by Mike GormleyIf you need to describe Bill Traut, think of “quiet man in charge.” This Chicago native does not resort to screaming, tearing telephones apart or jumping on tables with his fist in the air. He just gets the job done.
Over the years, Traut has been a musician, producer, agent, record executive, artist manager and attorney. His management company, Open Door Management, specializes in jazz, with such artists as Kurt Elling, Janis Siegel, Alan Pasqua, Alan Broadbent, Shelly Berg and the Traut/Rodby duo (Bill's son, Ross Traut,).
Bill lays rightful claim to such a resume that even the highlights are exhausting to read. Traut was President of Dunwich Records (the first “garage-rock” label to hit gold in the 60’s with Shadows of Knight and their version of “Gloria”), President of Wooden Nickel Records (birthplace of Styx and Exile) and CEO of jazz-fusion label, Headfirst Records. He was Governor of both the Chicago and Los Angeles Chapters of NARAS, and was the Director of the NARAS Institute as well as a co-Founder of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators. Bill has produced music for radio and television commercials for Coca-Cola, American Airlines and RCA/Whirlpool, and for various films and TV shows such as “The Hardy Boys” and “No Way To Treat A Lady”.
Bill was a member of the International Association of Personal Managers, formed by Kenny Greengrass in the late 1960's. For years he used their official contract with artists. “I still use a contract based on the original, but of course it’s brought up to date,” he said. However, Bill points out, “I only use a contract these days when I'm signing a group. All of my individual clients are without contracts. I don't bother anymore and it hasn't hurt me in the jazz field. But I would absolutely have a contract with any group, particularly in Rock.”“The most productive period was the running of Wooden Nickel Records and the development of Styx, but it wasn't the most enjoyable. When Styx left us and took the label down with them, it ended up in a major lawsuit, which was settled 3 years later.”That settlement has cushioned the way for Traut’s involvement with other artists in need of development. As for enjoyment, Traut takes great pleasure in his current roster, and the creative/professional accomplishments of each artist’s career.
Bill played his last gig in Chicago at the London House in 1961 with Eddie Higgins, Richard Evans, Marshall Thompson and jazz singer Irene Krall. "After that I continued to do a little playing in the studios, mostly the oompah baritone sax on some of the Soul albums (the Memphis Sound) like Curtis Mayfield, etc. I played it on one of the Styx albums (their idea, not mine), and on one of the Ohio Players albums, but which one is a secret."Jazz is where it all started. Traut began his career in the 1940’s as a saxophonist and arranger for several popular big bands, but as a producer has crossed various musical lines. Artists he has taken into the studio include hit makers like Styx (then unknown),
Nazz (feat Todd Rundgren), The American Breed and Shadows of Knight, as well as jazz legends Buddy Rich and Count Basie. His company, Open Door Management, has become one of the leading jazz management companies in the business today.
“It’s nice to be veteran of this industry,” Traut said. “To be loved and trusted by people after all these years is great.”
Traut’s varied background (musician/lawyer/ producer) could easily be a boon for his management activities. According to Bill, “It helps every day. I can relate to my clients and they know that I do.”
Obviously when an artist has the “quiet man in charge” in their corner they are in good hands. Busy hands, but they're good.
Contributed by Mike Gormley of
Los Angeles Personal Development (LAPD)