Country Hall Salutes Bonnie Garner

Bonnie Garner

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will present an interview honoring visionary music executive Bonnie Garner, as part of the Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum series. The forum is set for Tuesday, November 16, at 6 p.m. in the Ford Theater. It is free and open to the public.

The interview with Garner, whose multi-faceted career has included concert promotion, label A&R work, and artist management, will be hosted by Museum Writer/Editor Michael McCall. They will discuss her 40-year career and memories of the artists, songs, issues, opportunities and challenges. The interview will be illustrated with recordings, film clips and photos from the Museum’s archives, and Garner’s personal collection.

Garner’s career began at Chicago’s Conrad Hilton hotel, and then moved on to working for Playboy Press, as a member of Hugh Hefner’s staff. She eventually moved to Los Angeles and joined Hefner’s Playboy after Dark syndicated television show as a talent coordinator. Among the artists she was responsible for booking were Joe Cocker, the Grateful Dead, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Ike and Tina Turner. Transitioning to daytime programming, Garner relocated to New York to take a similar position at ABC-TV’s Dick Cavett Show where she booked Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa. When legendary concert promoter Bill Graham appeared on Cavett’s show, Garner worked with his executive assistant, Dale Franklin, who persuaded Garner to take a job at Graham’s Fillmore East concert hall.

From there she joined Kip Cohen’s A&R staff at Columbia Records, as the pop department’s only female, working with Dan Fogelberg, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and many others. She moved to Nashville in the ’70s and set up Columbia and Epic Records’ first Nashville pop division, with a roster including Fogelberg, John Hiatt, Tracy Nelson and others. Garner later joined the labels’ country division.

Garner’s career switched to management when she teamed with industry veteran Mark Rothbaum to run his Nashville office, managing Emmylou Harris, the Highwaymen, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, the O’Kanes and Marty Stuart. Her own Bonnie Garner Management worked with Lynn Anderson, Bonnie Bramlett, Andy Griggs, Lee Roy Parnell, Stuart and Joy Lynn White.

In 2002, with Mary Martin and Luke Lewis, Garner received a Grammy Award for co-producing Timeless, a tribute to Hank Williams. Garner retired from the music industry in 2007, and has devoted much of her free time to working with animals.

The Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum, made possible by the Gibson Foundation, was established in 2007 to honor music industry leaders who can be seen as the legatees of Scruggs, the wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs and the first woman in country music to take on roles as a booker and manager.

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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