CELEBRATEDanny Zelisko (right) is joined on stage at Walter Studios by colleagues and employees Mariam Neyens, Blu Parr, Mick Treadwell, Tim Mohn, Kathy “Koz” Perschke and Tondra Shepherd. 


To longtime Phoenix concert promoter Danny Zelisko, celebrating 50 years in the business is bittersweet.

“It means that we did good and got away with this all these years,” Zelisko said. “It also means the end is closer in sight than ever before. It’s weird in that way. You get older, your tastes change. I think we’re really good at it. We’ve been doing it long enough. I’m pushing 70. I say that and all of a sudden, it sounds old.”

To celebrate his 50 years, Zelisko’s friends—including Alan Parsons, Alice Cooper and The Black Moods—family, local celebrities and music-industry collaborators commingled at a party at Walter Studios in Phoenix.

Following the invite-only celebration, Zelisko held an exhibition of his memorabilia at the space June 3-5, where visitors could explore the evolution of live music and the moments that have shaped Zelisko’s career. Zelisko was present each night to share anecdotes attached to the relics on display.

The world of music was in a different place 50 years ago, and so was Phoenix. When Zelisko started, Phoenix had just surpassed 1 million residents. Now, it’s up to 1.7 million.

Zelisko began his journey in 1974 with Evening Star Productions. He quickly made a name for himself with his knack for discovering, booking and promoting talent across genres to build up a noteworthy rolodex of rock royalty.

Zelisko’s early work centered around Dooley’s Nightclub in Tempe, now The New School for Arts and Academics, which he began booking steadily in 1976. The 750-capacity venue hosted an array of iconic acts, including The Police, Cheap Trick, Pat Benatar, Talking Heads, KISS, Bon Jovi, No Doubt and Nirvana. This intimate venue became a launching pad for recording stars, with Zelisko leading the charge in bringing nightclub concerts to prominence nationwide.

Those friends keep Zelisko inspired.

“I have a lot of really good friends that I book shows for,” said Zelisko, who briefly appears in the “Lolla: The Documentary of Lollapalooza.” (He had the hard job of telling fans Nine Inch Nails weren’t returning to the stage.)

“We all kind of grew up together — Jackson Browne was one of them. We always take photos. I have to figure out where they are, so I can see how we looked through the ages,” he adds. “If I didn’t take care of these people who come in and out of town, I wouldn’t have anything to do. But I’m literally making dinner night reservations.”

Events celebrating Phoenix concert promoter Danny Zelisko’s 50th anniversary in the business included a public exhibit featuring concert memorabilia.  

Long gone is the desire to book every show that comes to town. At this stage, Zelisko said, he would like to work with people he worked with all long. Some of his regulars, some of whom are no longer with us: Alice Cooper, Muddy Waters, Jeff Beck, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaghan, Tina Turner and Kate Bush.

Throughout the 1980s, Evening Star Productions flourished. The company expanded its reach to Las Vegas and New Mexico.

His notable bookings at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium (now known as Mountain America Stadium), include Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney. In partnership with The Nicks Family, Evening Star was a stakeholder in the opening of Desert Sky Amphitheatre, now Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre, with Billy Joel in 1990.

Zelisko maintained Evening Star until it was acquired by Clear Channel Communications, which evolved into Live Nation. During this decade, Zelisko served as president and chairman of Live Nation Southwest until 2011, when he left to launch Danny Zelisko Presents.

“It was just time to get back to what really brought me gratification and the ability to impact the music scene, and venues, as Phoenix experienced cultural shifts to a population that was seeking more independent, localized offerings,” Zelisko said.

“I feel lucky to have built such great relationships with huge acts that we are still booking to this day, but still discovering new acts, new venues and new ways to platform artists, which is hugely rewarding.”

Zelisko said he books shows across the nation, in places like Henderson, Nevada; Chicago; Tucson and further east.

The friendships he’s made outweigh the financial gains, he says.

“I’ll never get a bigger take than bringing someone on stage, and hanging out with a great guitar player I’m friends with,” Zelisko said. “It’s like any other job sometimes—the deals you have to address, but all of these involve people. I’ll do this as long as I feel good about doing it.”