Former country music executive John Alexander has lived a fascinating life working in various different industries from baseball, radio, professional wrestling and country music. Readers can get a glimpse of his life in his new memoir Mat Memories: My Wild Life in Pro Wrestling, Country Music and With The Mets which is available today (April 6).
“The process [of writing the book] really started for me over the past several years because I’ve done so many different things in my professional career,” says Alexander. “But it really wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I thought seriously about the opportunity to write my story.”
The book, published through Canadian publisher ECW Press, and co-written alongside Greg Oliver, offers a look into his past careers that some in Nashville may not have known. Oliver has written over 17 books, mostly about wrestling. “I felt that I had a book in me and now it’s here, so I’m very excited about it,” says Alexander.
Alexander, born John Arezzi, has worked at GAC, Black River Entertainment and most recently Bandtwango, and has managed and discovered artists like Patty Loveless and Kelsea Ballerini throughout his 20 years in the music industry. But this book goes deeper and takes a look at his years working with his two other loves, baseball and professional wrestling.
Alexander worked for the Single A minor league affiliate of the New York Mets, his favorite baseball team. Alexander loves baseball and could’ve seen himself working in baseball for the long run. The original name of his memoir was, I Shoulda Stayed in Baseball: My Wild Ride in Pro Wrestling, Country Music, and with the Mets.
“I’ve always loved baseball and it was a lifelong dream of mine to work for the Mets,” says Alexander. But he would only spend one season with the Mets minor league team after discovering a country singer by the name of Patty Lovelace, later changed to Loveless, in a small, seedy bar in North Carolina.
“She just blew me away and I wondered why she was in this club,” says Alexander. “I introduced myself and I thought she was incredible. She told me her backstory about being a teenager in Nashville, being mentored by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, and working with the Wilburn Brothers.”
Alexander says he felt that Loveless was too talented to be playing in small bars throughout North Carolina so he dropped his baseball job and decided to become her manager. “It was a labor of love but I knew she was a star and I tried to help her get there,” says Alexander. “If she didn’t need me and if I didn’t need her, both of our lives would’ve been much different.”
Loveless later would go on to sign with MCA Nashville and become a country star winning two Grammy Awards and becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Alexander then moved back to New York and felt confident he could help discover other artists so he, along with a few partners, started Straight Up Management in the late 1980s.
The management company only lasted a few years and after it went under, Alexander decided to dabble in the world of professional wrestling, his first love since he was a kid growing up on Long Island.
“I was a wrestling fan since I was a young kid, I started watching it at 7-years-old and then later on as a teenager, I started my own little fan club location and got a press pass to be one of the ringside photographers at Madison Square Garden,” says Alexander. He even threw himself in the ring when he was a young adult under the name “John Anthony.”
Alexander started his own wrestling radio talk show in 1989 called Pro Wrestling Spotlight, and even started promoting wrestling fan conventions.
“There had never been anything like that in pro wrestling before and I felt that there was a market for it. I started it and it became the first of the wrestling fan conventions. I did that for several years,” says Alexander.
The wrestling world began to become too toxic and exhausting, says Alexander. Having to cover tons of steroid abuse stories as well as sexual assault allegations by wrestlers, Alexander felt he needed to switch gears yet again.
“I fell in love with country music because of [Loveless], listening to her on the radio and seeing her on outlets like TNN,” says Alexander. “When the wrestling part of my journey was getting old and weary to me and I had no stability, I tried to venture into the country [market] and got a job at a little startup station on Long Island called WMJC.”
After years at multiple country radio stations in the New York Metropolitan area, Alexander made his way to Nashville to work for GAC. He had already been visiting Nashville while working for the various radio stations in New York and was in love with Music City.
“When given the opportunity to go to country music and open up this office [at GAC] and work with all the labels on their marketing of artists whether they were A-listers or emerging, it was a dream come true for me. And I wound up to this day being in Nashville, it’s my home now.”
He would go on to spend 10 years with GAC and then move to Black River Entertainment, where he worked with artists like Sarah Darling, who he is still close friends with today, and then later discovering Ballerini who approached him one afternoon at a Mellow Mushroom.
“Even though I discovered her it’s not talked about a lot and not many people know the true story of how Kelsea got into Black River and all the help that was given to her before she exploded,” says Alexander. “All I can say is that I’m proud of her because I knew how driven she was when I was involved with her, I knew that she was going to find a way to make it.”
Alexander has lived his life by going with the flow, taking the opportunities as they come and not being afraid of change or new challenges. “You don’t know what’s going to happen day to day and you don’t know what opportunities will happen. One thing I know about myself is that I’ve never been afraid to blow the house up and start again, I’ve always been open to any opportunity that I would have a passion for.”
After resigning from Bandtwango as its CEO in May of 2020, Alexander is now back working in wrestling with a new podcast called Pro Wrestling Spotlight: Then and Now where he goes through and revisits every episode of his original wrestling radio show. “Each and every week we highlight what the show was 30 years prior in chronological order,” says Alexander.
Now with his memoir out, Alexander is excited for fans to get a glimpse into his crazy life and how he was able to find success in all the career paths he took. “I’m excited for people to read the whole journey especially the little twists of fate like sitting in a restaurant and you meet a Kelsea Ballerini or randomly going into a night club and you meet a Patty Loveless,” says Alexander.
“The thing I want most people to know about the book and my story is that it’s inspirational if you have a dream, if you have a goal, you don’t give up and even if you fail, if you can reinvent yourself and try it again, you do it.”
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