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)

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  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.

    1. Lenard almost married my mom in 67. We moved to San Diego in 69. We wernt Jesus Freaks. But my Brother and me 12 and 14 went to a youth Revival at a Baptist church and Lenard was the to meet us as we walked in. We told our mom and it was a hail storm. Lenard followed us to Ca. From Phx AZ.
      I'm spite of his history, we liked him. And thought he was a great guy.
      My mom was a Preacher's Daughter and lived with her parents in the house the Church provided since my Grandfather was the Baptist Minister. All I can say is he was trying to start a new life.
      I liked Lenard.

  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

    1. It's al used as a form.of control.

  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.)

    1. From the San Francisco Examiner, June 10, 1970:

      The six members of the rock group, The Grateful Dead, have sued their agent and business manager for $77,950 he allegedly walked off with.
      They also want $50,000 in punitive damages and 7 percent interest on the reportedly purloined funds.

  8. "San Rafael, Calif., Aug. 11 (UPI)
    The former manager of the Grateful Dead rock group has been ordered to appear Sept. 14 for a preliminary hearing on charges of embezzling money from the musicians.
    Leonard B. Hart was accused of writing $32,200 in checks between May 1969 and March 1970 on an account maintained by the Grateful Dead in a Terra Linda, Calif., bank and transferring the funds to the Sunshine Co. The district attorney's office said the Sunshine Co. account in the same bank was in Hart's name.
    Hart, who was released on $31,250 bail after his arrest in San Diego, was accused also of taking $11,000 worth of checks for music composed by Jerry Garcia, a member of the rock group. The checks from MGM Studios were made out to Hart as trustee. Garcia told the district attorney that neither he... [line missing] money." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/11/71)

    The AP story:
    "The former business manager of the Dead has pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzling $77,000 from the rock group.
    Leonard Hart, who was arrested July 26 in San Diego, appeared Tuesday in Marin County Municipal Court, where a preliminary hearing was set for Sept. 14.
    Assistant Dist. Atty. Gary Thomas said Hart is accused of writing checks totaling $35,200 on the group's account in a Terra Linda bank between May 1969 and March 1970.
    Investigation revealed the funds were transferred to the Sunshine Company, an account in the bank under Hart's name, Thomas said.
    Jerry Garcia, a member of the Dead, told police he failed to receive $11,000 MGM paid for six songs he wrote. The district attorney said the checks were made out in Hart's name.
    Hart was released on $31,000 bail following his arrest." (Arizona Daily Star 8/12/71)