Joe Sutton, whose 55-year career in the entertainment business included work as a publicist, manager and radio and TV host, has died. He was 83.
His son, Michael Sutton, confirmed the news to Deadline. A cause of death was not specified.
Joe Sutton was born in Brooklyn in 1937 and moved with his family to Los Angeles three years later. After getting his start as an assistant at Rogers & Cowan, he partnered with Mickey Freeman to establish Freeman and Sutton Public Relations. The firm had two stints in operation, the first in the 1960s and the second mostly in the 1980s and ’90s.
In between, Sutton focused on the music business. As an independent manager, he repped artists including Neil Diamond, Ricky Nelson and Lou Rawls. MCA then hired him as EVP of its music division, and he served as COO of the company’s Decca, Kapp and Uni labels.
Launched in 1962, Freeman and Sutton PR’s client list eventually would include Bill Cosby, the Doors, the Smothers Brothers and the Beach Boys. When it re-formed after Sutton left MCA, the firm handled a more disparate roster, including Jerry Seinfeld, Burt Reynolds, Patty Duke, Drew Barrymore, Martin Lawrence, the American Film Institute, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Twin Peaks and the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
In 1998, Sutton launched radio show Talking with Joe, which aired first on KYPA-AM Los Angeles before moving to CBS-owned KLSX under a new title, The Heart of Hollywood. Watch him discuss the beginnings of the show in a clip below.
Broadcasting and audio work went on to become a defining passion for Sutton. Along with producer Jennifer Clymer, Sutton recorded more than 250 conversations with industry veterans living at the Motion Picture Television Fund retirement community in LA’s San Fernando Valley. Under the banner MPTF Behind the Silver Screen, the interviews were televised on a dedicated channel shown on the facility’s campus. Some of the interviews still are available on the MPTF’s YouTube channel.
Sutton is survived by his sons, Michael and Robby Sutton; a brother, Victor; sisters Leona and Joyce; and partner Susan Shore.