Arny Granat, who along with Jerry Mickelson co-founded Chicago’s Jam Productions, one of the most successful independent producers/promoters of concert and other live entertainment events, is stepping down from the company, it was announced Tuesday.
Mickelson will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations at Jam.
“Jerry has been my partner for 45 years. We did the best we could. We remain friends,” Granat said, when reached by phone Tuesday.
On his decision to step down, Granat said: “The world of the concert industry, which we formed in the 1960s and ’70s, has changed with the advent of big corporations. And I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’m turning 70. I regret nothing except leaving the people I’ve worked with. It’s time to open a new door. I want to do things unencumbered.”
Those “things,” Granat said, include writing a book, producing a movie, possibly promoting circus events (such as the Nik Wallenda wire walk across the Chicago River in 2014) and putting on concerts as opportunities arise.
“I’m looking for opportunities to follow my dreams,” Granat said.
The still-unwritten book, which he has titled “I Said This, But I Meant That,” will be a mix of anecdotes of his nearly 50 years in the concert and events business and a memoir. The film he hopes to bring to fruition will be based on the book “My Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union Soldier” by Lynda Durrant. “It’s a marvelous story,” Granat said.
Founded in 1972, Jam has produced high-profile events including the first Farm Aid, the recent Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame traveling exhibit, the museum exhibit “Bodies: The Exhibition,” and tours for a massive roster of artists including the Rolling Stones, Adele, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, U2, Frank Sinatra and Prince.
Over the years the Chicago-based Jam went head-to-head with some of the biggest promoters/producers in the world such as LiveNation, and held its own.
“We kept our mojo by living up to our motto: ‘Brought to you with a little help from your friends at Jam,'” Granat said with a chuckle. “We owned venues, managed venues, which kept us in control. When many of my contemporaries were selling out or dying out, I was the only one who stayed in the game because I knew the field.”
Those venues included the Park West, the Riviera, the Aragon and the Uptown theaters.
While Granat said there were way too many shows to single out even a handful of his proudest moments, he noted that “any show at Soldier Field is a massive undertaking.”
Of Wrigley Field’s recent commitment to full-on summertime concerts, Granat said, “They should have done it a long time ago.”
Most recently, it was announced that Jam Productions was among the partnership behind the $75 million restoration of the historic Uptown Theatre. When asked about the undertaking, Granat quipped, “I’ll be 75 by the time it’s finished. I wish them the best of luck.”