January 2016. Forest died August 13 2015 due to complications and side effects from diabetes [Obituary]
by Nicole Barker
1st April, 2015
For the past thirty-five years, David Forest has been a name synonymous with the world of all male entertainment and porn, and a man infamous for his achievements and misdeeds in that business. However, his lengthy career as a booker, promoter and manager for some of the greatest bands of the sixties and seventies is perhaps less discussed and recognized. Beginning his career as a booking agent while still at university, Forest quickly advanced and ended up managing artists such as Shaun Cassidy, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot. Of all the acts he worked with, though, perhaps the most interesting is Fritz, a band from Northern California that gave Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham their start. Here he shares his memories of the Fleetwood Mac stars’ beginnings, the path they took to success, and the part he played in it.
In your first career, you dealt with some of the most famous and talented musicians this world has known. People who end up working with musicians often play music themselves in their youth. Was this the case for you?
My Mom started me with piano lessons when I was five. In fourth grade, in order to play in the Los Cerritos Elementary School Orchestra in Long Beach, CA, I had to play bass drum and occasionally piano, though they already had a piano player. Actually, most kids had to wait until fifth grade to even get in the orchestra. The same problem (that there was already a piano player) happened in seventh grade, but that year I learned how to play the “string bass” in order to play in the Hughes Jr. High School orchestra. By my first year of college (1966, Stanford University) I had stopped playing any instrument.
It’s quite an unusual career, especially for a teenager, so how did you get into the business of booking bands while still at university?
When I was in the twelfth grade, I offered to help arrange our “Grad Night” party, which took place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in June of 1966. I loved dealing with the agents I used. My grandfather had been an orchestra/band leader and violinist when he was 20. He played the Southern California circuit of ballrooms in 1920-1925. The whole thing was in my blood. In the beginning of my freshmen year at Stanford in September 1966, I offered to be the social chairman of my dorm (Donner House/Stern Hall). I was in charge of putting on the parties almost every weekend. They didn’t use ‘DJs’. Instead, they used REAL bands. I liked a few of the ones I hired, and asked them if I could get them other jobs. Of course they all loved that.
Thus, The David Forest Booking Agency was founded, being located at 16 Donner, Stern Hall, Stanford University. I wasn’t even 18 years old. I had some weekend nights with as many as ten bands working frat parties, high schools and more.
You seem to have progressed very quickly. What aspects of the job did you take to naturally, and why do you think that was?
I loved making money. I liked the “boys in the bands” (LOL) and loved the ‘wheeling and dealing’ with the people who booked the bands at the various fraternities and high schools.
There was no formal education in terms of the career you found yourself in, so what was the steepest learning curve when you first started out?
I seemed to just assimilate naturally into the field of agent and then manager. I hated flakes and hated any cancellations. I wasn’t very good at accepting ‘changes’ to bookings already set.
In what time period as a booking agent and/or manager did you feel that you gained the most valuable experience? Why?
I went to work for Bill Graham in March of 1969 at his Millard Agency in San Francisco. We handled: The Grateful Dead, The Youngbloods, Santana, It’s A Beautiful Day, Country Joe & the Fish, Loading Zone, Country Weather, Aum and others. I worked in an area of the old Fillmore West that was about 100 feet from Bill Graham’s office. Just listening to him yell at people was amazing. What a great mentor to have. He’s the one who taught me “the name of the game is draw.”
Fritz had started as a high school band, so how and when did you first see them perform? What was your initial impression?
I needed a band for a job I had, a frat party. I mentioned it to the guy I dealt with at a frat house where Greg Buckingham was a member. Greg’s younger brother was Lindsey Buckingham. The frat house had just had Lindsey’s band, “Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band,” play for a party. My friend, the social chairman of that frat house, had Greg call me with his brother’s number. I called Lindsey and went to see his band at practice at his parent’s home in their garage. I was impressed with the girl singer (Stevie) and their great vocals. They also did songs that not all of the bands did, songs by Buffalo Springfield, Young Rascals, and Dusty Springfield, for example. I told them, however, that to do the frat parties they HAD to include “Louie Louie,” “Satisfaction” and “Gloria” or the frat guys would be mad. They said “SURE”.
