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Joe Dera and Doc, one of his six rescue dogs, spend some quality time on the front porch./JACK WEATHERLY/MBJ

JACK WEATHERLY — Rock publicist finds home in rolling hills of Mississippi

JACK WEATHERLY

Joe Dera spends his spare time tending to six rescue dogs at his antebellum manse near Bentonia these days.

That’s a contrast from the days when he was herding cats – such as Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Billy Joel.

But he has answered the call in his new community by forming Joseph Dera Media Consulting LLC.

His client list is short thus far — the Flora Butcher, Reunion Golf and Country Club and Sanders McNeal Studio and Art Gallery — Dera said in an interview in the 1857 two-story house in the rolling hills of Yazoo County where he and Suzanne Case have lived since March 2016.

A native of The Netherlands, he grew up in New Jersey after his father, Frank, who had worked in coal mines till he was 15, including two years as a forced laborer in Nazi Germany, immigrated to America.

As a college student, he started writing album reviews and landed a job working for the firm that managed The Who.

Joe Dera (right) with electric-guitar pioneer Les Paul (left) and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney in 1988./ SPECIAL TO THE MBJ

He parlayed that into a job with Rogers and Cowan, the world’s largest public relations firm for the entertainment industry. Starting as an office boy, he rose to manager of the firm’s New York office.

After 13 years there, he started his own firm, modeled after Rogers and Cowan.

From Rogers and Cowan, he brought with him McCartney, Bowie, UB 40, Robert Palmer and Billy Joel.

He was McCartney’s North American spokesman from from 1976 till 1999.

The former Beatle was quite the professional off stage, too. In preconcert gatherings, he could “work a room” with the best, Dera said.

Dera retired at the end of 2011 and Dera, Roslan and Campion continues, sans Dera’s name.

Dera was witness to the inside dealings of the industry as it stood then.

Such as the game of tug-of-war played with the Beatles song catalog, ownership of which McCartney is still seeking.

And the guidance of Paul’s wife, Linda, whose father, Lee Eastman, “made Paul a very wealthy man” by encouraging him to buy music catalogues, including college fight songs, Broadway shows and Buddy Holly’s music.

The music industry as Dera knew it started dying off. (It made the mistake of ignoring the advent of the digital age, though it has been shored up in recent years by streaming.)

As music downsized, the firm conducted campaigns for National Geographic Television, Scripps Digital Network (HGTV, DIY, etc.) and other media companies.

Dera met his longtime companion, Suzanne Case, through a dating service when both lived in the Philadelphia area.

Case is a native of Jackson, and when Dera decided to retire they weighed where they would live.

“I hate winter. There’s no winter here,” Dera said.

Plus, there is the comic relief of watching two of his dogs “chase” two donkeys in a neighboring pasture. The burros then turn and chase the dogs. Vaguely reminiscent of being a publicist perhaps.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.

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