Dennis Armstead

Over four decades have passed since the formation of Yellow Go-Rilla Productions Ltd. on 4th April 1975. At that time there weren’t many Black Production companies working with Jazz in New York. With the help of two prominent impresarios, Ron Delsener and Sid Bernstein, the dream came alive. The debut venture in Live Music, June 1975 @ New York City’s Town Hall Venue, presenting Ray Barretto and Roy Ayers Ubiquity, was a financial disaster. This prompted a rethink and the direction moved from producing Live Entertainment to representation of artists. Alan Douglas of Douglas Records was looking for the right representation for the first radical Rap Group, The Last Poets which launched the next phase of my musical career.

Moving into personal representation and management, Yellow Go-Rilla went on to represent Hugh Masekela. After Hugh migrated to California, Roy Ayers approached me to represent him. Roy expanded his business and we set up Uno Melodic Records; we moved his recording contract from Polydor Records to CBS Records after I introduced Dr. George Butler who headed CBS’s Jazz Department. Miriam Makeba was living in Conakry, Guinea and wanted to return to the USA but needed representation and at Hugh Masekela’s suggestion, she got in touch. With the help of Ron Delsener, her first performance in many years took place at Lincoln Center, New York with special guest Jon Lucien. I became her personal manager, which opened my experience to the international market.

In the late 1970’s I built an association with the Black Music Department at CBS Records, now Sony Records, headed by LeBaron Taylor. This led to the first of Yellow Go-Rilla’s fundraisers for the Louis Armstrong Memorial Project “Satchmo 1976” at the Beacon Theater, New York, in April 1976. This fundraiser headlined Lou Rawls, Freddie Hubbard, Robin Kenyatta, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Orchestra featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, hosted by Marian Etoile & Ed Williams. Dr. George Butler invited me to join Special Events to promote new artists signed to the company, the first being Makoto Ozone, (Japanese pianist) and then later, working with the Doctor to put together a Tribute to Alberta Hunter.

My interest in African music became the focus for Yellow Go-Rilla and from the late ’70s I worked extensively with Miriam Makeba, touring Africa and taking African American artists such as Roy Ayers through tours of Nigeria with Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Moving to the UK in the early 1980’s to work once again with Hugh Masekela who had signed to Jive Records, he needed management and called on me. The Paul Simon Graceland’s tour in 1987 was a result of that reunion.

Following this successful project, Dick Scott, an old associate from the CBS Records days was the Manager of New Kids on the Block and was looking for representation for the band in Europe. This culminated in a worldwide tour and the setting up of an international fan club in 1990.

The 90’s took me back too my roots and my first love, Jazz. There was a hunger in Europe for US Jazz artists and I joined the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) to focus on live festival work. Representing many diverse artists from

Blossom Dearie to Freddie Hubbard to Ronnie Laws, most of the 90’s was spent working extensively on the re-building of Wayne Henderson / Wilton Felder’s Jazz Crusaders (formerly the Crusaders).

The following decade took me in the direction of another love, soul music. A London radio station had asked me to put together one of their autumn spectaculars, which culminated in a ‘Philly City of Brotherly Love 04’ Tour with Jean Carne, Billy Paul, Dexter Wansel and Bunny Sigler.

In 2005, Sandra St. Victor (Family Stand & Roy Ayers) had a great concept entitled Daughters of Soul. Comprising prominent Daughters – Lisa Simone (Nina Simone), Indira Khan (Chaka Khan), Lalah Hathaway (Donny Hathaway) and augmented by Nona Hendryx (LaBelle) Joyce Kennedy (Mother’s Finest) the few tours which took place extending all the way to the Nice Jazz Festival and Java Jazz Festival were a huge success. Unfortunately, with the Daughters own successful careers, getting them all together for a set number of dates proved too difficult to extend the project further.

Following on, I worked again with Makoto Ozone through Universal Records with Wulf Müller. Then in 2007, I worked with Joe Hunter & Jack Ashford – Funk Brothers, following the successful film ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown’. George Clinton as well as Tito Jackson joined the Funk Brothers through the Motown connection and I went on to work with Tito and his Bowler Band.

Jean Carne was working with her former husband Doug Carn, on a successful tour in the USA and I suggested bringing this to London. Meanwhile I continued to work with other artists, including Billy Paul and through my connection with Tito, brought the Las Vegas show of The Jacksons to the South of France.

Now semi-retired and with the music industry going through revolutionary change, I still dabble but only with artists who I have worked with before to help build their international appeal.

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52 Gover Court Paradise Road, London, SW4 6QN  |  +44 (0) 207 720 5224

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