Robert Stigwood

Robert Colin Stigwood (16 April 1934 – 4 January 2016) was an Australian-born British-resident music entrepreneur, film producer and impresario, best known for managing Cream and the Bee Gees, theatrical productions like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, and film productions including the extremely successful Grease and Saturday Night Fever.[1]

Robert Stigwood
Robert Stigwood Allan Warren.jpg
Photo by Allan Warren in 1972
Robert Colin Stigwood

(1934-04-16)16 April 1934
Died4 January 2016(2016-01-04) (aged 81)
London, England
OccupationImpresario, producer
Years active1954–2016
Known forManager of:

Early lifeEdit

Stigwood was born in 1934 in Port Pirie, South Australia,[2] the son of Gwendolyn (Burrows) and Gordon Stigwood,[3] an electrical engineer. He was educated at Sacred Heart College in Adelaide.[4]

Joe Meek and John LeytonEdit

Stigwood found a job in an institution for "backward teenage boys" in East Anglia after his arrival in England. He worked briefly for Hector Ross at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, Hampshire, before Ross left and the theatre closed. Around this time he met the young Paul Jones who would later front Manfred Mann. He then met businessman Stephen Komlosy with whom he founded Robert Stigwood Associates Ltd, a small theatrical agency.

The brief partnership between Robert Stigwood Associates and Joe Meek is claimed to have changed the British recording industry to a great extent. A poor business decision had meant that "Angela Jones" by Michael Cox, released on Meek's own Triumph label, could not be manufactured in sufficient quantities to meet demand after Cox performed the song on a popular TV music show. While the record did make an appearance in the Top Ten, it proved that Meek needed the support of a major record company.

Meek's first single with John Leyton, a cover of Ray Peterson's U.S. hit "Tell Laura I Love Her", was released in the U.K. in August 1960.[5] Originally intended for release on Meek's Triumph label, that label had by now folded and the recording was instead leased to the Top Rank label, owned by the Rank Organisation and distributed by EMI. EMI's Columbia label had however issued another British cover version of the song by Ricky Valance,[6] and due to better promotion by the record company, this version was more successful.

A follow-up single by Leyton, "Girl on the Floor Above" (October 1960), was largely overlooked by British audiences. According to Tony Kent (Meek's personal assistant at the time), the session took place at London's IBC Studios, largely at Meek's suggestion, and although Meek was present at the recording, Stigwood assumed the role of dominant co-producer.

Leyton's third single, "Johnny Remember Me", produced by Meek and released in the U.K. on 28 July 1961,[7] became a massive U.K. No.1 hit after Stigwood arranged for Leyton to play the part of a fictional pop singer called Johnny St. Cyr performing the song on the new Associated Television drama Harpers West One.[8]

Business deal with EMIEdit

Other artists Stigwood signed to a management/recording deal included Mike Sarne, whose Komlosy-produced "Come Outside" charted Number One in 1962, and another Meek protégé, Mike Berry, who had scored a hit with the Geoff Goddard-penned "Tribute To Buddy Holly".

He was understood to be gay.[9] Despite the severe legal situation in Britain until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised homosexual acts in private, it would not have been a disadvantage for Stigwood's career, as other important figures in the music industry were also gay. Some Australian music writers have suggested that the main reason why so few Australian acts were able to break into the UK music scene in the 1960s was that they were locked out by the so-called "Pink Mafia" that supposedly dominated British show business.[9]

One of the first acts he managed during this period was Junco Partners, a blues band which succeeded the Animals as the house band at Newcastle's Club A Go Go. The band recorded for Columbia (the EMI label) and the French Barclay Records, with one of its first releases being co-produced by Stigwood and Vicki Wickham. The band included Charlie Harcourt, later of Lindisfarne and Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys.[10]


The next development in Stigwood's career as a manager came several weeks after his connection with NEMS began. Teenage vocal group the Bee Gees had just returned to the UK, after many years in Australia, with hopes of a career in the UK.

Within months their first international single, "New York Mining Disaster 1941", had become a major British and American hit reaching the top 20 in both markets, while "Massachusetts" reached number 1 in the UK and number 11 in the US, continuing a string of Bee Gees hits through the late 1960s.

Also during 1967, Stigwood purchased a controlling interest in Associated London Scripts, a writers' agency co-founded by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes around 1954, in which many of Britain's best comedy and television scriptwriters had been involved. Beryl Vertue from ALS was appointed as deputy chairman; Vertue was responsible for selling the formats to American producers of the TV series All in the Family and Sanford and Son, which were adapted from the popular British TV shows Till Death Us Do Part and Steptoe and Son.[11]

Robert Stigwood OrganisationEdit

Later Stigwood produced stage versions of his other successful film musicals, Saturday Night Fever and Grease; while Grease had existed as a musical before Stigwood's involvement in the film, Stigwood's adaptations added the musical numbers that were original to that film. Stage rights to those numbers are still available for licensing through the Stigwood estate.

Later successes and disappointmentsEdit

Stigwood moved into film and TV production in the early 1970s. By this time the fortunes of his pop production enterprises had declined greatly, and both his major acts struggled to regain their former glory. The Bee Gees broke up briefly in 1970, and after reuniting they floundered for several years, reaching a self-acknowledged "rock bottom" period in the early 1970s, by which time the former chart toppers had been reduced to playing the working men's club circuit in the north of England.

