Southern Dutchess News, June 4, 1980. View the original story here.
Ken Stenger making arrangements for the First Annual Memorial Day Jam. Fishkill attorney Ken Stenger is associated with Outlaws — sort of. It is a relationship that is quite on the up-and-up, however, and will culminate in an outdoor rock and roll show on Memorial Day. For these are music playing outlaws, and producing the show at the Lebanon Valley Speedway near Albany on May 26.
A 28-year-old lawyer with the Fishkill firm of lanelli Parlin and Gross, he elaborated on his production “sideline” and its relationship with his legal practice in an interview last week. “Rock and roll and the practice of law are not mutually exclusive, where producing a show is concerned; rock and roll is a business, and the points of law involved make the two (the music and law) very complimentary,” Stenger stated.
One such point of law in the music business is contract negotiations which, as producer, he is directly involved. Drawing a parallel with law, Ken says that the “immediate gratification you get when as a producer you see 3,000 people out there enjoying the show, is kind of like winning a legal case.” The music-producing is seasonal, and that’s how Ken wants it at present. All shows are arranged as outdoor events where there is ample parking space and access, he said. He expects to continue using the Lebanon Speedway site, as well as the Pine Crest Country Club in Connecticut.
Ken got his start in the music business about four years ago, working with hall managers and rock entrepreneurs in the Poughkeepsie area. Fresh out of law school, he says he wasn’t interested at the time in working with some “big firm.” Consequently, he hung up his own shingle, and became more and more involved in his “sideline.” “When I first started, I began in a capacity of coordinating hall ushers, making sure the various auditorium crews were there on time, arranging matters with the featured groups and musicians,” he continued. It was around that time that the young lawyer saw the legalities involved with rock and roll, and the opportunities afforded one who both loved the music and knew the law. Both law and music production “offer their own rewards — plus, I love ’em both,” he said.
A partial listing of Stenger- produced shows would include the likes of Cheap Trick, the Charlie Daniels Band, J. Geils, Meatloaf, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Dolly Par- ton, Loretta Lynn. The Memorial Day Jam at Lebanon Valley on Memorial Day will include Edgar Winter , and the group Point Blank, and feature the band The Outlaws. While current contractual talks make it impossible to name a few other acts that Ken will produce this summer, a show well in the works will feature “heavy metal” groups Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult.
What are his dream acts to produce, who would he like to present in concert? “That’s a good question….I think I’d rather produce bands like Charlie Daniels and J. Geils than the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac or the Rolling Stones, basically because they (the former) are people you can deal with as individuals as well as entertainers, while the others force you into dealing with the star situation,” he explained.
“What the job is all about” is being able to deal with the groups as individuals, he stressed. Asked about potential rock shows in the local area, Ken is hardly optimistic, noting that there is “no site suited for it, that I know about,” citing health facilities and traffic control considerations. “And I certainly have no wish to inflict a “Lake Placid” on my hometown,” he said in reference to the Winter Olympics transportation foul-up at Lake Placid. But, he said, the benefits of staging shows in an area should not be automatically scoffed at by a town’s residents. “People have this fear of rock and roll, as far as what it can do to a town, what with all these people coming in….But, what it can actually do, is bring in a lot in terms of dollars and cents to a town. The benefits are in-calcuable.”
Ken eventually wants to develop his talents as a consultant for the rock music business. That might be one step removed from actually producing a show, but he’s strayed from the rock world, as producer, previously: the Boston Pops and Van Cliburn are among non-rock acts Ken has produced. “What I’d like to do, is parlay what I’ve learned, and learning, in the music business, into the law practice,” he commented. And, music aside, he produced a show on China- Peking arts and crafts at the Grand Mezzanine in the World Trade Center in New York City this past year.
“This marked the first time ever that the 20,000 square foot mezzanine has been used for an event such as an exhibit. I negotiated the use of the Grand Mezzanine, and it represented a serious departure from established World Trade Center policy.” Among the tasks of an entertainment producer are designing, installing, and managing systems for security and ushering, concession management, coordinating box office and parking operations, as well as acting as liaison between promoters, site management, talent, and local authorities.
Ken works as producer for Setting Son Productions. He has, he noted, the support of his legal colleagues at the lanelli, Parlin and Gross firm, who realize that “rock and roll is a business, and not a hobby.” The firm allows him “free-form growth.” Besides, “if you spend four years negotiating contracts and the like, it shows” in attorney functions. While he’s excited about a show planned for next October in Worcester, Massachusetts with noted mime Marcel Marceau, Ken reflected on one of his most satisfying shows to date: “The band Cheap Trick had played the night before we had to do a Boston Pops show and we had to build and install a carpeted elevator floor, which means we had about three hours sleep between the shows, and we were exhausted, to say the least. But, at the end of the Pops show, the orchestra had all the people singing along on Christmas songs, and that last ten minutes crystalized complete the satisfaction of being in the business: it was a very special Christmas for the 3,000 people there, and for myself….”