Meet Paul Conroy, the man who turned Genesis into stars
He might have masterminded the Spice Girls, but Paul Conroy's eclectic career also took in in prog and punk, making Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator into stars in the process
Paul Conroy is a UK music industry legend who pulls off the quite rare feat of being larger than life yet understated at the same time. Once described by the Mail On Sunday as “ludicrously well connected”, he’s open and personable, with a wealth of anecdotes readily available across his six decades in the business. However, on paper, Conroy appears a curious addition to our series. His place in our managerial pantheon is technically for what he did on his road to becoming a boss. His two spells as a manager were relatively brief: one, in the 1970s, involved the Kursaal Flyers, a band that assisted in the ushering in of a new era of music that led to punk. The other, in the 00s, was a brief interlude working with Dave Edmunds, Mr Rockpile himself.
But prior to all that, he was at the heart of booking and touring with several of the key names in early-70s prog. He pretended to be a dive‑bomber on stage with Van der Graaf Generator in Italy and encouraged Peter Gabriel to don a fox’s head onstage with Genesis. Conroy’s adaptability has seen him work with prog, pub and punk artists in the 70s, pop artists in the 80s and global icons in the 90s.
Like many of this age, Conroy got his first taste of the business while being a social secretary at college. “When I was at Ewell Tech in Surrey, I promoted, among others, The Nice, Fairport Convention, Caravan and Roy Harper,” Conroy says.
Two gigs stood out for him: King Crimson on June 27 1969 (“I paid them £15 – it was one of their first gigs following getting it together in the country”) and the New Yardbirds, nine months earlier, which was Led Zeppelin’s fifth ever gig. “I was called on the Friday night before the gig and told the band had changed their name.”