Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business will honor the International Entertainment Buyers Association and one of its founders Harry “Hap” Peebles with the 2011 Robert E. Mulloy Award of Excellence.
Established in memory of program founder Bob Mulloy,the annual Award of Excellence recognizes an individual or organization that has achieved a level of excellence in the music business and entertainment industries with notable service to Belmont University and the Nashville community. Previous recipients include last year’s recipient, Vince Gill, and Donna Hilley, who was the first recipient in 2009.
Harry Peebles, or “Hap” as his friends called him, was one of a founders of both IEBA, originally known as the International Country Music Buyers Association, as well as the Country Music Association. Peebles started booking artists when he was 18 years of age. He served the country industry over 60 years, working with Barbara Mandrell when she was only 11 years old. As Ms. Mandrell says, he was “country when country wasn’t cool!” In the formative days of country music, Hap booked some of the early favorites among country music performers into fairs and festivals, including such well known legends as Tex Ritter, Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, the Wilburn Brothers, Roy Acuff and many others. Hap has been nominated for the Country Music Hall of Fame and inducted into the Hall of Fame in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, as well as named “Fairman of the Year” in several states. Through his involvement with the industry, Hap is credited with giving big breaks to such stars as Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, Loretta Lynn, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Price and Johnny Horton, just to name a few.
The International Entertainment Buyers Association was formed by Hap and Hubert Long in 1970 as a non-profit trade organization for talent buyers, promoters, agents, managers and artists. Hap and Hubert were two among a growing list of country music promoters – Hap in Wichita, Kansas and Hubert in Texas – that included the likes of Abe Hamza, Don Romeo, George Moffett and Smokey Smith – men who knew one another but rarely communicated their needs or struggles to each other. Peebles and Long felt that the country music talent buyers needed some means of formal communication between the talent buyers, as well as a voice in the fair and festival industry, which didn’t see the potential of adding country music entertainers to the roster of the larger state fairs and therefore relegated country music to the smaller county and city fairs.
“The first meeting I knew anything about was held in Hubert Long’s office in Nashville,” says Wilson Sparks, who managed the Mid-South Fair in Memphis.
We met and talked about an organization for people who buy and sell country music. I guess that was in 1970. I think we talked about it for six months or more before it ever got off the ground.
Don Romeo, whose Omaha-based agency bought a number of country music acts for fairs in the Midwest at the time, remembers that the other country music buyers were concerned then with many of the same problems that are being addressed today:
Hubert Long and Hap . . . were very concerned that the cost of talent was getting out of line, and they wanted a stronger voice in the industry. By having a buyers’ association to get together to discuss these issues with the agents and the acts, they felt we would be able to get a fairer price and would be able to make our concerns known.
Johnny Matson, who worked with Hap at the time IEBA was formed, remembers that Hap’s primary consideration was a little bit of buying power for small producers.
At that time, the big agencies had the buying power, and the smaller agencies didn’t have the respect that we have now. As far as fairs were concerned, we usually got Sundays; the big agencies got the choice dates. There would be one night where country music was featured. I think that a few fellows who booked fairs and one-nighters saw a need for an organization where they could share ideas about what was going on within the country music industry.
Smokey Smith, another talent buyer based in Des Moines, recalled:
I think Hap’s idea was that we needed an organization of the people who were buying country music who could go to the managers and talent agencies and say, “Look, we need a better price on this talent—what if two or three of us go together and offer you a string of dates, could we get a lower price?”
Long died an untimely death shortly after ICMBA was formed, and it was Hap that took up the slack as a major force in its formation. He served as president of ICMBA for six years and was chairman of the board for the organization for nearly twenty years. By the time it celebrated its 10th Anniversary, the organization had grown from its humble beginning to include almost 300 members. Peeples dies in 1993 at the age of 80. In 1995, IEBA celebrated its 25th Anniversary with honors as Tennnessee Governor Don Sundquist commerated the occasion by proclaiming June 2-5, 1995 as “International Entertainment Buyers Association Week.”
Tiffany Davis took over the helm as Executive Director in 2008. Commenting on the Mulloy Award of Excellence, Davis said:
IEBA is very proud to be recognized by Belmont. Our founder, Harry Peebles, left a great legacy in the talent buying community, inspiring many leaders like Don Romeo, George Moffett and JP Williams. IEBA is thrilled to help students through these scholarships while also honoring four great pioneers of the entertainment industry.
IEBA established the IEBA Scholarship Endowments Fund in 1991 in honor of Peeples. Since IEBA has established three additional endowed scholarships for Belmont students in honor of Don Romeo, J.P. Williams, and George Moffett. Collectively the endowments represent over $300,000 in investments.
IEBA celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in 2010. Currently IEBA has well over 800 members. The organization’s annual conference, attended last year by well over 500 people, stands alone in the entertainment industry by showcasing the most diverse entertainment options available while striving to be the go-to organization for the entertainment community by offering continuing education and networking opportunities to its members.
The presentation will take place at the Mike Curb College of Music Business’ Best of the Best showcase, March 26, 2011, 7 p.m., at Belmont’s Curb Event Center.