Jul 30, 2012

August 1971: Lenny Hart Arrested


SAN FRANCISCO - The Grateful Dead have found and busted Lenny Hart, their elusive former manager and the father of ex-drummer Mickey Hart. He was in San Diego, the Dead said - baptizing Jesus freaks under the name and title with which he had first approached the band two years ago: The Reverend Lenny B. Hart.
A warrant had been out, and a suit filed, for Hart since he split in spring last year. The charge, said Dead accountant David Parker, was embezzlement. Hart was found by private detectives two weeks ago, according to Rock Scully, and spent a weekend in jail. Bail was set at $38,500; Hart reportedly bailed himself out.
Various members of the Dead organization tried to piece the father-and-band association together. "He had come to us as a man of God," said Scully, who left the Dead while Lenny Hart was there. "He said, 'You've been fucked around. Now, I don't ask you to believe in Jesus, but believe in me. Fill the vessel!' You know, 'The content's beautiful but we've got to hold it!' He really cleaned the hell out of all of us."
Parker joined the band's office around the time of Hart's departure, in March, 1970. "It became obvious to everyone - something was strange," he said. "He wouldn't hand over the checkbook or let us look at the books. There were several confrontations with a number of people; we were going to file suit.
"Then he got a lawyer and said he'd pay the money back. $70,000 was the amount we put down for suit; that was the amount clearly beyond a doubt that had been dealt with in a suspicious way. It may have been double that, we didn't know. He promised to pay, put down $10,000, and split. He cleaned out all the bank accounts, and the band didn't even have any money to go on the road with."
"When he ran off on us," said Scully, "he'd just gone to L.A. with Garcia to negotiate for music in Zabriskie Point. Well, he just took the check and split. We found out he had 11 accounts spread out through California. He'd open up 'new companies' and put the money there." The band, he said, thought Hart was putting aside money to pay taxes. "You know how you save to avoid getting hit at the end of the year? Well, we got hit."
Manager John McIntire shook his head. "So much of it's so cut and dry it's amazing how stupid we were," he said. "It was a classic trip: Elmer Gantry coming in. We deserved it. But you wouldn't think he'd fuck his own kid."
Mickey Hart left the band shortly after his father had split. "Mickey's still reacting to it," said Scully. "I mean, he was burned by his father."

(from Rolling Stone, September 2 1971)


  1. According to McNally, Lenny had made off with about $155,000. I don't know if this was written about at the time. Lenny split in March 1970; Mickey left almost a year later; as far as I know the band kept pretty quiet about these things.

    From McNally's book:
    "On July 26 Lenny Hart had been found by a private detective and arrested in San Diego. He claimed to be studying to be a minister in the Assembly of God, although the local pastor denied that he was even a parishioner. Portraying himself as a naif dazzled by rock and roll, Lenny claimed to be a financial virgin in a new world where everyone was ripping off each other, and 'I just succumbed to the temptation to take my share.' The Dead did not press charges, although they did sue for the return of their money, and recovered $55,000. The district attorney pursued criminal embezzlement charges, and Lenny was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail. Joe Smith attended the trial, and Lenny told him, 'The Lord has forgiven me. I hope the boys do.' ...Busy building a studio at the ranch, Mickey found out about Lenny's arrest only by reading the Chronicle."

    After his release, Lenny taught music in Mill Valley, and died on 2/12/75.

  2. They played 56 dates from March 1970-July 26, 1970 with this issue on their minds.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. slip, he was busted the next year, so that July 26 is 7/26/71.

  3. oops! Anyone know the date of the first show after Lenny was hired?

    1. He became their manager sometime in April 1969, but I don't know what were the first shows he booked.
      I don't think we know the exact date he fled in March 1970, either.

  4. gives religion a bad name. unfortunate

  5. From Wikipedia, at Lenny Hart's funeral:

    According to Dennis McNally "Mickey went to the funeral home, cleared the room, took out the snakewood sticks that had been his inheritance, played a traditional rudimental drum piece, "The Downfall of Paris," on Lenny's coffin, and split."[8]

  6. From the San Bernardino Sun, March 3, 1972:
    Grateful Dead Manager Jailed
    San Francisco (AP) - A former business manager of the Grateful Dead rock group has been sentenced to six months in jail for embezzling $70,000 from the group, despite his attorney's plea that "the Lord has touched" his client.
    Superior Court Judge E. Warren McGuire imposed the sentence on Leonard B. Hart, 52, after his attorney told the judge Hart had become an ordained minister since the embezzlement.
    "The Lord has touched Mr. Hart," said Robert McCreedie. "He is a completely rehabilitated man."
    Hart, a minister in the Assembly of God Church, has repaid $55,000 of the $70,000.

  7. And, jumping back in time, from the Fresno Bee, June 11, 1970:

    Grateful Dead Sue Former Manager
    San Francisco (AP) - The Grateful Dead rock group, not so grateful to its former business manager, has sued him for $127,000.
    The six musicians said in the action Leonard B. Hart made "fraudulent appropriations" with $77,950 when he was their agent from May 15, 1969 to last March 2.

    (This helps settle the exact dates Lenny was manager - 5/15/69 to 3/2/70.)