Jerry Weintraub Grammy Museum Exhibit Reveals How He Remade the Live Music Business

Jerry Weintraub (center) with The Carpenters in the 1970s.

The late producer played a pivotal role in helping artists from Elvis to Led Zeppelin usher in the age of the arena  tour: "His attitude was nobody did it better than him."

By the end of his life, Jerry Weintraub, who died in 2015, was best known in Hollywood for producing and appearing in the Ocean's movies. But before entering the film industry, the onetime assistant to Lew Wasserman made his name, and his fortune, in the 1970s by revolutionizing the concert business — the focus of a Grammy Museum exhibition, opening Aug. 15 and running through early December, which draws from his family's personal archives.

The exhibition chronicles how, beginning when he convinced Colonel Parker to take Elvis on the road, Weintraub invented the national arena act. "He went around to regional promoters, went direct to these bigger venues that hadn't been used in this way before, and allowed artists to own their tours," says show curator Kelsey Goelz. "He innovated the model, making enemies along the way."

From photos and contracts to tour merch like bomber jackets, the exhibit documents Weintraub's supersizing of American live music and how he lured an unrivaled client stable including the Beach Boys, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and the Bee Gees. 

Weintraub's son, Michael Weintraub, will join Bob Finkelstein (chairman, Frank Sinatra Enterprises), the Forum's GM Claire Rothman, and concert and touring pros John Meglen, Sims Hinds and Peter Jackson for a conversation tonight at the Clive Davis Theater about some of the stories behind the exhibit. 

Michael, who grew up hopscotching the globe with his father — Wembley with Neil Diamond, Budokan with Bob Dylan — believes Weintraub's crowning achievement was Sinatra's 1974 ABC special at Madison Square Garden, billed as The Main Event, which ended with "My Way."

"I don't ever remember him going to a show that he didn't have some involvement in," says Michael. "Then again, his attitude was nobody did it better than him."

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.