MUSIC INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE GRELUN LANDON DIES
Member of Elvis Presley's Inner Circle Remembered As Influential Friend and Mentor
NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 6, 2004 - Grelun Landon, 80, a music industry veteran who helped guide the career of Elvis Presley, and the longtime West Coast Head of Publicity for RCA Records, died peacefully on February 2 in Ojai, Calif.
Born in Marion, Ohio, on November 19, 1923, Landon served in World War II and graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in journalism. In the 1950s, as vice president with Hill & Range Music in New York, he worked with many top stars of the Grand Ole Opry, including Hank Snow and Johnny Cash. He was among the first to recognize the dimensions of Elvis Presley's talent. Eight months after first hearing Presley perform at the Jimmie Rodgers Festival in Meridian, Miss., Landon hosted a tour of New York City for Presley when the young singer arrived to make his national television debut.
A self-effacing legend at RCA Records for more than 20 years beginning in the 1960s, Landon demonstrated an uncanny ability to work with a diverse group of artists, including Presley, Hall & Oates, David Bowie, Waylon Jennings and Jefferson Airplane. Among his duties was the management of RCA's relationship between Presley and his manager, Col. Tom Parker.
Landon became the trusted confidant of both men.
>With Irwin Stambler, Landon co-authored Country Music: The Encyclopedia, first published in 1969 and currently in its third edition. He served on a National Academy of Recording Arts and Science (NARAS) selection committee for the Grammy Awards.
Landon was an active trustee of the Country Music Hall of FameŽ and Museum from 1971 to 1989. He served the Museum's Board of Officers and Trustees as President in 1976 and held many other Board offices through the years.
He was named a Trustee Emeritus in 1996.
"Grelun Landon was among the first to understand the importance of building our collection," said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Director Kyle Young, who first joined the Museum staff while Landon was a Trustee. "Early on, he had a vision for what the Museum could be and made important contributions to our development as one of the premier popular culture research centers in the world. He was a great friend to the Museum and an inspiration to the staff."
In the '70s, in cooperation with Parker, Landon arranged for RCA Records' donation of Elvis Presley's "Solid Gold" Cadillac Fleetwood 75 limousine to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum collection. Appointed with a stereo, bar, shoeshine kit and other then-modern accoutrements, the car drew large crowds when it toured nationally in the '60s during Presley's hiatus from performing. Now on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, it remains one of the institution's most popular exhibits. Other important Museum acquisitions during Landon's tenure as a Trustee include the mural Sources of Country of Music, the last work by American artist Thomas Hart Benton; and the l5,000-disc collection of pre-World War II country recordings from early collector and master discographer Bob Pinson. The collection was insured for $l million for transport by tractor-trailer from Los Angles to Nashville, and Landon generated considerable publicity for the cross-country trip. (The Museum's Pinson collection became the foundation of what is now one of the world's largest and most significant collections of recorded country music.)
Landon is remembered as a mentor and an inspiration to many young writers and record company executives.
"He was the most generous of friends without ever calling attention to himself," said Peter Guralnick, author of the Presley biographies Careless Love and Last Train to Memphis. "In his own reserved and sometimes inscrutable way, he was a true mentor, who taught by gesture and example."
Landon is survived by two daughters, Anne and Jennifer, son Christopher, and three granddaughters, Miranda, Jessica and Kendra. Services are private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 222 Fifth Avenue South, Nashville, Tenn. 37203.