always be in the office next to me talking to (Columbia A&R man/publicist) Arthur Levy. He just looked like some schlump to me.

You worked briefly at Chrysalis Records in the late '80s.

I was at Columbia when Chrysalis offered me this great job. I had wanted to be sole director (of publicity), and they had offered that to me. I explained that I was pregnant, and would take maternity leave. They were fine with that. By the time I started at Chrysalis, the person who had hired me had left. The person that had taken over his job did not want somebody like me. It was a bad situation. But the artists really liked me.

You have represented numerous country acts like Trish Yearwood, Brooks and Dunn, Dierks Bentley, and Phil Vassar over the years. You work with Toby Keith, Willie Nelson and often with Travis Tritt.

Nashville is renowned for being a tight shop. Did you have trouble breaking in there being a LA-based publicist?

Yes, I think I did. But once you have a success, people kind of throw away whatever notions that they have. Success is everything. It changes your world. The first country artist that I took on when I restarted my (independent) career was Toby Keith. From there a lot of other artists hired me even though I am from LA. It is always pointed out that I am from LA. But there isn't a country publication I don't know or I don't have a relationship with or I am not close to.

Nashville is a difficult world to break into.

Very difficult.

When you worked at RCA Records did you handle country acts?

No. None because Joe Galante was the president of RCA Records (in New York) before I got there. It was a tough road for him to break into. RCA had had some terrible years. Joe kind of paid the price for a lot of that. So when he had agreed to go to Nashville (as head of RCA Nashville in 1982) the agreement was that the Nashville and the New York companies would be fully separate. So I never worked with any country people. We never communicated. If any of our artists went down to Nashville, they had nothing to do with the Nashville RCA office.

Was there the same separation when you were at Columbia Records?

The same separation. I didn't deal with any country artists, except for Roseanne Cash who was not considered a country artist there. We worked her at pop.

As an independent publicist you handled Mary Chapin Carpenter while she was still signed with Columbia.

Mary Chapin didn't really want to be a country artist but that was where she kind of existed while at Columbia Records. So she hired me. My job was to get her out of the country music area. That wasn't hard because she's from DC, and she had such great songs.

When Toby Keith plans a major tour do you discuss a publicity strategy together?

Yeah, sure. But lot of things Toby does take on a life of their own because Toby hits a chord with certain people. They will blame him for the war, for example. It's just one of those things.

He's a lightning rod for certain things.

He is and I know that going in.

It's also part of his appeal.

It is but he's bigger than that. He's a great artist -- a really great artist. A lot of that gets overshadowed by how he is perceived I think.

Well, with "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," and "American Soldier" Toby hit a nerve with non-conservatives.

Well the thing is that Toby is not that right wing. But people will think he's a right wing jerk. If you ask them why, they can't tell you because he's not. It is one of those things that I fight against.

American society is heavily polarized today. The George W. Bush years were very polarizing.

Yes, and I think the Barack Obama years are as well. I think that the Bush years were polarizing because of the war. Now there's the war but the war is kind of not (America's) big priority. It's healthcare or the economy. So the war is in the background, and it doesn't polarize this country. Everything else does.

The so-called feud between Toby and the Dixie Chicks was a bit about nothing wasn't it?

It was one of those things that we stepped away from almost as soon as it began. Obviously, I paid a little more attention to their remarks. But Toby didn't participate much in that fight. They did. They participated in that fight. They didn't really want to let it go. Then it kind of bit them in the butt.

[Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines began trading jabs after the release of his song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" in 2002. Maines declared that Keith was making country music sound "ignorant." Keith's response was to disparage Maines' songwriting abilities. In Aug. 2003, Keith said he was done feuding with Maines because he "realized there are far more important things to concentrate on."]

Toby recent swing through the UK, Norway, and Sweden, coupled with Taylor Swift's recent success in the European market, gives hope that Europe may be ready to embrace American country acts again.

His tour was totally successful. He should go back there soon and work on that momentum. The labels don't think that country works over there but they are wrong. Toby sold out everywhere. There were lines around the block. And Toby Keith is country music. There's no two ways about it. You cannot classify him as pop or anything else. He is country music. He sold out everywhere. It was a huge. And Toby did well with media there. So going back, the media will be even better.

There's the story that he was encouraged to play Europe after meeting some fans from Norway in an airport.

His album was platinum in Norway so it didn't come as a big surprise. But, I think him getting that kind of feedback certainly inspired him to tour there. I was really glad that he did. But he had the platinum record before that.

Few labels give tour support to country artists to tour Europe or the UK anymore. After successes there in the late 90's with Shania Twain, the Mavericks, and LeAnn Rimes. Nashville backed away from trying to break acts over there.

They backed away because some acts didn't happen there. So the record companies think country doesn't mean anything there. That's why they aren't marketing country over there. Now that Toby has happened, there will certainly be more artists going over there.

Your husband, author/journalist Mikal Gilmore is also a client.

I met Mikal when he was doing a Donna Summer story when I was at Casablanca Records. I would help (journalists) find research material. He asked me to look for some newspaper clippings. Then he and I became good friends. We just clicked. He's my best friend forever. Whenever he releases a book-- he's working on one now—I will set up his interviews.

[In 1977, Gilmore's brother Gary was executed by a firing squad in Utah for shooting two young Mormons. Mikal Gilmore's 1995 memoir, "Shot in the Heart," detailed his relationship with Gary and their often troubled family, continuing through to Gary's execution and its aftermath. In 2001, "Shot in the Heart" became an HBO film. In 2009 Gilmore released another book, "Stories Done: Writings on the 1960's and its Discontents."]

I didn't read "Shot In The Heart" until I helped Mikal work on it for HBO. I knew enough about his life not to read it. Reading it was a huge thing for me. But I have always loved his writing.

Larry LeBlanc was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, the London Times and the New York Times.