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News:
Obituary: Bob Fox, legendary Detroit concert promoter
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

On Thanksgiving day, Bob Fox -- co-founder of Detroit's Brass Ring Production concert promotion firm -- told his younger brother Chuck that "I'm amazed at the life I've been able to lead. If it ended now, I'd have no regrets."

Bob Fox's life ended early Monday, Dec. 6, when he suffered a heart attack at home in Boyne City, where he retired to after Brass Ring closed down in 2002. He was 62.

Chuck Fox said that he and Brass Ring's other surviving principals are "amazed" at the outpouring of sympathy as news of Bob Fox's passing spread. There will be a family-only service on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Stackus Funeral Home in Boyne City, but Chuck Fox said he's being encouraged to hold a memorial for his brother in the Detroit area.

"I might do something," the younger Fox said, "but Bob became a real private person when he retired. If we did a memorial down here, there would be 1,000 people, and I'm not sure that would be in keeping with his wishes."

Fox, who steered Brass Ring from its founding in 1974, when it promoted Kiss' first metro area date at Yack Arena in Wyandotte. A decorated U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam, he put together the company with Michael Tinik, a U.S. Army vet who also served in Vietnam, after the two met watching a band called the Sunday Funnies at Moby Dick's in Dearborn. They became friends first, then went into the concert business after attending a Mountain concert in 1974 at Detroit's East Town Theatre.

"It was over-sold, you could barely get into the lobby, the show started late," Tinik recalled. "And I turned to (Fox) and said, 'Y'know, we could do a better job than this, and we just kind of looked at each other and started Brass Ring."

Rick Kay (ne Kraniak), another Brass Ring partner, said the company struggled in its early years but credits Fox with putting it on firmer footing by signing exclusivity deals with Cobo Arena and, subsequently, Joe Louis Arena. "I think Bob was one of the first guys to figure out that if you tied up the real estate, everyone had to work through you," Kay explained. "That showed a lot of foresight." Brass Ring also brought the Radio City Music Hall's annual holiday show to the Fox for a long run.

Fox became what Mike Novak, Brass Ring and Fox's personal attorney, called, "Detroit's version of Bill Graham," promoting most major shows at venues of all sizes in the market -- including the Royal Oak Music Theatre, which Brass Ring owned and operated at one point -- until the late 80s, when the Palace of Auburn Hills began dominating the arena industry. Fox's answer was to encourage Mike Illitch to purchase and renovate the Fox Theatre.

"(Fox) knew that new arenas killed old arenas, so he said, 'Let's change it up and get into the Fox Theatre,' " Tinik remembers. "(Fox) was a great manager. He took us form nothing to the pinnacle of the promotion business. We came out of nowhere. We were hardly silver spooners, just regular guys who had a vision, some integrity and worked really hard. And got extremely lucky."

Fox and Brass Ring won addition notoriety in 1977, after promoting a pair of Electric Light Orchestra shows at the Pontiac Silverdome and disclosing the fact that the group was playing entirely to a recording, one of the first public incidents of lip-synching.

Closing Brass Ring after promoting about 6,000 shows by Tinik's estimate, Fox, who had resided in Northville, warmed quickly to life in northern Michigan, where he already owned a home on Lake Charlevoix. "He loved it up north," Tinik says. "He liked the laid-back style and casual atmosphere. He drove a pickup truck, wore jeans and a sweatshirt, was a family guy. He loved the simplicity of it."

Fox is survived by his wife, Pam, sons Robert and Michael, daughter Kimberly Ritchie and grandchildren Brandon and Kayla Ritchie, as well as his brother Chuck and sister Sharon Bodary and four nieces. The family request that contributions be made to the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.



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