Born 1913, the youngest of four children, and raised in Orrville, Ohio, Barnett revealed his talent and passion for music in 7th grade, when he started taking taking violin lessons. In high school, he married his musical talent with an early-blooming business knack, and started "Larry Barnett and His Orchestra". This gig continued for some years, even funding his early college tuition.
"I loved the business"
Barnett would not earn his bachelor's degree (Business) until 1988. Between freshman year and graduation, he worked in a long career as a talent agent and executive with MCA and later General Amusement Corp., and numerous business ventures both in and out of the music industry.
The MCA years are marred by his involvement in the Finley v. MCA antitrust suit. In 1945, Barnett and MCA allegedly conspired in restraint of interstate trade when they tried to freeze dance-hall operator Larry Finley out of the San Diego entertainment market. MCA's own lawyers pointed the finger at Barnett, MCA president Jules Stein, MCA agent Harold Eames Bishop, and Finley's San Diego entertainment-market rival Wayne Dailard.
Moldea describes Barnett as "the fall guy" in Finley v. MCA. If so, Barnett's reward was to become MCA's "coordinator of all orchestra and recording activities". It was also around this time that Finley, on international business for MCA, met and signed English performer Isabel Bigley. Four years later, they wed; since then they have been blessed with four sons and two daughters.
In 1962, again under Antitrust Division scrutiny, MCA was forced to divest itself of its talent-agency interests. The initial proposal called for MCA to sell its agency business to its employees on undisclosed credit terms, with Barnett as the new company's board chairman. The Department of Justice felt this was simply a shell game, creating an illusion of separation while preserving MCA's stranglehold on the talent market under another name. In October 1962, Barnett and MCA parted ways. GAC promptly snatched up Barnett, whom their board elected President. He brought with him MCA agents Irving Salkow and Henry Alper.
Perhaps Larry Barnett's character is better judged in light of his later charitable achievements. By 1978, Barnett had established some reputation as a charity fundraiser. A close friend, whose wife was diagnosed with ALS ("Lou Gehrig's disease"), came to Barnett for some fundraising help. By 1981, Barnett was elected chairman of the ALS Society of America (ALSOA), and held that position as they merged with the National ALS Foundation to form the ALS Association (ALSA). In this capacity, he has received a number of recognitions and awards, as well as an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from his alma mater.
Other Barnett business ties include Piper Aircraft, Warner Communications, and United Television. Larry and Isabel divide their time between their homes in Rye, New York and Rancho Mirage, California.
1. Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, Dan E. Moldea, 1986.
2. About ALSA: All-Stars and Honorees, http://www.alsa.org/als/allstars.cfm, The ALS Association, 1998.