Anthony Howard Wilson, known as Tony Wilson (20 February 1950 – 10 August 2007), was an English record label owner, radio presenter, TV show host,nightclub manager, impresario and journalist for Granada Television and the BBC.
Wilson was the music mogul behind some of Manchester's most successful bands. He was the founder and manager of The Haçienda nightclub, and was one of the five co-founders of Factory Records (Joy Division's label). Wilson was also known as Mr Manchester, dubbed as such for his work in promoting the culture of Manchester throughout his career. He was portrayed by actor Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, and by Craig Parkinson inAnton Corbijn's 2007 film Control.
After his graduation in 1971, Wilson began as a trainee news reporter for ITN, before moving to Manchester in 1973, where he secured a post at Granada Television. He went on to present Granada's culture, music and events programme, So It Goes. Through the 1970s and 1980s he was one of the main anchors on Granada Reports, a regional evening news programme, where he worked with Richard and Judy among others. He continued in this line of work even at the height of his success in the music industry.
In 1989, Wilson hosted The Other Side of Midnight, another Granada weekly regional culture slot, covering music, literature and the arts in general. Its Sunday night slot made it one of the UK's first experiments in late night weekend TV. He reported for ITV's celebrated current affairs series, World in Action in the early 1980s and also hosted Channel 4's After Dark, the UK's first open-ended, late night chat show, in which he chaired loose discussions in a darkened studio between intellectuals and celebrities of various descriptions, often in various stages of inebriation. Wilson co-anchored the BBC's coverage of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1992. He hosted the short-lived TV quiz shows Topranko! and MTV Europe's Remote Control in the 1990s, as well as the Manchester United themed quiz, Masterfan, for MUTV.
Wilson's involvement in popular music stemmed from hosting Granada's culture and music programme "So It Goes". Wilson, who intensely disliked the music scene of the mid 1970s, saw the Sex Pistols at theManchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, in June 1976, an experience which he described as "nothing short of an epiphany". He booked them for the last episode of the first series, probably the first television showing of the then-revolutionary British strand of punk rock.
He was the manager of many bands, including A Certain Ratio and The Durutti Column, and was part owner and manager of Factory Records, home of the Happy Mondays, Joy Division, and New Order - the band managed by friend and business partner Rob Gretton. He also founded and managed The Haçienda nightclub and Dry Bar, together forming a central part of the music and cultural scene of Manchester. The scene was termed "Madchester".
He made little money from Factory Records or the Haçienda, despite the enormous popularity and cultural significance of both endeavours. Both Factory Records and the Haçienda came to an abrupt end in the late 1990s.
A semi-fictionalised version of his life and of the surrounding era was made into the 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People, which stars the comedian Steve Coogan as Wilson. After the film was produced, Wilson wrote a novelization based on the screenplay. He played a minor role (playing himself) in the 2005 film, A Cock and Bull Story, in which his character interviews Steve Coogan. Wilson also co-produced the 2007Ian Curtis biopic, Control (his character this time being played by Craig Parkinson). He died a few months before its release.
Wilson was a partner in the annual "In The City
" music festival and industry conference, and also F4 Records
, the fourth version of Factory Records, which was set up to be an online distributor for Wilson's long term protégé Vini Reilly
, of The Durutti Column. F4 also released music by Manchester based bands RaW-T
and The Young Offenders Institute