John Fagot, a legendary and popular promotion executive at Columbia, Capitol and Hollywood Records over the course of a four-decade career, has died. He was 78; no cause of death has been announced.
A warm Southerner with a self-effacing humor — as befits a man with his unusual surname, which he never shied away from — Fagot was widely beloved in the industry.
The Atlanta native started out in the mailroom at CBS Records in Atlanta in the mid-‘70s, moving up to local promotion manager for Columbia for Atlanta, the Carolinas and Dallas. He became the label’s national director of singles promotion in 1984 and was upped to VP two years later, leading the charge for Bruce Springsteen’s 15-times-platinum “Born in the U.S.A.” album and its five singles.
Not long after, Capitol Records named him VP of promotion, a post he held for several years, before moving over to Hollywood Records. He served as senior director of digital initiative for the Radio & Records trade publication from 2005-2009 and later as a consultant for Webspins, a company that monitors peer-to-peer services.
He graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning in 1972 before going to work for CBS Records upon graduation. His sense of humor was always front and center, including famously posing nude for a centerfold in Hits magazine.
Not surprisingly, some of his many friends stepped forward with tributes.
All Access president/publisher Joel Denver recalled, “I’d known and laughed with John for years. Every time we’d chat, he’d crack me up. A warm, sunny man credibility and so much personal love and support from his many friends, label teammates, and his family. When I opened the doors on All Access, he was one of my first clients and always a supporter.”
Former Hollywood Records promotion executive Jesus Garber said, “For those of you blessed to have worked in the real music business in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s, John was a star pop promotion man.”
Ex-Capitol GM Lou Mann wrote, “John made it so much fun, but he got the job done. He had a great sense of humor, and I could always count on him.”
“John Fagot was one of the most effective and passionate friends and music executives I have known,” said Steve Kingston, president of WRNR in Annapolis. “With John, it was a partnership; him and his label, his artist and our business. He once delivered Paul McCartney to Z100, and John made it clear to Paul that he should not only appear on air, but also take a picture not with me, but and the entire staff… Paul obliged. In the world of radio and music, John helped create once in a lifetime magic for his artists, and our audiences.”
Former Geffen chief Eddie Rosenblatt’s son Steve added, “Just a great guy to work with. You always wanted to be around John. Funny, charming and smart. An old-time promotion guy who did it with a style all his own.”
Veteran journalist Geoff Mayfield said, “For all the rich stories he could entertain you with about rock star moments and radio promotion adventures, his cool quotient soared immensely when he mentioned, almost as an aside, he’d marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.”
He is survived by his daughter Mary, an art director who is head of creative at Imprint Projects, a son, Chris, an account executive at Rightsline, and wife Lucy.