Mike Kappus began his career in his hometown of Eau Claire, WI. During college he promoted regional bands with friends and became a licensed booking agent in 1970 at age 19. Just over a year later he was invited to join an agency in Milwaukee. In his five years working full time as an agent there, he also bought talent for several showcase clubs and a few festivals and universities. As a talent buyer and promoter he booked artists as diverse as Asleep At The Wheel, Jimmy Cliff, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to jazz artists Grover Washington Jr., Weather Report, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and George Benson to the MC5, Styx and Ted Nugent. He also established relationships with future Rosebud clients Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Mose Allison, John Hiatt and John Hammond who signed to Rosebud in 1977 and marked his 4000th booking with Rosebud in 2008.
In 1976, just months after moving to San Francisco to join a booking agency, that company went under so Kappus started the Rosebud Agency with the concept of offering greater service to an intentionally limited number of timeless rather than trendy artists. The agency grew to book about 2000 shows a year worldwide for it's 30+ artists. Kappus helped launch the careers of Los Lobos, The Robert Cray Band, Ben Harper, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, John Hiatt, The Neville Brothers, Trombone Shorty and more while helping to raise the profile of veteran artists such as Allen Toussaint, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker and others.
As a manager, Kappus' clients have included Hooker, Hammond, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Robert Cray, John Hiatt, Duke Robillard, Loudon Wainwright III, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars and co-management client, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Kappus also represented the legendary JJ Cale for 30 years, managing him until his passing in July 2013.
Some highlights along the way for Rosebud included booking George Thorogood's epic 50/50 tour, coordinated such that the band played all 50 states plus Washington, DC in 50 consecutive days, flying only between Hawaii and Alaska, then down to Portland, OR and one other detour to play with The Rolling Stones at the Superdome in New Orleans. All other dates were routed so they could be driven in Thorogood's Checker cab.
Rosebud factored heavily in the growth of a number of artists. Signing with the agency in 1983, Los Lobos grew from playing LA clubs when they first joined the roster to supporting U2 and touring the world in the wake of their #1 single, "La Bamba", from the #1 album of the same name. In other instances of breaking down barriers for non-mainstream musicians, Robert Cray's double platinum Strong Persuader CD, his first outing as a Rosebud-managed artist, reinforced the commercial viability of blues. Kappus followed that by taking on management for then booking client, John Lee Hooker, acting as executive producer of the blues legend's comeback CDs which resulted in Hooker's first Gold records that also won him four Grammys while in his seventies. Kappus also acted as executive producer or producer on CDs by JJ Cale, Pops Staples, Robert Cray, Duke Robillard, Loudon Wainwright III, Trombone Shorty and John Hammond (scoring Grammy nominations for four consecutive projects with Hammond). Overall those projects scored 13 Grammy nominations and 4 wins and included collaborations with Keith Richards, Ry Cooder, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Herb Ellis, Charlie Musselwhite, Jimmie Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, Booker T., Nick Lowe, Tom Waits, Johnny Winter, Canned Heat and Eric Clapton to name a few. Overall Rosebud artists have scored over 116 Grammy nominations and 28 Grammy wins along with dozens of Gold and Platinum albums. Kappus also acted as associate producer on acclaimed documentaries on JJ Cale and John Lee Hooker. Among other awards, the Blues Foundation named Kappus Manager / Agent of the year in 4 separate years (no other agent or manager has won the award more than once). (see CREDITS)
In addition to booking and management duties, Kappus has made CD deals for Mavis Staples, Bettye LaVette and Charlie Watts and was instrumental in helping Buddy Guy secure the record deal that resulted in his comeback albums, beginning with his breakthrough Damn Right I've Got The Blues in 1991. Kappus was also hired by Van Morrison to oversee promotion and marketing for his April 2008 CD, Keep It Simple. The record's entry in the Billboard pop charts at number 10 marked the highest ever US chart position in Van Morrison's lengthy career at that point.
As head of The Rosebud Agency, Kappus has also incorporated policies focused on environmental and social responsibility issues into the company's daily routine. The Rosebud office was converted to full solar power in 2000 (the largest such installation in San Francisco at the time) and was named in the first wave of green business certifications in San Francisco. Kappus' environmental concerns also drove him to coordinate two compilations for environmental non-profit, Earthjustice, featuring artists from Tom Waits and Willie Nelson to Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Rubén Blades, Michael Franti, Ani DiFranco, Keb Mo, Ruth Brown, Etta James and many more.
Kappus also initiated the HART (Handy Artists Relief Trust) Fund for The Blues Foundation in 1999 with his own personal funds, supplemented by proceeds from special W.C. Handy All Stars tours he organized to help fund the campaign. The W.C. Handy All Stars were made up of a revolving cast of the best in blues - all winners of W.C. Handy Awards (now known as Blues Music Awards). The concept was to bring to the blues world the same type of artist support that the R&B Foundation had established earlier for that genre - providing financial assistance to artists in need, for everything from paying medical and dental bills to burial costs. The HART Fund has gone on to thrive and attract supporters from around the world, helping artists in need every year while building funds for future rainy days. Kappus continues to support this and numerous other non-profit organizations in various ways.
The booking side of The Rosebud Agency closed at the start of 2014 but it went out on a very high note with the December 6, 2013 announcement of the year's Grammy nominations. Rosebud artists scored eight nominations and collaborated on many more. Charlie Musselwhite brought home three nominations while Allen Toussaint was honored with two nominations, with one each going to Mavis Staples, James Cotton and Jim Lauderdale. Charlie Watts, Trombone Shorty, Mavis Staples, The Savoy Doucet Cajun Band and BeauSoleil's Michael Doucet also contributed to additional Grammy nominated projects that year - details here http://rosebudus.com/news
Kappus was also honored with induction into the Blues Hall of Fame on May 7, 2014 in Memphis, TN in conjunction with the Blues Music Awards. The Blues Foundation described Kappus as "the kind of manager and booking agent any musician would want" and "one of the most respected men in the business."
The Rosebud Agency continues with Kappus and key staff handling special projects including consulting for the estate of former client, Captain Beefheart (Rhino box set was released to unanimous rave reviews at the end of 2014) with regard to music related concerns. Kappus was also recently named as an Independent Board Director for the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation as well as a new role consulting for San Fransisco's renowned Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in addition to acting as an advisor to several other non profit organizations. In the meantime, Rosebud is busy sorting and documenting materials from our 40 year history (over 45,000 contracts alone) for archiving at the Southern Folklife Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Thanks to all our collaborators since 1976, with special appreciation for our intentionally short list of Rosebud artists who, during their time with Rosebud, earned 116 Grammy nominations and 28 Grammy wins, 9 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions, 6 Grammy Lifetime Achievement or Trustee Awards and 16 Blues Hall of Fame inductions. Thanks to all. - And please note our new address below:
The Rosebud Agency
650 Delancey Street, Suite 309
San Francisco, CA 94107
A Certified Green Business