Only someone with the imagination, courage, vision and determination of Jack Emerson could lay the ground work for Nashville's fledging rock scene while still in his twenties, and then a decade later help renowned artist-songwriter Steve Earle get his career back on track.
Emerson began his career in the music business as the original bass player for Jason & The Scorchers before becoming the group's full-time manager. Inspired by the do-it-yourself ethos and spirit of punk, Emerson released the group's first recordings in the early-'80s on his own label, Praxis. Concentrating on management and artist development, Emerson (with partners Andy McLenon and Kay Clary) secured the Scorchers a record deal with EMI America and helped the Georgia Satellites achieve worldwide success with the smash hit, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." Recognized as a major source of talent, Praxis became a Southeast A&R branch of A&M Records and later Zoo Entertainment/BMG. Emerson worked with John Hiatt during the release of his breakthrough album, Bring the Family, and played a major role in reviving the career of songwriting ace Billy Joe Shaver during the release of Tramp On Your Street.
Emerson formed E-Squared Records with Earle in the mid-'90s. All five of Earle's albums for the label have earned rave reviews from publications around the world -- making many year-end lists -- and three earned Grammy nominations: 1995's Train a Comin', 1997's El Corazon and 1999's The Mountain, made in collaboration with top bluegrass act The Del McCoury Band. The label also has issued critically-acclaimed albums by The V-roys, Cheri Knight, Bap Kennedy and 6 String Drag. In 1999, Emerson and Earle inked a worldwide, multifaceted deal with Danny Goldberg's Artemis Records and released an album by Philadelphia rock stalwarts, Marah. Most recently, Emerson was the executive producer of the film soundtrack for You Can Count On Me, winner of Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
If Jack Emerson and Andy McLenon bring the organizational and creative sides to Praxis, Brad Hunt brings the nuts and bolts. A revered promotion and marketing consultant, Hunt is president of the WNS Group, based in Orangeburg, NY. Hunt handles promotion, sales and marketing for not only Praxis, but also legendary jazz label Verve Records, artist-owned Americana label Dead Reckoning, Virgin Records, Valley Entertainment and numerous other companies. He also manages the careers of Steve Forbert, Tim O'Brien, Stacey Earle (Steve's sister) and former V-roys frontman Scott Miller. Few in the industry bring as much well-rounded experience to the table as Hunt. He entered the entertainment business in his late teens, working his way through college as a disc jockey at a radio station in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
He has gone on to work in many facets of the music business. He took over management of a chain of record stores in upstate New York. He joined A&M Records' promotion team in 1975. From there he went to MCA Records, working sales and promotion in New York, Florida, Texas, Boston and Los Angles. Following a stint in L.A. as MCA's vice president of promotion, he left the music business temporarily to pursue law. In the early 1980s, he was named Sr. Director of Marketing of Cambridge One Stop, parent company for the Strawberries record chain. He joined Elektra Records from 1983 -1992, starting there as head of rock promotion and working his way up to Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Elektra. After a year as VP and General Manager of Hollywood Records, he became the Sr. Vice President of Zoo Records. When his contract there ended in 1995, he set up his own company.
"My relationship with Jack and Andy goes back to the Georgia Satellites -- scoring a platinum record on their first release for Elektra," Hunt explains. "The friendship has maintained itself. I was very proud of the job we were able to do with the first Shaver album and the Sonny Landreth records. It's been a good association. It's worked, for whatever reason, in its own dysfunctional way."
Following his uncommon passion for music, Andy McLenon has made a name for himself as a progressive force in popular music as co-founder of Praxis International, general manager of Spongebath Records and Vice President of A&R at Sire Records. The Country Music Associations CMA Closeup magazine heralded McLenon for his role in giving Nashville a rock scene it could call its own. He did so by guiding the careers of Jason & The Scorchers, Billy Joe Shaver, John Hiatt, the Georgia Satellites, Webb Wilder, Steve Forbert, Sonny Landreth and others who have had a tremendous influence on the alternative country sweep of recent years. Always the great catalyst making sure artists, producers and labels are working toward the same goals -- McLenon also has been instrumental in the careers of up-and-coming modern rock bands Self and The Features, as well as solid, tradition-steeped country acts Mandy Barnett and The Derailers. The Florida native earned his reputation with discerning musical taste, business savvy and a winning personality.
McLenon has always put his ardent passion for music to good use. After working record store jobs in his teens and early adulthood, he left his hometown of Naples to launch Praxis International in Nashville. Working with Jack Emerson (now Steve Earles partner in E-Squared Records) and Kay Clary (now a publicist for the Dixie Chicks), he built Praxis from a scrappy, independent record label into a successful artist management/development firm with major label ties. Praxis released the first recordings by Jason & The Scorchers in the early 80s, helping lay the groundwork for Music Citys rock scene. "I never really thought about whether or not I would make a lifetime career for myself in the music business when I first moved to Nashville," McLenon told CMA Closeup. "I just never thought about it. All I cared about, religiously, was letting the world know about that one band. I was convinced that Jason and the Scorchers were the greatest. I was relentless, fearlessthere was no doubt in my mind how great this stuff was. That was my mission. How to make a living didnt even enter into it." McLenons hard work paid off. He helped oversee the groups label deal with EMI at a time when the company was achieving chart success with J. Geils Band, Stray Cats, David Bowie and George Thorogood. He soon he began concentrating on management and artist development, helping the Georgia Satellites achieve worldwide success with the smash hit "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." Recognized as a major source of talent, Praxis became a Southeast A&R branch of A&M Records and later Zoo Entertainment/BMG. McLenon worked with John Hiatt during the release of his breakthrough album, Bring the Family, and played a major role in the comeback of Billy Joe Shaver with the release of Tramp On Your Street, an album that became a rallying point for many of todays alt. country fans.
In 1996, McLenon took the general manager post at Spongebath Records, a hip indie rock label based in Murfreesboro. He helped Spongebath facilitate joint ventures with DreamWorks (who signed Self) and Elektra (who picked up The Katies). McLenon most recently was Vice President of A&R at Sire Records, working closely with Seymour Stein, who is widely regarded as having the best ears in the business. Working out of the Warner Bros. offices in Nashville, McLenon oversaw critically acclaimed Sire albums by Mandy Barnett and The Derailers and three major soundtracks.