Alex Cooley
Alex Cooley is an international concert and music festival promoter, and a household name among Atlanta’s live music fans. Born and raised in Atlanta, he attended Georgia State University and the University of Georgia before being lured into entrepreneurial pursuits. From humble beginnings, Alex has become one of the most trusted and renowned promoters in the world. His ability to realize the cultural value of live music has distinctly shaped Atlanta’s entertainment landscape. He has helped save The Fox Theatre from demolition, turned The Roxy and The Tabernacle into music landmarks, and filled downtown Atlanta streets with the largest music festival in the country. The local newspapers have charted his career calling him “The Mayor of Music” and “the Guy who Brought Rock and Roll to Atlanta.” With four decades experience buying music talent, promoting concerts, producing festivals and operating live music venues, he has deeply impacted Georgia’s entertainment industry.

In the late 1960’s as war and civil rights issues raged in America, Alex found himself at the Miami Pop festival. With a full roster of world class talent, the experience opened his eyes to a new era of live entertainment. He instantly wanted to bring this new phenomenon to Atlanta. Propelled by a desire to affect the political and cultural isolation of the deep South, Alex organized the Atlanta International Pop Festival in 1969. Featuring a lineup of more than twenty pop and rock acts, the festival occurred a month before the famous Woodstock festival in New York. The 2nd Atlanta International Pop Festival in 1970 was the largest gathering of people in Georgia history until the 1996 Olympics. That weekend “Woodstock Nation” descended on little Byron, Georgia in a stunning display of common cause. By most accounts, those that came represented a broad cross section of youth at the time. The Athens Banner Herald reported on July 5, 1970 that “the majority of persons around the festival [were] representative of middle-class and up Americana,” but to Middle Georgia, Cooley remembers, “Aliens might as well have landed.”

The festivals were a symbol of Southern mainstream youth's growing acceptance of rock and roll, and of the growing influence of countercultural values. They also began a festival tradition of offering a diverse lineup and aiding the discovery of new music. The events showed a clear demand for new music in the South, and Alex tapped the momentum. In the years to come, he would host thousands of rock and roll concerts at nightclubs, halls, theaters, auditoriums, stadiums, and public parks in Atlanta and around the world.

As creator of internationally recognized Music Midtown Festival and the historically significant Atlanta International Pop Festivals, he has been a driving force behind Atlanta’s large demand for live music. The first major concert promotion and production company in the south was Alex Cooley, Inc. in 1970, and in the 80's founded Concert/Souther Promotions with longtime partner Peter Conlon. By 1987 Alex had been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He also set in motion some of the largest cultural events in U.S. history. The Atlanta International Pop festival attracted over 150,000 people. The Texas International Pop festival drew 150,000. By some estimates, The Second Atlanta International Pop festival drew 500,000 souls in search of freedom and music. More recently the Music Midtown festival ran for twelve years and brought upwards of 300,000 people. In 2004, he was awarded a Grammy HEROES Award by the National Academy of Recording Artists and Sciences (NARAS) and he also served on the Board of Governors for the Georgia Chapter of NARAS. Alex represented Georgia and U.S. entertainment industries at the G-8 Summit by request of Georgia’s governor, in 2004.

“It’s not time to go sit on the mountain yet,” he laughs. He sits back in his leather chair behind a large desk. Piles of correspondence, financial statements, research, books, movies, a computer, a cat and a dog vie for his attention. His office sits in a separate building from his main house on Lookout Mountain. “There are more things Atlanta can do to enhance its identity as a music capital. I’d like to see Atlanta grow and prosper in many ways, I would like Atlanta to be a place for groups and musicians to do really innovative great things.” In his Midtown office where Cooley spends half of his time, he’s busy developing new projects and granting speaking requests. His lesson from concerts and festivals from The Atlanta Pop Festivals to Music Midtown is that live music still has the ability to deliver ideas, and to build communities and cultures. “Music is a molding agent. It changes societies. In medieval times, touring minstrels spread new ideas from castle to castle. In modern times, it can be very powerful because people have more access to musical instruments and more ways to record and distribute it.”

Over the span of forty years, Alex has adjusted to the expectations of concert goers, and the ups and downs in concert and festival markets. The amateur architect, technology buff, armchair historian, activist, preservationist, and rock and roll impresario lives by his world-view of “enlightened self-interest,” and a core belief that there’s a lot more to life than money. “I’ve tilted at my share of windmills. I guess if I’d gone into all of this with just money on my mind I would be fabulously wealthy…and I’m not.” His focus on the talent and the audience, has shielded him from the many changes in the music industry, proving that long-term success in live music requires a focus on the experience. Through thousands of productions and across decades Alex has never lost sight of his main objective: To create a conducive atmosphere for artists and audiences, where music can help make something even bigger happen.
September 23, 1989
Saturday, February 2, 1980. Music Section
Sunday May 7, 1995
Saturday November 6, 2004

Alex would like to thank the following people for their contributions to this website: Christina Reyes, Robert Ramsey, Young Charles, Rick Diamond, Bill Dial, Joseph Johnson. "The creativity was all theirs. The mistakes are mine" -Alex Cooley

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