Former Aerosmith Manager Disputes Joe Perry’s Memoir

Steve Leber fires back about Perry’s recollection that he stole from charity.

Back in October, we ran an exclusive excerpt from Boston rock n’ roll legend Joe Perry’s new memoir, Rocks: My Life In And Out of Aerosmith (Simon and Schuster). The passage covered Aerosmith’s local roots, as the fledgling band worked its way from woodshedding in a Back Bay practice space (the Fenway Theatre, now known as Berklee Performance Center) to getting signed to their first big major-label deal.

In the course of the passage, the band gets its first manager, Frank Connelly, who eventually brings Aerosmith to an established team of New York managers, Steve Leber and David Krebs. Here’s what Perry writes about the pair:

“My view of Leber-Krebs came down to one word—skeptical. One of the first times I walked into Leber’s office I saw a framed check on the wall made out to his firm for $175,000. Nothing wrong with that, except the money appeared to be for services rendered for the Concert for Bangladesh. Wasn’t the purpose of that event to help starving people? Wasn’t everyone donating his services? I filed my reaction under watch out for these guys. (Now I realize that I may not have understood what the check represented, but at the time I was already thinking the worst.)”

After we published Perry’s excerpt, Steve Leber wrote us to dispute Perry’s recollection—and sent along a copy of the check in question. We’re running the letter and the photo (in the “Letters to the Editor” section) in the December issue of Boston magazine—and we’re also correcting the online version of our excerpt to remove the allegation that the check was made out to Leber and Krebs, since the photo clearly shows it was made out to the charity.

This isn’t the first time Leber and Krebs have clashed with Aerosmith—the parties have feuded, in the media and in court, for more than a decade. In 2003, Krebs sued the band over allegations they made in a VH1 Behind the Music episode.

Here’s the text of Steve Leber’s letter to Boston magazine:

Photo provided by Steve Leber

Photo provided by Steve Leber

I recently read the article “Aerosmith: The Early Days,” by Joe Perry [October]. I’d like to set the record straight and wish you had called me to check the facts before you printed the piece, which essentially calls me a crook and accuses me of stealing from a charity. A copy of the check Joe Perry refers to in his article is attached. As you and your readers can see, it is not made out to me, as Mr. Perry asserts in his piece, but it is, in fact, made out to United Nations Children’s Fund for Relief to Refugee Children of Bangladesh.

Additionally, Frank Connelly was one of my very best friends in the business. I was the head of the music division of the William Morris Agency, and when I signed artists to William Morris, Frank was the first one to help me break out new talent—from Bill Cosby, a new comic discovered at the Gaslight Café, to Simon and Garfunkel, discovered at Gerde’s Folk City.

Frank found Aerosmith and sent me the demo tape—I was the only one he trusted with the group. He knew I would help them break out of the pack. Steven Tyler, as lead singer in other groups, had been turned down by other labels (see Steven Tyler’s autobiography). I agreed to bring Aerosmith to Max’s Kansas City and showcase them for two of my friends, Ahmet Ertegun, chairman of Atlantic Records, and Clive Davis, president of Columbia Records.

Ahmet passed, saying Atlantic already had the Stones and Steven was too close to the Jagger look and feel. However, Clive signed them and Aerosmith went on to outsell the Stones four to one on all albums and CDs. The rest is history. With my partner David Krebs, we went on to help Aerosmith become huge. What Joe Perry never realized, even as of today, is the fact that I was the only manager at the time to get a catalog reversion from Columbia after 20 years, so the band would get their catalog back. That meant that in 1972, they recorded their first album—Aerosmith—which reverted to the band and Leber-Krebs in 1992 as 50/50 partners. Other artists signed their catalogs away to the record companies. We owned the masters together. This was the first deal of its kind.

This is just one factor that none of the guys in Aerosmith ever understand. I saw the value in their catalog and tried to protect them to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. I never got a thank you, but I guess that’s rock ’n’ roll.


Also, this programming note: If you want to read our chunk of the Joe Perry story, we suggest you do so this month—our three-month serial rights to the excerpt expire in January.