Ben Farrell, Tom Paquette, Garth Brooks and Tim Reese at Thompson Boling Arena
IEBA is honored to announce the induction of Garth Brooks, Bob Doyle, Ben Farrell, and the late Joe Harris into its Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place in Nashville on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at the close of IEBA’s 46th Annual Conference. IEBA’s Hall of Fame acknowledges elite entertainment industry professionals and includes Dick Clark, Johnny Cash & Lou Robin, The Doobie Brothers, Erv Woolsey, Dale Morris, George & Nancy Jones, and Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo.
Brooks is booked in-house and managed by Bob Doyle & Associates. His tour is promoted exclusively by Ben Farrell, president of Lon Varnell Enterprises.
“I was lucky that the people I found in those first couple of years were on the side of writers, artists, and musicians,” Garth told Patsi Bale Cox for her book The Garth Factor. “I met too many creative people who had been run over by the business and I won’t say it made me paranoid, but it did make me watchful.”
Bob Doyle was the Director of Membership Relations at ASCAP’s Nashville office the day songwriter Stephanie Brown introduced him to Garth Brooks – 29 years ago. A trained percussionist, Doyle had a fine reputation for treating songwriters with courtesy and respect. A pilot and Lt. Colonel with the Tennessee Air National Guard, his cautious no-nonsense business style was well-thought-of on Music Row. Within months of their first meeting, Bob Doyle resigned his position at ASCAP to manage Garth Brooks.
“When you sit across the desk from talented people, people with so much potential, you start wondering if you’re really helping them make their dreams come true,” Doyle reflected. “I thought a lot about the courage it takes to come to this town and put everything on the line – it takes a lot of nerve to go for a creative career. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone with the guts to take that path. And in the end, what I decided was that I wanted to be someone who helped people live out their dreams. I don’t think I really understood the risk I was taking, quitting a safe job to try something completely new. But I had a line of credit and an artist I believed in.”
When booking agent Joe Harris heard Garth Brooks sing in 1988, he broke company policy and signed the new artist on the spot to a contract with Buddy Lee Attractions, before Brooks had a recording contract. Joe Harris was one of the most important people in Garth’s early career. “I give credit to Joe for breaking Garth as an act,” Doyle now says.
“In the beginning, Garth didn’t even have a label. But Joe used his contacts and his powers of persuasion to get him booked all over the country. These promoters and club owners had no idea what they were getting. They just took Joe Harris’s word. And then, of course, Garth delivered.”
Joe Harris was the only real booking agent Garth Brooks has ever had. “Uncle Joe, you know we owe it to you,” a lyric from “The Old Stuff” on Brooks’s 1995 release Fresh Horses, is a musical tribute to the man who recognized Brooks’s purpose, will, and unmistakable talent. Joe Harris died on Saturday, January 20, 1996 at age 57.
Legendary promoter Ben Farrell has been booking, managing and working with talent for Lon Varnell Enterprises for 46 years. The late Varnell, a founding Member of IEBA and also a Member of its Hall of Fame, established Lon Varnell Enterprises in Nashville in 1970. Ben Farrell was his first hire and has since worked with 21 artists in the Country Music Hall of Fame, booking and/or promoting more than 5,000 concerts and events with everyone from Elvis, The Statler Brothers, Merle Haggard and Elton John to Alan Jackson and George Strait in the earlier days. Often serving as an exclusive in-house promoter working directly with venues, Farrell has worked his friend and client Garth Brooks for 27 years starting in 1989, on Brooks’s first world tour in 1993, and again on Brooks’s 1996 – 98 tour. Now president of Varnell Enterprises, Farrell is a fixture on most “Promoter of the Year” lists.
“Ben Farrell is quite literally a tireless promoter of Garth Brooks,” proclaims Bob Doyle. “Ben’s work on our current tour began more than two years before we hit the stage on the first date. His relationships with venue managers and locals all across the country go back to the 80s and only get stronger with time. Much of the credit for the incredible success we are enjoying on this current tour goes to Ben for his savvy and his tenacity.”
IEBA will host its 46th Annual Conference October 9-11, 2016 at the Omni Nashville and Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. Registration is open. For more information, please visit ieba.org or call 615-679-9601. IEBA’s Honors and Awards Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, October 11 at 7:30pm at the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. This is a free private event for Conference Attendees only.