From paper boy to the music industry moghul - and all thanks to Aylesbury’s music scene

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The record company executive behind stars like Adele and the Manic Street Preachers credits his success with teenage years spent involved with Aylesbury’s music scene.

Former Bucks Advertiser delivery boy Rob Stringer is now the chairman of Columbia Records, and is based in New York City.

He has worked with hundreds of artists including Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Adele and Bob Dylan.

Last year he worked with David Bowie on what would be his final album Blackstar, and enjoys a friendship and 10-year working relationship with fellow music guru Simon Cowell.

But without time spent in Aylesbury, and in particular at the Friars Club where he worked as ‘junior security’, Rob says his career in the music industry would never have happened.

Speaking to The Bucks Herald on a visit back to Aylesbury to support his former AGS teacher and Friars founder Robin Pike at his Mothers Revisited event on Monday, Rob said: “My first Friars show was Eddie and the Hot Rods in 1976 when I was 14 years old.

“You were meant to be 16 to get in and I’d been turned down the week before so felt very lucky.

“I started working there in 1979 as junior security, that’s what all the boys from my school did, it was like a rite of passage.”

Rob grew up in Long Meadow, Bedgrove. And though he got into the grammar school, he admits that his first love of music always took precedence over lessons.

“Robin [Pike] was a chemistry teacher at my school and he used to pick all the music fans to help out at Friars.

“I wasn’t in his class because I wasn’t very good at chemistry, but my friends were so that’s how I got in.

“Robin and David were like Gods to us, David literally because he used to wear a white suit. Living in Aylesbury at that time was wonderful, it was like we had this amazing musical education at the end of the street.”

Always a fan of alternative music, Rob enjoyed big names like The Clash, Talking Heads, The Ramones, XTC, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Blondie playing shows at Friars. And the experience inspired him to have a career himself in the industry.

He said: “I went to Goldsmiths College in London after school which was a very arty college. It was before Margaret Thatcher took money away from the student unions so as entertainment officer I was basically given money to put on bands.

“This was in 1984/85 and we put on all sorts of acts including Simply Red and 
Prefab Sprout. I’d had experience of it all from working for David at Friars, so that helped me.

“When I graduated I was looking in the Student Union newspaper and I saw an ad that said ‘graduates with experience in putting on live bands.’ I had a university education, but I really wasn’t qualified for anything else and that job listing seemed like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory to me.”

That job was Rob’s first, at CBS records, and he now guides the careers of 125 artists at Sony.

He said: “It’s all down to Friars, I never don’t feel lucky that I get to do the job that I do, and I would never have done it if it wasn’t for Friars and David and Robin. That experience showed me I could work in the music industry, that it was a possibility.

“My job is like being a curator of art. On the label we’ve got the old masters, people like Bob Dylan, and they truly are that.

“But we’ve also got some very good modern artists too, like Adele. I was very privileged to see Adele at an early stage, she will be 
around for the next 30 or 40 years.”