A Music Man’s Memoir

Photos courtesy All Exce$$ Occupation: Concert Promoter.

Danny Zelisko, an icon in the entertainment industry who has worked as a concert promotor for almost half a century, has filled a book with stories and never-before-seen photos of his memorable career covering more than 12,000 events.

He began working on All Exce$$ Occupation: Concert Promoter in 2016, hiring a ghostwriter that he saw selling his services on “Shark Tank.” That deal unraveled when the writer sold his business, and it wasn’t until this year that Danny began working on it again with a friend.

“When the COVID thing hit, I needed something to do, and this seemed to be the best time to follow up on that. So what we’ve been doing for these last six months is working on this book,” says Danny.

“I think everybody’s really gonna dig it, especially since they can’t go to shows. You can read this, and it talks all about a lot of shows that you’ve probably been to yourself. It’s about shows; it’s about entertainment; it’s about show business and concerts – it’s my history.”

Danny’s love for music began as a kid in Chicago when he and his brother would listen to the radio and play a game of trying to guess the name of the song and the artist. He discovered back then that he had an ear for picking out songs that would become a hit.

The first song he thought was a hit was “Please, Please Me” by a little-known group at the time called The Beatles. “The fact that I was right in the sense that I heard a song and suddenly, lo and behold, this is the biggest group in the world less than a year later,” he remembers. “That’s really turned me on. And I continue to do that.”

He started going to concerts as a teen. “I just loved the whole premise of staging shows,” says Danny. “I liked to see that guy come out before the show started and talk about other shows that they were bringing and everybody clapped and loved it. I wanted to be that guy.”

Danny decided to try and make a living at what he loved, and in 1973, he borrowed  $11,000 from his father and a family friend to start his promotion business. By the middle of 1974, he had done two shows and lost thousands.

“I wasn’t making any money. I didn’t make any provision for salary. I was cleaning buildings, which I got fired from because I took a couple of nights off to do my first show,” says Danny.

“One minute, I’m flying high and on top of the world. And the next minute, I’m out of my maintenance job that I need to have to eat and pay rent because 11 grand doesn’t go very far when you’re trying to invest it.”

It was a lot of money for his dad to come up with at the time. He was an electrician and made about $300 a week, so once the money was gone, he couldn’t afford to give Danny more.

Fortunately, his father did get to see Danny be successful. He got to see stadium shows with Paul McCartney and the Grateful Dead and made friends with the Scorpions and Iron Maiden.

Danny jokes about the hundreds of concert T-shirts he gave his father had and that he would be in a photo wearing a Twisted Sister T-shirt.

“We thought it was so great that he got to be a part of it for as long as he did, for about 20 or so years, he got to come to shows,” says Danny. His father was only 75 when he passed in 1995.

Those are some of Danny’s most precious memories. Some of his other favorites include meeting artists when they were “wide-eyed, optimistic and hopeful” about having a career in the music industry.

“I did Cheap Trick at Dooley’s for a dollar for three sets,” he remembers. “I had the Talking Heads in there for no guarantee. They made 60% of the door, and the ticket price was six bucks.”

Danny says that it’s very rewarding to work with bands that have made it big and respect the person who helped break them into that particular market and continue to work with them.

“Many of them are still my best friends. Some of the big ones – like Pink or Eric Clapton – these people and their handlers, their agents, their managers never forgot. But a lot of other people – who I’m not going to mention – how much better are you going to eat by cutting me out? And I and I’ve done your shows 10, 20 times here over the years.

“Nobody likes to be forgotten about. And I’m one of them, you know,” he says.

He reflects on some of his biggest shows. He considers his “Super Bowl” to be the three-day weekends he did with the Grateful Dead in Las Vegas in the 1990s. “We drew over 40,000 people a day for three days for five years in a row,” says Danny. Other big names he brought to Arizona include Paul McCartney, U2 and the Rolling Stones.

The stories that grace the pages of All Exce$$ Occupation: Concert Promoter read like a who’s who of the music business from the past five decades. The book is more a coffee table book than a novel with its more than 600 photos.

The book is due out on Oct. 1. You can pre-order your copy now for a special first edition printing at dzplive.com.  A part of the proceeds will be given to #SaveOurStages,* to support people in the music business that have been affected by COVID-19 and if you make a special donation to #SaveOurStages, Danny will even deliver your copy to you personally (Phoenix area only).

*#SaveOurStages is an initiative of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose mission is to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.

NIVA is working on getting the #SaveOurStagesAct and the #RestartAct passed to keep independent venues nationwide from closing permanently.

SIDENOTE: Danny appeared on Arizona Jewish Life’s cover in Sept. 2015. Click here to read that piece.

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