Brent Grulke, creative director of Austin’s South By Southwest Music Festival, died Aug. 13 in Austin, Texas. He was 52.
Grulke succumbed to cardiac arrest following oral surgery.
Grulke joined SXSW as a stage manager in its inaugural year of 1987, when just 200 bands performed. He was promoted to creative director in 1994 and helmed booking for the conference, overseeing its growth from a regionally focused event to a music biz institution with international reach. In 2012, nearly 2,300 acts played the Texas festival.
Born in North Platte, Neb., Grulke was a graduate of the U. of Texas, where he served as arts editor of the Daily Texan. After graduating in 1983, he worked as a tour manager and sound man for such local acts as the Wild Seeds, the True Believers, Doctors Mob and Bad Mutha Goose. He co-wrote the Wild Seeds’ best-known song, “I’m Sorry I Can’t Rock You All Night Long,” with frontman Michael Hall.
He also served as music editor of alternative weekly the Austin Chronicle, whose principals would later found SXSW.
After stints in San Francisco and New York, Grulke worked in marketing and distribution for the L.A.-based indie label Spindletop Records. He returned to Austin after the imprint relocated there.
He is survived by his wife Kristen and a son.