Phil Kaufman (producer)

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Phil Kaufman
Born (1935-04-26) April 26, 1935 (age 84)
United States
GenresFolk rock, rock, soul, R&B, blues
Occupation(s)Record producer, tour manager, author
Associated actsJoe Cocker
Etta James
The Rolling Stones
Frank Zappa

Philip C. Kaufman (born April 26, 1935)[1] is an American record producer, tour manager, and author, best known for stealing the body of country musician Gram Parsons, and burning it in Joshua Tree National Monument. This was later chronicled in the film Grand Theft Parsons. He authored the book Road Mangler Deluxe, an autobiography about his experiences in the music business. He worked with Parsons, The Rolling Stones, Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Frank Zappa, Hank Williams III, Etta James, and many more.[2]

Kaufman's first musical role was as the driver and assistant to The Rolling Stones during the recording of Beggar's Banquet, referred to by Mick Jagger as his "executive nanny."[3][4]

Kaufman had previously acted in Hollywood, with bit parts in Spartacus, Riot in Juvenile Prison, and Pork Chop Hill, among others, before a felony marijuana smuggling conviction in the mid 1960s.[citation needed] After getting out of prison (where he befriended fellow inmate Charles Manson), he was offered a job driving for Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, who were in Los Angeles at the time for the mixing of Beggars Banquet.[2][3][4][5]

Through Keith Richards, Kaufman met Gram Parsons, and agreed to tour manage his group The Flying Burrito Brothers, although he had no prior tour managing experience.[3]

The song "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" from Frank Zappa's album Joe's Garage tells the story of Kaufman's "urination problems".[6]

Parsons' death[edit]

After Parsons' death from an accidental drug overdose, Kaufman borrowed a hearse and drove to Los Angeles International Airport, convincing airline staff to release Parsons' body to him. According to Kaufman, he had made a pact with Parsons prior to his death regarding handling of their remains in the event of either Parsons' or Kaufman's death. The 2003 movie Grand Theft Parsons follows Kaufman taking Parsons' body and burning it in the desert, with Johnny Knoxville portraying Kaufman.[2]

Charles Manson[edit]

Kaufman met Charles Manson while they were inmates in Terminal Island Prison. According to Kaufman, a guard taunted Manson that he would never get out; Manson calmly responded by looking up from his guitar and saying, "Get out of where?"[7][8] (Manson officially requested a transfer to Leavenworth, considered one of the harshest penitentiaries, because he said he would get fewer complaints from fellow inmates about his guitar practicing there.)[9] Manson, who aspired to success as a singer-songwriter was found to be congenial company by Kaufman. He thought Manson a very bad guitar player, but capable enough as a singer and songwriter to have a chance of getting a record contract, and before Manson's release Kaufman gave him the name of a friend in the industry, Gary Stromberg at Universal. Kaufman advised Manson wait a few months after he was released to give him a chance to acclimatize to the outside world, and do some more work on his songs, then use the most polished compositions to showcase his potential when he went to see the music producer acquaintance of Kaufman's, saying who sent him. Manson, who Kaufman believed was self-obsessed, promised to take the advice.[10] Despite this valuable introduction for the furtherance of his ambitions, on release day Manson begged to stay and protested that prison had become his home.[11][12]

Months after his release, by which time he had acquired the first four of his female devotees, Manson went to see Stromberg. On the strength of the recommendation from Kaufman, the producer authorized a studio recording session. Instead of having been prepared as Kaufman suggested, with a limited number of his best songs, Manson was unfocused and amateurish, making the recording a disappointment.[13] Kaufman was released the next year, and would spend time living with the Manson Family, with its female devotees made available to him. According to Kaufman, he has "had sex with more serial killers than anyone else in Show Business." When Manson found that he could not turn Kaufman into a follower, they became estranged.[3]

Manson album[edit]

Kaufman produced and released Manson's album at the height of his notoriety, but found that he could not get anyone to stock Lie: The Love and Terror Cult.[14]

Music industry and the Manson murders[edit]

Manson murder victims Leno and Rosemary LaBianca's home was next to where a long time close friend of Kaufman had rented a house. Manson had attended parties there with Kaufman when still friendly with him: Kaufman has said this was no coincidence.[2][3][4][15]

The murder of Sharon Tate and four others, which occurred on the previous night to the attack on the LaBianca home, was also linked with a music industry acquaintance of Manson who he associated with his failures to get a record contract. It was at the 10050 Cielo Drive former home of Terry Melcher, which by then was being rented by the husband of Sharon Tate. Manson had been rebuffed there while looking for Melcher, who had been initially interested in Manson's music but lost interest after a trip to the Manson commune.[15]

Prior to the killing of Tate and her four friends, Manson had initiated the murder spree of his followers by ordering the death of Gary Hinman. Mary Brunner was present throughout and the key witness for the prosecution at a trial of some Manson followers for the murder. She testified that Bobby Beausoleil killed Hinman, a musician, because Hinman had refused to join Manson's band.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Phil Kaufman, renowned road manager, celebrates 75th birthday: updated".
  2. ^ a b c d "Road Mangler Deluxe". Amazon.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Rock and Roll's Most Infamous Tour Manager". VICE.
  4. ^ a b c "Grand Theft Parsons : Phil Kaufman".
  5. ^ "Phil Kaufman: Executive Nanny, Corpse-Rustler, Road-Mangler Deluxe". Alternatives to Valium.
  6. ^ YouTube
  7. ^ Charles Manson By Simon Wells
  8. ^ Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson By Jeff Guinn p 74
  9. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent; Gentry, Curt (1974). Helter Skelter. Arrow Books Limited. ISBN 0-09-997500-9. p 194-196
  10. ^ Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson By Jeff Guinn p 74-5
  11. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent; Gentry, Curt (1974). Helter Skelter. Arrow Books Limited. ISBN 0-09-997500-9. p199
  12. ^ London Review of Books, London Review of Books The way out is not through the door
  13. ^ Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson By Jeff Guinn p 124
  14. ^ Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson By Jeff Guinn p 314
  15. ^ a b London Review of Books 7/11/ 13 Way Out The way out of a room is not through the door, Christian Lorentzen
  16. ^ CieloDrive .com, retrieved 23/12/14 News report Wednesday, June 17th, 1970 Mary Brunner Indicted: Ex-Librarian Asks To Defend Herself
  17. ^ CieloDrive .com, retrieved 23/12/14 (News report) June 18th, 1970 Mary Brunner Arraigned In Musician Slaying Case