EXPIRED: 03/16/10 – Herb Cohen, 77, left the US Army in the 50’s, moved to California and started to arrange small concerts and happenings with beat poets and folk singers like Pete Seeger and Odetta in coffee bars and hotspots like Los Angeles’ not-yet-famous Unicorn and Cosmo Alley clubs.
Eventually he hooked up with performers like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits, Tim Buckley, and Linda Ronstadt and started managing their careers.
But it was his association with Frank Zappa that gave him the most notoriety.
Cohen managed Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention from 1965, arranging their first club dates and, after encouraging record producer Tom Wilson to see them perform, securing their first record deal. He and Zappa went on to set up and jointly own the record labels Straight, Bizarre, and DiscReet Records which allowed Zappa to release whatever he wanted and produce artists he liked who couldn’t get signed elsewhere – like Captain Beefheart, the G.T.O.’s, Wild Man Fischer, early Alice Cooper, and a very dangerous and Lenny Bruce. After a decade, Cohen and Zappa parted company in a flurry of lawsuits.
Thirty years later another lawsuit came to mark Cohen’s legacy as he sued former client Tom Waits and British journalist Barney Hoskyns for libel. Turns out the two made some nasty remarks about Cohen’s managerial style in Hoskyns’ book Lowside of the Road, A Life of Tom Waits, published by Random House.