Legendary music publicist Judy Totton has died, aged 69, following a period of illness. The well-known PR passed away last week.
Judy Totton had a diverse list of clients during her career. She started as a press officer at Sony CBS records, after gaining a BA from Exeter and an MA from the Royal College of Art.
Totton had a short spell at a label called Magnet Records before being thrown in the deep end at CBS, soon to become Sony. She represented ABBA, Dire Straits and the Jacksons, featuring a young Michael Jackson.
In 1979, she set up her own company and went on to work with an eclectic roster, including Status Quo, John Cooper Clarke, the Kinks, and Donington rock festival Monsters of Rock for 11 years. In the 1980s her company won Music Week's PR Campaign Of The Year Award four times.
At the same time as representing clients as disparate as the Chinese State Circus and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Judy Totton was also handling the high-profile return to the UK of the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs (one of the biggest stories of the year in 2001) and conducting on the road publicity for David Bowie.
She donated a lot of her time and energy to environmental causes and also found time to be a panelist at various industry seminars, as well as contributing photos and articles to many publications. She was also a member of The Mercers Company and a Freeman of The City Of London.
Judy Totton’s partner John Taylor, manager of Joe Brown and Andy Fairweather-Lowe, announced her death.
"Dear friends, it is with a heavy heart I have to let you know my beautiful partner Judy Totton has passed away this morning," he wrote. "In keeping with Judy's character, it was peaceful, calm and completely dignified at home here and with absolute air of serenity.
"I'm sorry I know this will come as a shock to most of you as she did not want her illness to become the subject of discussion, so we did not broadcast but withdrew to deal with it and I'm also sorry this news has come via email but there are just so many people to tell it would otherwise take days and I don't think I will manage many conversations just yet. We have not made any decisions about what will happen next but will let you know when we have."
Fellow PR firm the Outside Organisation said: “She had a magical smile that really lit up a room. Her good nature and calmness meant that she could navigate the most stressful, hyped up rock and roll scenarios imaginable. With her quiet professionalism and kindness, she played a big part in her clients’ achievements.
“She felt for and empathised with others, a quality which helped her to read the room. Her unselfishness and lack of ego was absolutely the hallmark of a superb PR. Judy’s modest demeanour, when everyone was losing their heads around her, means she will be long remembered and much missed.”
Journalists, PRs and artists have paid tribute on social media.
Very sad to hear about the death of Judy Totton, who was our favourite PR back in the day at Smash Hits. pic.twitter.com/6KXCdXcWTN— David Hepworth (@davidhepworth) October 20, 2021
Judy Totton was a fine publicist and photographer and I’m so sad to hear of her passing. She was always so engaging and positive, she always supported me with her charm and personality. Very sad news. pic.twitter.com/xjQNcFBe1X— Chris Difford (@chrisdifford) October 20, 2021
We were saddened to learn of the loss of Esther's previous employer and mentor, @JudyTotton.— Deco Records (@DecoRecords) October 24, 2021
It was an honour to know Judy & a privilege to learn from working alongside her. Forever remembered & sorely missed, you will always exist in everything I do within the music industry. pic.twitter.com/zQCxXM5v80
Just heard the sad news about @JudyTotton. Enjoyed a lovely chat with her over salad at Sticky Fingers prior to my Bill Wyman interview. A class act.— Simon Harper (@Simon__Harper) October 21, 2021
Very sad to hear about the passing of @JudyTotton. She gave me my first paid PR job, and taught me so much. Loved by all the musicians and artists she worked with, she'll be sorely missed. pic.twitter.com/U25GLuvdFQ— Chris Penfold (@PenfoldPR) October 21, 2021
So sad to hear @JudyTotton has died. She was a lovely woman, a super-helpful PR and a great photographer. I have very fond memories of us flying around The Falkland Islands with The Stranglers. Thank you for arranging that extraordinary adventure, Judy, and rest in peace. x— James McNair (@hairymcnairy) October 21, 2021
For those that knew her Judy Totton was a great and wonderful lady who has sadly passed away. RIP Judy - https://t.co/oXcCTmmXK9— Jonathan Shalit OBE (Hon Prof) (@jonathanshalit) October 21, 2021
Extremely sad to learn we've lost Judy Totton, a great personal friend and music PR guru & photographer for many years, whose clients included Joe Brown, Joan Armatrading, Donovan & many others over the years. RIP Jude, you will never be forgotten xx pic.twitter.com/4JVyqcDEia— David Stark (@songlink) October 20, 2021