Remembering Glenn Wheatley, the man who had two great careers in music (Op-Ed)
It’s often said, you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. There’s truth to it. But you can tell a lot more by what is said about someone when they pass away.
When Glenn Wheatley died Feb. 1, at the age of 74, the outpouring of tributes painted a picture of the man. The rock star, the hustler, the rascal, the dreamer, the optimist, the manager, the visionary, the husband, the dad, the gentleman. Always the gentleman.
One of the most touching salutes came from the most unlikely of sources, AJ Maddah, the hard rock and metal aficionado who helmed the now-defunct Soundwave Festival.
“Independent promoters constantly skate on thin ice,” wrote Maddah on social media. “We were in an absolute predicament in late 2004 & losing all hope when #glennwheatley stepped in and trusted us to promote John Farnham & Tom Jones in Perth. Rest in peace my darling friend. I will never forget your kindness.”
Independent promoters constantly skate on thin ice. We were in an absolute predicament in late 2004 & losing all hope when #glennwheatley stepped in and trusted us to promote John Farnham & Tom Jones in Perth. Rest in peace my darling friend. I will never forget your kindness. pic.twitter.com/pQQpduQHwA— AJ (@iamnotshouting) February 2, 2022
As a rock ‘n’ roller, Wheatley flew higher than the rest of us. In just four years, The Master’s Apprentices made enough noise to earn a place among the immortals, in the ARIA Hall of Fame. ‘Because I love You’ is epic and timeless, the type of tune that never fails to produce goosebumps. Wheatley was, back in the day, the heart-throb on bass.
In 1972, Wheatley changed direction, but stayed in music. He would work alongside the bands instead of inside of one. It was a masterstroke, and history tells us so.
Wheatley guided the careers of John Farnham (2003), Glenn Shorrock (1991) and Little River Band (2004), all of whom are inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. It’s only a matter of time before Delta Goodrem, another artist spotted early by Wheatley, is elevated. Farnham’s Whispering Jack and Delta’s Innocent Eyes are among the biggest selling albums of all-time in these parts.
My only contact with Wheatley happened back in 2006, when I was living in London and working with Billboard as Global News Editor. I was asked to run point on an Australian music night for the City Showcase event, when I received a call from Wheatley. He’d read Christie Eliezer’s column, and wanted to pitch one of his bands.
Many of the traits were obvious on the call: the hustler, the optimist, the manager, the gentleman. As it turned out, the showcase bill was now stacked, and included triple ARIA Award winners The Audreys.
We chatted about life and music and work, and said our goodbyes.
Wheatley made some mistakes in life, mostly with money, and paid dearly for it. That’s not what he should be remembered for.
His greatness can be boiled down to a simple fact: He had two incredible careers in music. First, as a rock ‘n’ roller. Then, as a talent manager and impresario.
The late Michael Gudinski was a master of the independent music industry, his Mushroom Group operating two-dozen companies in every nook of the entertainment world. MG was the first to admit he couldn’t play a note.
Lemon Tree Music’s Regan Lethbridge and David Morgan are doing a fine job guiding the careers of Tones And I, Tash Sultana, Budjerah and others. Earlier, they enjoyed a ten-year career — and several APRA and AIR Award nominations — with Bonjah. The NZ-raised music professionals won’t be holding their collective breath for a call from the Hall of Fame.
Wheatley was the rarest of music men. A Hall of Fame-inducted rock star who swapped his guitar for a suit, and guided several acts to the top of the charts and into the Hall of Fame. It’s a rare achievement.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.