NANCY COVEY is a concert, festival and cultural music tour producer, presenter, and curator.
Renowned as concert director and talent booker at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica during the heyday of the L.A. music scene (1974-84), Covey gained fame by showcasing folk, jazz, Celtic, Cajun, blues, roots and Americana musicians such as Doc Watson, John Lee Hooker, Emmy Lou Harris, Roseanne Cash, Etta James, Clifton Chenier, Van Dyke Parks, Los Lobos, Bill Monroe, T Bone Burnett, Richie Havens, Loudon Wainwright III, Odetta, and hundreds more.
Covey is credited with discovering John Hiatt and Vince Gil plus introducing British folk rocker, Richard Thompson, to North American audiences when she booked and promoted Thompson’s first-ever USA solo tour in 1981.
Covey also produced numerous single concerts for artists such as Stephane Grappelli, John Renbourn, The Boys of the Lough, Little Feat, Legion of Mary with Jerry Garcia, Bonnie Raitt and Tom Waits.
After marrying Richard Thompson in 1985 and establishing homes in Los Angeles and London, the couple’s 30+ year personal and professional partnership and global artistic network yielded great creative fruit for both.
Nancy Covey’s company, Festival Tours International (www.festival-tours.com) has been taking small groups of music lovers across countries and continents for decades to hear true indigenous music, meet artists and deeply experience the culture of a unique genre or region, such as Louisiana, Britain, Zimbabwe, Slovenia, Corsica and Spain. Most recently she has pioneered music-focused People to People trips to Cuba.
Covey leveraged her contacts, deep knowledge and life on two continents, when she was named Artistic Director for London’s weeklong multi-arts festival and produced “The American South” at London’s prestigious Southbank Centre. This festival featured music, dance, theatre and art and was one of the most well-attended festivals of its kind at the South Bank.
While connecting her husband to other artists, agents, managers and music heavyweights such as her own manager, Gary Stamler, and friend, Hale Milgrim, then-president of Capitol Records (which produced Thompson’s most commercially successful album, Rumor and Sigh), she introduced Richard Thompson to his current management team, Vector Management.
Behind the scenes, Covey helped Thompson curate his 10-day festival, MELTDOWN, again at the South Bank Centre in London June 11-21, 2010, which was highlighted by the seminal guitar night, “Six Strings” featuring her husband and the legendary James Burton, followed by a performance on another continent of Thompson’s musical theatre song cycle, “Cabaret of Souls” produced by Covey and Debra Green, on November 19, 2010 at UCLA’s Royce Hall and again at the Broad Theatre in Santa Monica.
In 2012, the couple created their annual Thompson family “Frets and Refrains,” a week-long guitar and songwriting camp for musicians of all ages near Woodstock, New York. The inter-generational event is organized by Covey, with teachers Richard Thompson, son (with Linda Thompson) Teddy Thompson, grandson Zak Hobbs, and open mic/DJ Jack Covey Thompson, Richard and Nancy’s youngest son. Guest guitar and songwriting teachers at Frets & Refrains have included Shawn Colvin, Jill Sobule, Patty Griffin, Martin Simpson and many others.
A native Californian and daughter of travel documentary filmmaker Keith M. Covey and folk guitar playing mother Barbara Covey, Nancy was deeply influenced by the family’s close friend, ethnomusicologist Bess Lomax Hawes (NEA) who taught the eager 11-year-old to play “This Land is Your Land” before it was popularized nationally.
During the Folk Revival of the 1960s, Covey’s mother took her teen to the famed L.A. folk club, the Ash Grove, to see acts like Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, raised her with the Girl Scout motto “Be Prepared,” and took Nancy to McCabe’s Guitar Shop to buy her first guitar.
50th ANNIVERSARY MCCABES GUITAR SHOP
In 2008, Covey co produced and emceed a rare night of music at Royce Hall celebrating the 50th anniversary of McCabes Guitar Shop. The 4 hour show featured performances and reminiscences by Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Jennifer Warnes, David Lindley, Dan Hicks, Peter Case, magician Ricky Jay, the Savoy Doucet Cajun band, Bonny Prince Billy, Blind Boys of Alabama, Richard Thompson, Kami Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Chrissie Hynde with James Walbourne, David and Roseanne Lindley, and one of the last performances by the great Odetta herself.
On Thanksgiving Day 2008, NPR affiliate KCRW aired a special documentary, “McCabes At 50” featuring radio interviews with Covey and many of the notable artists who comment on her influence and support early in their careers. Click here to visit an archive of the show (https://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/music-special/mccabes-at-50).
Maimuna Thompson Mascolo - Interior Designer
Teddy Thompson - musician
Kamila (Kami) Thompson Walbourne – musician
Jack Covey Thompson (www.jackcthompson.com) - musician, artist
Wendy Covey Free
Diane Dee Covey
“It was largely her energy and vision as concert director that transformed the 150 capacity room from an out –of the –way “folkie” joint in the back of a guitar shop into one of Southern California’s hippest venues.”
Robert Hillburn, Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1984
“Nancy Covey is to her 150 seat domain what Bill Graham was to the Fillmore.”
LA Weekly, May 5, 1980
“The Cuba trek was organized by L.A.-based Festival Tours, a music-focused travel company started in the 1980s by Nancy Covey, former talent booker for McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. She launched the firm to immerse travelers in such musically rich destinations as southwestern Louisiana, England and Scotland and, more recently, Cuba.”
Randy Lewis, Los Angeles, Times November 30, 2016