How did you actually become their booking agent? Had they been looking for more professional assistance in advancing their career, or was it just them taking advantage of happenstance and an offer?
I just knew that they were a step ahead of all of the other bands I worked with. I loved being around them and offering my help with everything from their set lists to outfits. I wanted them to be more professional than the other groups, and wanted to try to get them better gigs, more money, etc. I offered to manage them. They were the ONLY band I managed and booked.
In the late sixties, what other promising groups did you work with besides Fritz? What made them special to you?
People, Bogus Thunder, Stained Glass, and Syndicate of Sound. Then I started doing ‘concerts’ at high schools. Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Youngbloods, It’s A Beautiful Day and Sons of Champlain were some of the bands I used.
Fritz had not recorded. But I knew that that was going to happen soon. I was very close to Fritz. I had to counsel Stevie because the guys in Fritz didn’t like her being ‘out front’, and they actually wanted her to stay back and NOT be the star. Also she had affairs, first with Brian Kane (the guitarist) then later, Lindsey [Buckingham].
Did Fritz differ from these other bands you booked in the early days and, if so, how?
Fritz was far ahead of the local groups. They had original songs. Stevie was terrific, and they were the TOP band in that Santa Clara Valley, San Jose area.
What were the typical first-time reactions of other promoters and the ordinary public regarding the band Fritz and its sound?
They loved their harmonies. They loved their very professional stage presence. They loved Stevie.
You relayed informative letters to the band regarding gigs and potential opportunities. Was it important to you to keep these avenues of communication open? How important is the relationship between a band and their booking agent and manager?
I was a great manager. I even ‘wrote’ their set lists. I handled all the money, the equipment guys, gave everyone directions to all of the gigs, and more. I had to communicate via mail when I left the Bay Area in September of 1969 and moved back to L.A. to take a job with International Famous Agency. During this time I continued to manage Fritz. IFA didn’t know about my little band in the Bay Area. It’s very important for a manager to have a great relationship with the star(s). I was becoming very knowledgeable regarding the contemporary music business and I shared what I learned with Fritz. I seemed to have a flare for helping them with their promotion, staging, outfits, and show.
How much influence did you have, or want to have, on Fritz’s development, both regarding onstage presence and in terms of song selection?
I had total influence. I felt that I knew what was best for them. It seemed to work well.
Songwriting became a big part of Stevie and Lindsey’s lives, but this wasn’t evident in the early days of their career, with Javier Pacheco providing most of the original songs. Did you know the potential Stevie and Lindsey had at this early stage?
I was finding out that Stevie and Lindsey were becoming better and better songwriters. Keeping Javier under control was hard. He was quite a piece of work.
Speaking of Stevie and Lindsey as individuals, what were your impressions of each of them when you first met, and when you first saw them perform? The person and the artist onstage aren’t always the same, after all.
Stevie was a natural. Unfortunately, she had to tame things down to keep the other guys happy. They were so stupid to ever want her to stay back. She was the ‘show.’ But, they wanted it all to be equal. You see what eventually happened. Lindsey had to ‘become’ a star. He was always very tame and NOT real aggressive about his stage presence. He did, though, became better and better.
Fritz seemed to progress from school dances to opening for some impressive acts quite quickly. Why would you say that is? What elements contributed to that?
They were stars. It was just obvious that they were more than just a typical local band. I tried to help create that image by getting them the opening act spots, etc.
What would you say was the strongest thing about Fritz as a band? The weakest?
Brian and Javier were very tame on stage. They just played their music and let Stevie, Lindsey and Bob Aquirre be the showmen. Their harmonies were always a standout. Some of their originals weren’t that exciting. They had to learn to let Stevie ‘lead the show.’
Artistic temperaments are notoriously difficult, and band dynamics can be complicated. Was Fritz fairly conflict free from your perspective? Did they have a common vision?