Cream had split up in late 1968, although lead guitarist Eric Clapton remained signed to RSO, but his next project, the highly touted supergroup Blind Faith, which united Clapton and Ginger Baker with Steve Winwood (ex Traffic) and Ric Grech (ex Family) fizzled out after just one LP. Clapton made a promising solo debut with his critically praised self-titled 1970 album, and followed this by forming a new band, Derek & the Dominos, with ex-members of Delaney and Bonnie's backing group. They recorded an ambitious double-album with considerable input from Duane Allman, whom Clapton met and befriended. Although Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (1970) is now acknowledged as his masterpiece, the album's relatively poor critical and commercial reception was overshadowed by the tragic deaths of Eric Clapton's close friends Jimi Hendrix (who died while the sessions were underway) and the subsequent death of Allman himself in October 1971. These tragedies, combined with the angst of his unrequited love for Patti Boyd, sent Clapton into a downward spiral of depression and drug abuse. Derek & the Dominos broke up before a second album could be completed, Clapton withdrew from performing and he became addicted to heroin for several years. Fortunately, Clapton eventually kicked his habit, and Stigwood took him back to Miami, where he recorded his very successful comeback album 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), which included his US #1 hit version of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff".

With his music ventures in the doldrums, Stigwood expanded into film production in the early 1970s with great success. His first feature was a hit screen adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), made in association with its director, Norman Jewison. He followed this with the film version of the Who's Tommy (1975), which became one of the most successful films at the box office in its year of release.

RSO Films' next production, Saturday Night Fever, dramatically catapulted the Bee Gees to superstardom, taking them back to the top of the charts in dramatic fashion, scoring them three consecutive No.1 hits. The film also launched TV actor John Travolta to international stardom.[12] The 2-LP soundtrack album, written by and featuring the Bee Gees, became the biggest selling soundtrack album ever released. Stigwood followed this with another hugely successful film adaptation of one of his stage productions, the rock'n'roll musical Grease (1978), which co-starred Travolta and Australian singer Olivia Newton-John, which featured additional material by expatriate Australian songwriter-producer John Farrar.

Not all of Stigwood's films were popular. Moment by Moment (also 1978), which co-starred Travolta and Lily Tomlin was panned by critics, and is credited with turning Travolta into 'box office poison'.[13]

Other notable films produced by Stigwood include The Fan (1981), Grease 2, Peter Weir's well received Gallipoli (1981), produced under the R&R Films banner - the other "R" being another Australian known for his ruthlessness, Rupert Murdoch - and the 1997 Golden Globe Awards best film winner, Evita, starring Madonna. In 1975, RSO collaborated with Bob Banner Associates to produce a stunt game show, Almost Anything Goes. The program, which aired on the ABC network in the United States, featured three teams of players from small towns in a competition where the emphasis was on good will. The show lasted four seasons.

Later yearsEdit

Robert Stigwood remained active in his later years, primarily in musical theatre. In 2005, he sold the Barton Manor estate on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England.[14]


Stigwood died in London on 4 January 2016. He was 81.[15][16][17]

Major productionsEdit

Stage musicalsEdit




  • Tony Kent Holloway Road Hit Factory (Radio Interview, 2007)
  • Simon Napier-Bell: You Don't Have To Say You Love Me (Ebury Press, 1998)
  • Johnny Rogan: Starmakers & Svengalis: The History of British Pop Management (Macdonald Queen Anne Press, 1988, ISBN 0-356-15138-7)
  • Frank Rose: "How Can You Mend A Broken Group? The Bee Gees Did It With Disco" Rolling Stone, 14 July 1977
  • Ruhlmann, William. "Robert Stigwood > Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
  1. ^ Ruhlmann
  2. ^ Robert Stigwood, music mogul behind Bee Gees and Clapton, dies aged 81 ABC News, 5 January 2016. Accessed 6 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Robert Stigwood Biography (1934-)". 16 April 1934. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  4. ^ Late Port Pirie-raised music mogul Robert Stigwood who changed the entertainment world The Advertiser, 5 January 2016. Accessed 6 January 2016.
  5. ^ "John Leyton - Tell Laura I Love Her". Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Ricky Valance - Tell Laura I Love Her". Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  7. ^ "John Leyton - Johnny Remember Me". Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Harpers West One". Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  9. ^ a b Keith Stern Queers in History, Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2009, p. 434
  10. ^ "Blues in Britain". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Coupling is back! – Biography – Beryl Vertue (executive producer)", BBC Press Office, 16 June 2004
  12. ^ Caryn James "Critics Notebook; As Praise Flows, Travolta Awaits His 3rd Comeback", The New York Times, 2 December 2004
  13. ^ Ron Weiskind "Movies: Who's a has-been and who still has it in Hollywood", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (magazine), 22 April 2001
  14. ^ "Exceptional country house estates for sale - Country Life". 15 March 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Bee Gees Manager Robert Stigwood Dies at 81". Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  16. ^ Pocklington, Rebecca. "Robert Stigwood dies aged 81: Former manager of the Bee Gees and famed film producer passes away". Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  17. ^ "Disco-era Film and Music Producer Robert Stigwood Dies at 81". Voice of America. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2016.

External linksEdit