Described by business partner Claire Singers as '6 foot 4 inches of
great fun', there's something of the entertainer about LD Publicity CEO
Bernard Doherty. A self-confessed music obsessive, he speaks with a
dulcet southern tone reminiscent of a generation of rock legends, many
of whom he has worked with, and many more of whom are competently
impersonated in his repertoire of anecdotes.
Growing up in a musical environment (his parents taught ballroom
dancing, his brother played guitar in a band), Doherty devoted hours of
his youth to hanging around clubs and record shops, building up a huge
and diverse musical knowledge. However, on leaving school with one
O-Level, he found himself, 'like everybody else in Chelmsford', working
at the Essex county town's Marconi factory.
At the age of 18, an application for a job as a DJ in Copenhagen,
advertised in Melody Maker, presented Doherty with the opportunity to
forsake a life of making nuts and bolts. Working the club circuit in
Scandinavia, he became associated with the overseas tours of a variety
of prog-rock bands: 'I was the guy who used to show them the best clubs
and places to go.'
On his return to London, he brought with him a huge address book of
managers and promoters, as well as an 'obsession' with working in the
A spell of odd-jobbing and work as a roadie led to a job as a runner
with Island Records. It was from there that he graduated to working as a
tour publicist, travelling the world trying to break bands in different
After a stint at Hannibal Records, Doherty made the leap into agency
work when a vacancy arose with Rogers & Cowan. Enlisted to set up the
firm's music department, the move from indie label to trans-Atlantic
agency came as something of a culture shock: 'They were like Rolls
Royce. They had suits, they had expense accounts, they had an office!
People in there actually had assistants, they had cake on Fridays!'
Starting with David Bowie as a client, Paul McCartney and Tina Turner
were soon added to the roster. 'I went from doing obscure world music
and little punk bands to - my God! - world dominating bands and selling
out stadiums. It was a huge learning curve.'
The romance ended in 1988, when Shandwick bought up the agency, and
Doherty found the new owners not to his liking. 'Rogers & Cowan had been
lots of departments having a great time, but then we had to start
filling in forms if we spent ten minutes working on Tina Turner. I
couldn't deal with it. I was completely disillusioned.'
It was when he met Singers that the 'idea in his head' began to become
something more tangible. The duo teamed up with Wendy Laister, using
Doherty's profile in the music industry to expand her five-year-old
Laister-Dixon PR firm. In a period of six months following his arrival,
the agency signed Guns'n'Roses and Aerosmith, before 'Mick Jagger and
Keith Richards phoned me up and said 'We're with you Bernard'.' (The
impersonation of the frazzled rock stars is impeccable). Tina Turner
soon followed, before the firm got taken on to handle the BRIT
BRITs executive producer Lisa Anderson first encountered Doherty in her
role as MD of RCA records in the 1980s. When she moved to manage the
BRIT Awards, LD was her first choice to handle the event: 'Bernard has
been a key player in reinventing the perception of the show. I trust his
judgement on all PR on the show, whether in fair weather or foul! If
something is going awry, Bernard is my first call!'
The rebranding of the ceremony from the 'in joke' of the slapstick early
ceremonies into the slick event of today is cited as one of his proudest
achievements, including 'nurturing' the Oasis versus Blur chart battle
of the mid-1990s.
Perhaps one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the agency
occurred towards the end of last year, when LD undertook a mammoth
promotional tour for the Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue album,
involving a private jet, a film crew, and four continents.
The agency's roster is admirably diverse, ranging from Limp Bizkit to
Elvis. Yet Doherty does not believe it is necessary to be a fan of an
artist to publicise them: 'If you loved Italian food and worked in an
Italian restaurant and it was all you saw all day, you'd soon develop a
taste for Chinese or Thai. It's the same sort of thing with music.'
His love for his work is undeniable. It is with some degree of
embarrassment that he admits he shed a tear when Status Quo played Live
Aid, the latter a client in his Rogers & Cowan days. One would hope the
dewy eyes were not inspired by the kind of laughter that greets the Bob
Geldof impression that ensues.
1983: Joins Rogers & Cowan
1985: Works on Live Aid
1989: Joins Laister-Dixon (now LD Publicity)
1991: Wins BRITs account.