Thirty nine years is a long career span to be in one industry. But when it’s all at the same company—and as its leader for most of the time—then the proper word is “remarkable.” And so it seemed perfectly natural that a group of friends organized an evening with an invitation that read, “Join Us As We celebrate Joe Galante’s remarkable 39 years with RCA, BMG and Sony Music.” The party was hosted by a who’s who of industry heavyweights [see invitation graphic for a list] and held under a large tent next to Ronnie and Janine Dunn’s barn. Oh yeah, the invite also warned, “Please keep this a secret. It’s a surprise for Joe.”
About 135 guests (Joe’s fans—we were holding fans with his face on them) were waiting inside the tent when the “Chairman” arrived. As he told the crowd later, “I thought I was going with my wife Phran to an animal rescue fund raising event.” He was really surprised. (Keeping a secret among that many people in the music industry is pretty remarkable in itself.)
Seen schmoozing merrily under the big top and offering congratulations was an amazing collection of artists and industry leaders including Troy Tomlinson, Allen Butler, Skip Bishop, Steve and Ree Guyer Buchanan, Mary Ann McCready, Robert Deaton, Dale Morris, Tom Collins, Alan Kates, Tammy Genovese, David Gales, Jimmy Rector, Keith Stegall, David Corlew, Michael Vaden, Craig Wiseman, Clay Bradley, Pat Higdon, Tony Conway, Lisa Harless, Mark Bright, Mike Dungan, Luke Lewis, Clarence Spalding, Tom Baldrica, Allen Brown and Doc McGhee. Also present were Alan Jackson, The Warren Brothers, Renee Bell, Terry Hemmings, Barbara Mandrell, K.T. Oslin, Cindy Mabe, Ed Hardy, Sarah Trahern, Greg Hill, Whitney Daane, Nancy Russell, Paul Barnabee, Clint Higham and Lorrie Morgan.
Butch Waugh kicked off the program…which began with a short video containing a photo collage and a humorous vintage video clip of an evening when K.T. Oslin guest hosted Ralph Emery’s TNN evening talk show. She had Mr. Galante as a guest and after a bit of banter, she told the crowd that industry exec’s are so important, “but they’re not very interesting.” The tent crowd loved it…
Next was a group of speakers that told “Joe” stories. Kenny Chesney recalled that he was performing in an East TN bar when he heard that Joe had signed him to the label. “Joe changed my life,” Kenny testified with total sincerity.
Chesney also told a funny story of how it took some time to get used to Joe’s way of doing things, especially since Joe was from New York. “I had just finished recording some tracks and called Joe hoping he might come down the street to hear them that minute. I was brought up to say ‘Hey what are you doing? Are you busy?’ But when I said that to Joe, he snapped, ‘What do you mean what am I doing? I’m trying to keep this label train on its tracks. Of course I’m busy….”
Chesney’s story highlighted something that Joe’s friends in the tent already knew. He’s always been focused, organized and serious about giving 110% and not especially interested in small talk. But as several artists noted, if Joe believed in you, having him working to make your career successful was a treasured asset.
Kix Brooks praised Joe’s ability to “say the right things at the right time,” to him and partner Ronnie Dunn when the famous duo hit a rough patch in 2000. “Galante was able to renew our faith in what we were doing and inspire us, thereby adding an additional 10 career years,” Brooks said gratefully.
John Rich thanked Galante for getting “two shots.” “First with Lonestar, and then later as a solo act. He believed in what I was doing and gave me the chances.” (Speaking of shots, there were “39 Years” party-favor shot glasses, filled with tequila.)
Gerry House emceed, injecting a few of his trademark zingers in between speakers. House is another executive already sorely missed since he recently stepped down from his morning radio show post. (But that’s a story for another party…)
As the evening drew to a close, for those of us who witnessed many of Joe’s 39 years, it felt like more than just the end of a great party, it felt like the end of a era…