Longtime music promotion executive, born storyteller and beloved friend and family man, Richard Kenneth Totoian passed peacefully at age 85 on June 17, 2022 in Bridgeport, CT. He is survived by his son, Kevin Totoian and Kevin’s family Dale Allen and daughter Dani Corrigan; and former wife, Joan Lowry. He was predeceased by his brother, Jimmy Totoian. Rich remained in close connection with cousins Pauline Sahakian, Tom Hartunian, Laura Hartunian Pimentel, Russell Baxter and Marvin Baxter.
Before we get into his remarkable music business career, it must be said that at the center of Rich’s life was his son, Kevin and eventually the family built around his son. Rich and Kevin had a truly beautiful bond. They talked everyday – at least once – and shared countless music experiences together, from major concerts and VIP events over a lifetime, to more recent years of family outings to see Kevin’s band play in NYC or CT. Rich lived in New York’s West Village for 50 years before moving to the home of Kevin and family in Bridgeport, CT. Home-cooked meals, TV Yankee games, strolls along the shore, dining out, plenty of Tangled Vine shows (Kevin’s band) with family where he befriended the band’s fans, and stories - always stories.
Rich was born in Fresno, CA on May 27, 1937. The son of first-generation Armenian immigrants, he and his younger brother, Jimmy were blessed with the love and good humor of a warm and welcoming family. His mother Rose’s (Varty’s) hospitality and cooking were renowned; and his Dad, Sam (Soren), a liquor salesman and tenor in a local singing group was a solid and loving presence, who offered insightful advice that Rich recounted over the years. A vivid appreciation for music was passed down through the generations. In high school, Rich had an original comedy act, and was appointed MC to introduce notable music acts that performed in the school’s auditorium. He attended Fresno State and there met Joan Mulac. The two married and welcomed their son, Kevin. A job at Sherman & Clay record store lead to sales positions with Decca Record, RCA Records, and Chatton Distributors. His passion for music ultimately lead to a career in national promotion.
Rich worked as a national promotion man for Columbia, A&M, Bell Records, Epic, Windfall Music, HME Records, Bud Prager’s ESP Management and more, and with such artists and bands as West, Bruce and Laing, Miles Davis, Mountain, Peter Frampton, The Who, Sly Stone, Cream, George Harrison, Herb Alpert, Harry Belafonte, Joe Cocker, Taj Mahal, The Police, Foreigner, Bad Company, Tall Stories, Damn Yankees, Giant, Andy Williams, Janis Joplin and many more. He discovered Santana: having been alerted to the band by his secretary, Rich courageously usurped his doubting immediate boss, and went straight to the head of the label, Clive Davis telling him “If you don’t sign this band, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” Davis replied, “You know what I like about you, Totoian? You are a man who does not mince his words – we’ll sign them.”
It was Rich’s passion for music, his respect for the artists and their creative works, his knowledge and appreciation of all music types combined with his engaging personality that led to close bonds with most every artist he promoted. His commitment was foundational to many of these artist’s success.
In 2019, Rich and the family went to see Peter Frampton’s show at Mohegan Sun in CT and were granted VIP access to meet up with a very enthusiastic Frampton after the show. Peter warmly remembered Rich’s support along the way. It was Rich who pushed for a double album of the epic show he attended in 1975, which became the ubiquitous best-selling “Frampton Comes Alive.”
You’ll see Rich in the 2003 documentary film about the famed “Festival Express” 1970 rock tour with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, Flying Burrito Brothers, Ian & Sylvia, Great Speckled Bird, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.
Rich was an entertaining and highly detailed storyteller. This skill never left him. He could recreate his endless experiences using a remarkable talent for voices, dialects, and facial expressions. His large circle of family and friends immensely enjoyed his vibrant and hilarious tales. And Rich easily made new friends wherever he went. Chairs would be pulled in closer, and before you knew it, he had yet another audience spellbound. These stories can be found at https://www.richardtotoian.com. The family asks that you share your written or video remembrances of Rich for inclusion on his website. Please use the email address on Rich’s website.
Donations can be made in memory of Richard Totoian to Jewish Senior Services/attn: Foundation, 4200 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604 or online in Richard Totoian’s memory at https://www.jseniors.org/donate/memorial-gifts-honorariums-donate
A Celebration of Life will take place from 2-5pm on Sunday, October 16, 2022 at Park City Music Hall in Bridgeport, CT. Please join us.