LifeNotes: Al Bunetta Passes

al bunetta

Al Bunetta, who spent more than 40 years guiding the careers of John Prine and the late Steve Goodman, passed away last night (March 22). Bunetta was recently diagnosed with cancer and admitted to Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, where he later died.

Bunetta was a lifelong entrepreneur, taking on the roles of artist manager, booking agent, record label head and producer. He started and ran his namesake management company, home to Prine and Goodman, and founded record companies with each of those artists. In 1981, Prine, Bunetta and Dan Einstein teamed for Oh Boy Records, one of the initial independent record labels and mail order businesses. With Goodman, he founded Red Pajamas Records.

In 1986, Bunetta won a Grammy for co-producing the Best Contemporary Folk Recording, A Tribute To Steve Goodman.

In 2006, Prine’s Fair & Square, released by Oh Boy, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

BMI Award-winners Paul Overstreet and John Prine are the newest additions to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Overstreet and Prine, along with Hal Blair and Rodney Crowell, were inducted November 2 during annual ceremonies hosted by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel in Nashville.

Al Bunetta, John Prine and Dawn Bunetta celebrate Prine’s 2003 induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel in Nashville. Photo: BMI.com

The enduring label’s latest project is September 78, a recording of Prine’s 1978 Chicago concert, being offered on orange vinyl for Record Store Day (April 18, 2015).

Bunetta’s career began as a roadie in the late ‘60s. He joined Paul Anka’s management company, CMA, as an artist manager working with artists such as Bette Midler, Al Green and The Manhattan Transfer. When the company signed Prine and Goodman to management contracts in 1971, Bunetta became the manager for both.

As an active and respected member of the Music Row community, Bunetta served on the board of the W.O. Smith Music School, and was involved with NARAS, CMA and Leadership Music.

He enjoyed car collecting, farming and family time.

He was preceded in death by son Juri Bunetta, who passed away in 2011. Al Bunetta and wife Dawn Bunetta started the Juri Bunetta Friendship Foundation and Building Bridges Golf Tournament in his loving memory, to benefit organizations including Safe Haven Family Shelter.

Al Bunetta is survived by Dawn and many other loved ones.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Juri Bunetta Friendship Foundation.

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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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