As I mentioned, the biggest problem was Javier and Brian wanting to keep Stevie from stealing the show. They should have let her go; that probably was the cause of the bank breaking up. Javier and Brian were too worried about Stevie hogging the spotlight, which she should have.
Stevie has talked about being influenced by performers Fritz opened for such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Was this influence clear in her progression as an artist within the band? Do you know if she actually met either artist?
I don’t think she met either, and though she would have loved to be THE front person, the boys (even Lindsey at times) wouldn’t have it.
Were you aware at the time or later that a record was released, trying to cash in on Fritz? Released by Karma Records, it contained a song by Javier Pacheco called “You Don’t Get Young Anymore”, and “What the World Needs Now” by Burt Bacharach. Instead of Fritz, the group was called ‘Sincerely, San Jose’. They used recordings made by the group in 1967. Any thoughts or knowledge of this?
I’ve NEVER, EVER heard anything about that. Really?
Bill Graham, famous concert promoter, was brought to see the band, I believe. What did he think of Fritz as a group? Was it true that he once expressed interest in managing them?
Bill saw Fritz when they did one of his Tuesday night ‘audition nights’, I think; not 100% sure if we did one of those or not. He definitely saw them when they did a four-night engagement, where they performed two nights at Fillmore West and two at Winterland. I believe those were with Chicago. I never heard of him wanting to manage the band. I was their manager and Bill knew that. They played that gig when I was then at Creative Management Associates. l left IFA after only 6 months and by 1970 I was at CMA.
In one letter to Fritz, you wrote that their Fillmore engagement was successful, and that “Bill Graham praised your tight sets, your excellent variety, your professional stage presence, and your fine attitude.” You also mentioned that later that week you would be flying important people up to see their gig at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds (opening for Norman Greenbaum and The Moody Blues). How did you sell Fritz to people you wished to see them? Did they have a unique selling point that you could see in them?
I don’t remember the letter OR saying I’d fly people to see them. I always bragged about them to everyone. However, there just was no one that ever really wanted to sign Fritz. The ‘front end’ (Stevie and Lindsey) was fabulous, but the ‘back end’ just didn’t hold up the front. I think that’s why Fritz never made it. Lindsey shouldn’t have been playing bass; they needed a separate bass player. [He] should have been rhythm guitar and vocals. They didn’t have the kick that they needed. Bob was a good drummer but not strong enough, and Javier just didn’t have the star power for the big time.
What impact did working with Bill Graham have on your own business decisions and career path?
I loved how he stuck to his decisions. He was very tough. He knew how to assemble a great show. He was a total showman, himself. I followed a lot of his ideas for the outdoor biggies, such as Days on the Green. I did a total of four Anaheim Stadium shows in 1976 and 1977.
In 1970, you got a job at CMA, asked by David Geffen to head the contemporary music division. Did you learn any important lessons working there, and what made you want to leave?
I left after 3 years to open my own agency. I wanted to make more money, and I was tired of having people tell me whom we were going to sign/book. I hated some of the acts they brought on.
When you started the N.B.C Booking Agency, (summer of 1968) what was your ultimate goal?
To control the LOCAL market - high school and college bookings - and to do local rock concerts.
Did you or your partner keep any flyers or promotional material from that time?
Unfortunately, I did not realize that keeping that stuff would have been wise.
How was it managing a Bay Area band when you were in LA? Did this complicate anything for you or the band?
It was surely a challenge. I couldn't see their weekly gigs. I did a good job, however.
Was there ever a time when you thought of ceasing managing Fritz, and moving on? What was the prime reason for staying – belief in the artistic ability of the band, the potential for commercial success, an emotional tie to the group, a combination of the above, or none of the above?
I really thought that Fritz had a shot at being big, and so I wanted to stick with them and ride it out to the end.
What unique qualities and assets did you bring to the band’s management that others may not have?
I felt devoted to them. I was there from the beginning.
What was your main motivation and aim in bringing Fritz to L.A.?
