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Worth their weight in gold records

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Without benefit of education or connections, Clarence Avant used mentors to climb to the top of the pop music business … and then became a mentor himself.

  • One mentor, who managed Louis Armstrong, taught Avant three lessons:

    1. Believe in yourself.

    2. Keep quiet about how much you know.

    3. Ask for as much money as you can without stuttering.
  • Another mentor,Walter Yetnikoff of CBS Records, taught Avant not to feel sorry for himself.

    When CBS lured away Avant’s first star client, Bill Withers, Avant started crying in Yetnikoff’s office.

    “What … are you crying for?” Yetnikoff bellowed. “So you lose a guy. Start another … [record] label.”

    “A lot of guys didn’t like Walter,” says Avant. “But I’m here to tell you that Walter Yetnikoff is a friend of mine. He screamed at me and got me turned around.”
—Adapted from “Clarence Avant: Music Business Pioneer” and “I Became This Cat Making Crazy Deals,” Gail Mitchell, Billboard.

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