Pete Kameron was a unique figure in the world of entertainment, as a manager and producer whose work extended across the music spectrum, from the Weavers and the Modern Jazz Quartet to the Who. Born in New York City in 1921, he had joined the entertainment industry as a manager by the end of the '
'40s, and among his earliest clients were the folk quartet the Weavers, whom he managed from the outset of their recording career. He was also, at that time, the business partner of Howie Richmond, a publicist-turned-music publisher, in the company TRO/Folkways Music, one of whose copyrights was "Wimoweh" (aka "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), which was a huge hit for the Weavers and would, decades later, become the object of a multi-million dollar lawsuit by the estate of its original South African author. And according to some sources, Kameron and Richmond were also joined at the hip in grabbing up the "authorship" of various folk songs handled by Folkways publishing, using the joint pseudonym "Paul Campbell."
Some aspects of Kameron's music entrepreneurship may have been shady or, at least, suspect -- and decades later, a settlement was indeed reached with the estate of the author of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" -- but he did know and understand the business, and even with the Red Scare and the blacklist encroaching on the group's earnings in the mid-'50s, he helped maintain the Weavers as one of the top attractions in the burgeoning folk music boom. He also managed the Modern Jazz Quartet and was heavily involved in the management and business dealings surrounding the Tarriers, one of the earliest successful folk groups of the next generation, and was also in the work of the Cumberland Three (best remembered as the musical home of John Stewart before he joined the Kingston Trio). During the mid-'60s, he and Monte Kay -- the husband of singer Diahann Carroll, with whom Kameron had been partners since the '50s -- co-founded FM Records, a short-lived venture whose roster included Chris Connor, Eric Dolphy, the Big 3 (featuring Cass Elliot), Fred Neil, Bob Carey, and Jo Mapes, among others from the folk and jazz worlds.
FM Records barely lasted a year as a viable organization, but in 1966, Kameron was one of the behind-the-scenes masterminds behind Track Records, the London-based record label put together by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who managed the Who -- Jimi Hendrix also became part of the Track Records stable of artists, and along with those two superstar acts, the company recorded Arthur Brown, Thunderclap Newman, and Golden Earring. Unlike the Beatles' Apple label, Andrew Oldham's Immediate Records, and other self-consciously cutting-edge late-'60s efforts at independent recording, Track was a successful venture in its time, and lasted 'til the late '70s. Later still, Kameron produced movies as well, including You Better Watch Out (1980) and Miss Right (1982). During the late '70s, he was was one of the principal movers and investors behind the L.A. Weekly, a newspaper that was founded as a kind of West Coast equivalent to the Village Voice in New York (and, ironically, both papers ended up under the ownership of the Village Voice Media conglomerate, but with little resemblance to their original incarnations).
Although he was credited as "producer" or "executive producer" on some albums, and had the "Paul Campbell" pseudonym as a kind of public face, Kameron preferred to stay behind the scenes in most of his music-related activities. His interests were many and varied, as the roster of artists with whom he was involved demonstrates, but he wasn't a well-known media figure. His death in 2008 at the age of 87 was principally noted in Los Angeles, where the contemporary L.A. Weekly continues to be published.