They’d be closer to the record companies and might be able to interest one of them into signing them.
How did Keith Olsen come into the picture?
I don’t think Olsen did anything with Fritz. I think it was the guys from White Whale, wasn’t it? Who had come to one of my ‘private’ listening/viewing sessions at the Presidential Suite at the Hyatt on Sunset to see and hear Lindsey and Stevie, and eventually sign them? Didn’t they get them to Olsen? That area is blurry for me. I was NOT included, which I felt was a bad decision. Stevie and Lindsey didn’t even tell me until a while after the guys had heard and seen them at my thing. That whole situation is not clear. I also was told that they (White Whale guys) did NOT come to the hotel sessions. Who knows?
Olsen cut a few songs with Fritz, but ultimately he seemed to just want Stevie and Lindsey, I believe. Had you anticipated that ever happening?
Fritz had broken up. Stevie and Lindsey was what I was selling.
How did the rest of the band handle Stevie and Lindsey being singled out? Stevie likes to say that they felt rather guilty and sad about it, but from your perspective, what was Stevie and Lindsey’s reaction?
Stevie and Lindsey were ‘over’ Fritz. Time to move on. We beat Fritz into the ground and couldn’t get them a deal. I signed them with Todd Schiffman and Larry Larson of American Talent Management, and we did a show at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. We still couldn’t get any studio to make an offer. It was the same Stevie and Lindsey, really amazing, [but] Fritz seemed to ‘hide’ them or something, perhaps bogged them down and didn’t showcase their real talents. Stevie and Lindsey on their own were so much better than Fritz, and, of course, Stevie and Lindsey as part of Fleetwood Mac was the BOMB.
Stevie and Lindsey usually maintain that they didn’t have a romantic relationship until after Fritz was disbanded, but other accounts say they were together much earlier. This naturally would have affected the band’s dynamic and how they made their decisions regarding their career. Did you see that happen?
They began while Fritz was together but didn’t get really ‘heavy’ until after the breakup.
After Fritz ended, Stevie and Lindsey became a duo as Buckingham Nicks. What was your involvement with the two of them at this stage?
I did the showcase. Nothing became of it.
It’s my understanding that you showcased Buckingham Nicks but they didn’t get any record company bidders. What was that experience like for them, and were they dispirited because of it? What caused the split between you and them?
With NO takers (until the White Whale guys contacted them directly several weeks after the showcase) what could I do? It had to end.
After you stopped managing them, did you keep in contact with them, or try and keep tabs on how they were doing?
Somewhat. But what could I do? As I said, I had beaten the band AND them into the ground. I couldn’t get a deal for them.
The Buckingham Nicks album wasn’t commercially successful, though they had moderate popularity in some pockets of the South. Do you think they would’ve been able to get another contract and become successful as a duo, if it weren’t for the call to join Fleetwood Mac?
They did TWO albums, didn’t they? They were meant to be rock and rollers. Buckingham Nicks was just not hard enough. The public loved them as rock stars with Fleetwood Mac.
What are your fondest memories of both Stevie and Lindsey?
Stevie was my ‘buddy.’ I even took her clothes shopping one day to some hot shops in Santa Cruz.
Lindsey and I weren't that close. I did respect him.
How critical do you believe their experience in Fritz was to their later success in Fleetwood Mac?
Very critical. It gave them all of the beginning ‘chops’ they needed for the big time.
Do you have any regrets in your dealings with either Fritz or Buckingham Nicks?
As Buckingham Nicks they became managed by BNB, a major L.A. management company. Eventually, though, they hated them and asked me to help them get out of the deal. I did and then I took them back on and began getting some gigs for them. Then the call from [Mick] Fleetwood came and the gigs had to be cancelled and my involvement was history.
The role of manager is sometimes unfortunately overlooked, or even ignored. How do you see your place in the history of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham?
I think my role has, unfortunately, been ignored and overlooked. However, if you read all of the above, it should be quite clear that I helped mold and shape them into major rock stars.