Hitting the ‘high notes’ with Richard Loren, agent for The Doors, Jerry Garcia and more of rock’s biggest names

by Lisa Kristoff of The Boothbay Register

The life and times of Richard Loren as the booking agent for some of rock’s most legendary bands has been officially recorded in his self-published book, “High Notes: A Rock Memoir,” released last month. The author now makes his home in Midcoast Maine.

Fans of ’60s music will recognize the impressive, legendary rock bands he worked with, and became friends with, including: The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Chambers Brothers, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly and The Grateful Dead.

It all began when a guy Loren knew in Baltimore asked him to be his assistant manager at a summer camp tent-theater he was working at. Loren jumped on a plane.

The last week of performances, Liberace arrived. The flamboyantly dressed pianist who always played with a lit candelabra was so impressed with Loren’s attention to detail and ability, he told his agent that Loren had what it took to be an agent himself. Loren, however, was thinking of starting his own repertory theater.

Thanks to that recommendation from Liberace, Loren got an interview at The Agency for the Performing Arts, a booking agency in New York.

He was hired on the spot to book college gigs, but the agency didn’t have any performers the colleges were looking for, like r-o-c-k, man.

It was 1966 and 23-year-old Loren set out for Greenwich Village “trolling for talent.” He got a tip about the Airplane playing at the Cafe A Go Go for two weeks.

“I listened to every set, every note they played. I was really blown away.”

Soon after, Loren introduced Bill Graham, the Airplane’s agent, to his boss in New York, who got on, Loren said, “like scotch and rocks.”

On a handshake between the two, Loren ended up booking for the Airplane.

“I was ambitious, really outgoing,” Loren said. “It was handed to me on a silver platter, not a gold one. I worked for it.”

A few months later, Elecktra Records contacted Loren about one of its bands, The Doors.

It was 1967, and Loren first saw The Doors at a club on E59th Street. “I saw this Adonis on stage,” he said. “To watch (Jim Morrison) on stage gave me chills.”

“The Doors were special,” Loren said. “Jim was a shaman for his generation breaking us through to the other side. He never put on the same show. He was a poet whose muse you could see flow through him. The guys behind him were so impeccable, they made sounds to (complement) Jim’s movements.”

“It was a challenge to get him on stage relatively sober,” Loren recalled about his years working with Morrison. “I had to watch him like a hawk. I was successful about 90 percent of the time.”

By 1968, Loren was also booking Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. And, it was the year he realized he wasn’t suited for the business world; he truly bonded with the musicians

“I was too close to the artists,” Loren said. “I had one foot in the business world and the other in the artistic world. I loved the musicians and artists and hated to see how they were treated as commodities.”

On his last tour with the Chambers Brothers throughout Europe, he dropped acid for the first time and said it changed his life.

Loren found himself reviewing his life up to that point and realized being “a suit” wasn’t who he really was.

When he returned to New York, he quit the agency, sold all of his possessions and moved to Italy.

Loren returned to the United States in 1970. He wanted to reconnect with people he knew in the music business. He happened upon his friend David Grisman (a mandolin player) on a street in Greenwich Village, and within two weeks they were business partners as agents and promoters for a short time.

The Grateful Dead were playing the Filmore East in the Village. Grisman called Garcia and got two backstage passes for himself and Loren.

While handing out with The Grateful Dead in the Village, Loren said that Jerry Garcia encouraged the pair to move to California.

And Loren did.

Marty Balin (of the Airplane) stayed with Loren in his new digs for a month that year. Balin had a great many books on Egypt, which Loren read — and his fascination with Egypt and Egyptian mysticism began.

Loren said yes “in a nanosecond” when Garcia asked him to be his personal manager in 1970. By 1974, Loren was also the band’s agent and manager from 1974-1981.

In 1975 Loren traveled to Giza, Egypt. He recalled the moment, while riding a camel around the Sphinx, that he first laid eyes on the stage of the Sound and Light Theater with its dramatic backdrop of the Great Pyramid.

“I got goosebumps. I thought The Dead really could play here,” Loren said. “I went back to California and told Jerry about it. He was really psyched out.”

The planning went on for two years as Loren and some of the band members, including Phil Tesh, worked with the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry and U.S. State Department (among others), for permission.

In early 1978, Loren told the band, “it’s now or never.”

They chose two days, Sept. 15-16. Contrary to some reports, Loren said that when the dates were set neither he, or the band, realized a lunar eclipse would occur on the 16th.

“I was as blown away as anyone by the eclipse. And, that first night, I totally cried as they struck their first note and the lights went up,” Loren said. “It was surreal … and it was my vision.”

That vision was what he calls, “the crowning achievement” of his professional career.

Footage shot by Loren (and others on the scene), and music recorded during the concerts (mostly on the 16th), were finally released by Loren in a 30-year anniversary double CD, with a DVD, “Rocking the Cradle 1978,” in 2008.

Loren relates these stories and more in “High Notes: A Rock Memoir.”

He said he had to learn about narrative and flow and how to keep the “salient stuff in and jettison the rest.”

And that “salient stuff” makes for an intoxicating read by a man who, like The Doors tune, “Made the scene, week to week, day to day, hour to hour.”

Loren’s book signing and presentation (including a slide show) at Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, originally scheduled for Dec. 8, had to be rescheduled due to inclement weather. The new date is Friday,  Jan. 23 from 6-8 p.m.

See more here: http://ow.ly/Gxtj7