Jeff Trager – Concert Promoter, Booking Agent, Personal Manager, with 50+ Years in the Music Industry
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
In the 1960s through the 1990s, Jeff Trager was a record promoter who “broke” (was the first to get them into heavy radio rotation) several hit records. Among them are Ike and Tina Turner’s 1968 cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and Vangelis’ 1981 number one hit, “Chariots of Fire.” Trager has promoted records for everyone from the Eagles to Linda Ronstadt to The Rolling Stones.
These days, the San Francisco native is best known for being an impresario who has produced a series of successful benefit concerts and a series of shows at the Fairfield Downtown Theatre. Some liken him to Solano County’s version of the late concert promoter Bill Graham.
“The first benefit concert I did was in 1971 for a friend jailed in Spain on trumped-up drug charges,” Trager said. “I put on a show at The Family Dog in San Francisco and 3,500 people showed up. We made enough money to send an attorney over who got my friend out.”
From ten years, Trager co-produced the annual Voices of Latin Rock concert for autism awareness. A longtime friend of Trager’s, Dr. Bernard Gonzalez, has an autistic son who was the impetus behind the concert idea.
“We’ve had groups like Los Lobos, War and Tower of Power come play, and Carlos Santana even put together the original Santana band that hadn’t played together in 25 years,” Trager said. “One year, Sly Stone came out of obscurity and George Clinton of Parliament showed up, too.”
Trager relocated to Green Valley in 2000. After learning about the state of the instruments that the music program at Crystal Middle School were using, he put on an annual fundraising concert from 2007 to 2010. Among the special guests who played alongside Crystal students was Trager’s longtime friend Greg Errico, original drummer for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rock/funk group Sly and the Family Stone. “That show was great, it was successful and people enjoyed it. When you do stuff like that, you get back more than you put out,” Errico said. “It’s easy to get up there and put on a performance, but for the kids it is inspiring and they look up to what you are doing. Jeff is a straightforward guy who puts 100 percent into what he commits to do. A lot of these things wouldn’t get done unless someone has the vision and actually does the work to bring it home. I’m glad to see that he is busier than ever.”
Trager was happy to see the diverse parts of Fairfield working together for good at the Crystal shows. “We got lots of people from Green Valley to show up and you would think there would be a disconnect because none of them had kids that went there,” Trager said. “But they gravitated to the shows for the great music and to help.”
Other local Trager-produced benefits include two for Fun on the Run, held in Fairfield, one for Archway Recovery Services, also in Fairfield, and one for relief for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, held in Vallejo.
Many locals recall slain Fairfield Councilman Matt Garcia’s memorial service that included two artists Trager arranged to be there: Vacaville’s Holly Stell, who sang “Ave Maria,” and violinist Carlos Reyes, who played an emotional version of “Amazing Grace.” They also later did a private performance for Garcia’s family members.
Trager produced a benefit for local musician Herman Wilson called Hugs for Hermz to raise money for treatment Wilson needed for multiple sclerosis. Since 2013 he also produced the annual PinkFest concerts to raise money for Vacaville-based cancer nonprofit Pink Lemonade.
In addition to benefit shows, Trager books musical acts for the Sticky Rice Bistro, Mankas Steakhouse, Vino Godfather winery, Silo’s in Napa, and Seven Artisans winery among others. Since 2015, Trager has produced his Jeff Trager Presents concert series at Fairfield’s Downtown Theatre including sold out shows like Carlos Reyes and Friends, Divas of Soul, Lyndsey Elm of NBC’s “The Voice and Tower of Power frontman Lenny Williams.
Part of the reason Trager enjoys giving back is due to a renewed lease on life he acquired after conquering personal demons nearly a quarter century ago. “I was almost always on the road and everyone was abusing substances. I developed an addiction that grabbed a hold of me. A 28-day stint in St. Helena starting on June 15, 1990, saved my life. I’ve been sober ever since,” Trager said.
“Music is healing. It brings people together and makes them smile and dance and feel good,” Trager said. “I’m not a mechanic or an accountant or a carpenter, but I know how to put on a show and I absolutely love doing it. I appreciate now more than ever that it’s not about money. It’s about putting on great shows and making people happy.”