LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Norby Walters, a former club owner and renowned music agent who collaborated with some of the music industry’s biggest names from Miles Davis to Public Enemy, has passed away at the age of 91.
Gary Michael Walters, Norby’s son, informed the Hollywood Reporter that his father passed away on December 10th at an assisted living facility in Los Angeles.
Hailing from Brooklyn, Walters kickstarted his career in the industry by booking jazz acts like Miles Davis and Stan Getz for shows at his father’s New York bar. He later ventured into owning a series of nightclubs and restaurants in the New York area. Among these nightclubs was Norby Walters’s Supper Club, situated adjacent to Manhattan’s renowned Copacabana on East 60th Street, which hosted performances by comedians such as the legendary Mort Stahl.
Walters recounted to the New York Times in 2016 that he was compelled to close the club after two men with alleged mob ties were shot in the venue following their harassment of an African-American patron. “Everybody hit the floor,” Walters recalled. “And this guy was very calm about it. He sat down at the bar, put the pistol down and waited to be taken.”
Stepping away from the nightclub industry, Walters transitioned into a career as a booking agent. He partnered with Jerry Ade and Sal Michaels to establish Norby Walters Associates, later known as General Talent International. Starting with regional acts, the agency grew to represent major names in R&B, including Frankie Beverly, Peaches & Herb, Patti Labelle, Rick James, Kool & The Gang, and George Clinton, among others.
However, the agency had a shadowy side as well. Norby received backing for the venture from alleged mafioso Michael Franzese, a member of the Colombo crime family. Franzese’s purported role was to intimidate existing and potential clients and business partners.
Franzese later testified that he provided $50,000 in capital to help launch a sports agency and extorted clients and business partners, including securing a role for Walters on Michael Jackson’s 1982 tour and coercing Dionne Warwick’s manager to pressure her not dropping Walters’ agency.
Both Norby Walters and his business partner Lloyd Bloom were convicted on charges of mail fraud, RICO violations, and conspiracy in a scheme to recruit college basketball players for exclusive representation contracts, instructing players to lie about their contracts’ existence on the amateur athletic eligibility forms submitted to their universities.
However, both convictions were later overturned on appeal. Walters subsequently sold his stake in the agency and relocated to Los Angeles, where he became notable for revitalizing Herb Cohen’s fundraising concept, “Night of 100 Stars,” as an Oscar party. He also hosted a weekly poker game at his Los Angeles condo that regularly featured celebrities such as Sid Caesar, Shecky Green, and Ed Asner.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Walters was laid to rest on December 15th at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City.
He is survived by his sons, Gary, Steven, and Richard, the latter being a music supervisor. His wife, Irene, passed away in July.