Bill Flanagan

Music Writer/Television Producer

Redefining the Language of Music with
by Bruce McCrae

Born in Warwick, Rhode Island, Bill began his life’s work as a dedicated music fan and record collector. He worked at the old Beacon Shops record store on North Main Street in Providence where he could check out the new releases coming in and voraciously read the backs of the LP covers. Other music fans would come in and chat with Bill, finding him to be an invaluable resource as they pursued the music they loved.

Eventually, Bill parlayed his knowledge and passion into a career as a critic, reviewer and musicologist for all of the major periodicals in Rhode Island in both the “underground” and mainstream press. He wrote articles and concert reviews for the Providence Journal, the Boston Globe, Providence’s NewPaper and many other local, regional and national publications. His positive spin on, support for, and coverage of Rhode Island artists helped lead the way to many a record deal by promoting our local acts to the national mainstream.

Among Bill’s many interests was comedy, in general and The Three Stooges, in particular. I have been a musician and performer since the 1960s and under my stage name, “Rudy Cheeks,” I had a nightclub act called “Comediac’s Bad Film Festival” in the 1980s where I screened the “worst films ever made” and engaged in a running dialogue with the film (sort of a precursor to the “Mystery Science Theater” television show). Bill suggested that we find a way to fit the Three Stooges in and he devised a way to show Stooges shorts, each to be followed by an erudite discussion by a panel of “Stoogeaholics.” These were called “Stooge Symposiums.” Naturally, Bill anchored the panel. The evenings would end with a demonstration of the “Stoogely Arts” (e.g. eye poking, triple slaps, pie throwing, seltzer spraying).

A number of years later, Bill was able to use his Stooge Symposium experience as the basis for a book, Last of the Moe Haircuts, a literary equivalent of the Symposiums.

Bill went on to become a celebrated writer for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, GQ and Esquire and was Editor-In-Chief of Musician magazine in its heyday.

Bill Flanagan and his heavy friends: Just a few of the many features and cover stories Bill published during his time with “Musician” magazine. Above is Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones and below are Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and Pete Townshed of The Who

Somehow, he also found the time to author six books along the way.

There are three non-fiction works: U2: At the End of the World, a revealing account of what it’s like to accompany the band on one of its world tours; Written in My Soul: Conversations with Rock’s Great Songwriters, where master songwriters discuss their craft in extensive interviews with Bill; and the aforementioned Last of the Moe Haircuts, the definitive scholarly work about the impact and lasting influence of The Three Stooges on popular culture and the entertainment industry.

Warwick man at the end of the world: Bill Flanagan with U2 (left to right): Bill, Paul “Bono Vox” Hewson, Dave “The Edge” Evans, Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen, Jr.

Bill has also written three novels based around the music and entertainment industries: A&R, is a tale about the shenanigans and treachery sometimes found within the record industry; New Bedlam is an uproarious tale about a family-owned cable television company that takes place right here in Rhode Island; and Evening’s Empire which is another inside look inside the music industry – this time from the vantage point of a once-successful rock band.

At the time of his induction into the Rhode Island Music Hall Of Fame in April of 2013, Bill is the Executive Vice President and Editorial Director of the MTV Networks where he has helped propel music programming into the future by overseeing such innovative programming as VH1 Storytellers and CMT Crossroads. He is also a frequent contributor to the CBS News program “Sunday Morning” as an essayist on music and culture.

He served as one of the producers of “The Concert for New York City” in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and has produced, co-produced or executive produced two televised concerts from the White House, “The Beatles Revolution” for ABC, “Elvis Lives” for NBC, and VH1 specials by Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen and Oprah Winfrey. He also acts as ombudsman for the Sundance Channel’s series, “Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…”

Elvis Costello & Bill Flanagan

Compiled by Rick Bellaire

WRITTEN IN MY SOUL, Contemporary Books, 1986

LAST OF THE MOE HAIRCUTS, Contemporary Books, 1986

U2 AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Random House, 1995


A & R, Random House, 2000

NEW BEDLAM, Penguin Press, 2007

NEW BEDLAM, Penguin Press, 2007

EVENING’S EMPIRE, Simon & Schuster, 2010