Don Law was there from the beginning of the Boston rock explosion. He was a Boston University student who started out by promoting legendary local act The Remains, who opened for the Beatles at Suffolk Downs in 1966. In 1968 Don became the manager of The Boston Tea Party club, throwing his weight toward many English bands — Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After — and was handsomely rewarded when they stayed loyal to him during their rise to arenas and stadiums. Law also showed his loyalty to the Boston Tea Party by showing up and speaking at the dedication of a plaque at the original site many years later. And he named his company Tea Party Concerts for a long time.

Law was a child of the music business. His dad, Don Law Sr., was a famous producer at Columbia Records in Nashville. The senior Law worked with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Ray Price, though perhaps most notably, he made a field recording of a performance by bluesman Robert Johnson in a San Antonio hotel room in 1936. But the younger Law wanted to be a regional promoter instead of a producer because the latter meant spending too much time away from home, which Law did not want to do when he eventually married and had two children of his own.

Law’s rise parallels the regional promoter heyday of the likes of San Francisco-based Bill Graham. But Law, unlike Graham, preferred to shun the spotlight. He has managed several acts through the years, including Pousette-Dart, Reeve Little and Livingston Taylor, but he is a concert promoter above all. And a savvy one. He sold the Don Law Company to SFX Entertainment (now Live Nation) for $80 million in 1998, but has since bought back some properties and acquired new ones. He and his partners now own the Paradise, Brighton Music Hall, the Opera House and have a 50 percent stake in Boston’s House of Blues, sharing it with Live Nation. He also has the operating contract for the Orpheum Theatre. “He’s a gentleman in a jungle,” as former Aerosmith manager Tim Collins once said of him.

(by Steve Morse)

Published On: March 23, 2013