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Bob Fead, Longtime Executive at Liberty and A&M Records, Dies at 89

today01/04/2024

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Bob Fead, who held key positions with such powerhouse labels as Liberty Records and A&M Records from the 1960s into the 2000s, died Tuesday (Jan. 2) at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 89.

Fead was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska — the youngest of four children and the son of a semi-pro baseball player who died at an early age. Fead found work in Omaha selling men’s clothing but had a dream to move west. He soon found himself in Los Angeles working for a shirt company, but a chance meeting at a party with a record executive landed him a promotions job, on the spot, at Liberty Records.

Fead thrived at Liberty and helped drive radio airplay for such artists as Bobby Vee, Gene Pitney, Willie Nelson, Jan and Dean, Del Shannon and Vikki Carr. He worked alongside famed producer (and longtime friend) Snuff Garrett.

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After five years at Liberty, Fead was recruited by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss to join them at their fledgling A&M Records, where he eventually rose to senior vp of sales and marketing. While there, Fead worked with such legendary acts as Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, Quincy Jones, the Carpenters, Cat Stevens and Peter Frampton. As part of a deal that moved manufacturing and distribution to RCA, Fead shifted to RCA to oversee all aspects of sales and distribution for A&M and associated labels.

Fead later launched Alfa Records, a U.S.-based division of Japan’s Alfa Music, and found immediate success with 1960s singing star Lulu, whose “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)” made the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1981. Alfa also put Billy Vera and the Beaters on the map with a pair of Hot 100 hits that same year: “I Can Take Care of Myself” and “At This Moment.” The latter song belatedly reached No. 1 in January 1987 (on Rhino Records) after it was featured on the hit TV series Family Ties.

Fead also served as president of both Monument Records and Michael Nesmith’s Pacific Arts Video. In February 1982, A Pacific Arts Video release, Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts, won a Grammy for video of the year — making it the first Grammy ever awarded for a video.

Fead was next tapped to be president of Famous Music, a division of Paramount Pictures, where he managed music rights related to such classic films as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Godfather and Footloose.

Fead next landed at Warner/Chappell Music, where he managed publishing rights for his old friend, Quincy Jones, and developed a longtime publishing relationship with Burt Bacharach, serving as president of Bacharach’s publishing company.

Bacharach died last February. A&M co-founder Moss died last August, as did Harold Childs, the label’s senior vice president of promotion and sales.

Fead gave his personal time to various philanthropic ventures, including serving as president of the music chapter of City of Hope. He also served as a board member and later became president of Society of Singers, a philanthropic organization that helped singers experiencing financial problems. He would often invite friends to entertain at a small venue in L.A. and donate all the money from ticket sales to the organization. Some of the artists who performed, at Fead’s request, included Mac Davis, Jeff Barry, Jerry Fuller and the long-married Jackie DeShannon and Randy Edelman.

Fead additionally served on the board of ASCAP and The Johnny Mercer Foundation.

Fead was introduced to his future wife, Beverlye, 40 years ago by music agent John Doumanian. The Feads were longtime residents of Montecito, Calif.  In 2018, Beverlye wrote a warm recap of her husband’s life and career for The Montecito Journal. In the piece, she told the story of his fortuitous hiring at Liberty Records.

“After college, he came to California to work for a shirt company,” she wrote. “The first night he arrived in Los Angeles, he went to a party, and it changed the course of his life forever. He met a man who said Bob would make a good promotion man in the music business. He was willing to pay $85 a week, which was a lot of money in those days; Bob accepted the offer on the spot. He had no idea what to do, or what a promotion man was. His new employer gave him a record, told him to take it to radio stations to promote. He did. That was how he came to Liberty Records and to a business he has loved to this day.”

Until his retirement at age 81, Fead commuted between his home in Montecito and L.A. for work. More recently, the Feads returned to L.A. to be closer to family. 

Songwriter and current ASCAP president Paul Williams issued a statement on the passing of his longtime friend (and fellow Omaha native): “Bob was an important piece of so many success stories, including mine…his passion was wrapped in a camouflage that made people comfortable and accepting of his opinion of a new artist. Both [his] opinion and advocacy changed lives! To those who were blessed to know him, may your sweetest of memories grow stronger with every mention of his name. God bless you, Bob Fead.”

Fead is survived by his wife, Beverlye; children Michael (and his wife, Tera) and Laurella Fead (from a marriage to Marilyn Fead); brother Bill Fead; grandchildren Max Clark and Jackson Fead; and relatives from his wife’s side of the family, including Jim and Leslie Hyman, Terry Hamermesh, Tessa Hamermesh, Alex Hyman and Gideon Hyman.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests tribute donations be made to the Motion Picture Television Fund (Compassionate Care Fund) at https://mptf.com/ways-to-give/.

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