Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney Tour Manager Gerry Stickells Dies
Born in 1942, Stickells was broadly credited with having created the modern touring industry in a career that began when he took the job of Hendrix’s driver in 1966. He stayed with the iconic guitarist until his death in 1970, identified the body for official purposes and flew with it from the U.K. to the U.S. for burial.
He went on to develop and manage Queen’s ambitious touring productions, which were at one point the biggest and most complex in the world. As a partner in the GLS company, he offered the benefits of his experience to a wide range of large-scale touring operations.
While on tour with McCartney in the early ‘00s he suffered a seizure which eventually forced him to retire. In recent times he’d been bedridden and unable to speak, but survived a decade longer than the five years doctors had given him. A Go Fund Me campaign to help assure his quality of life was launched last month.
“You do this sort of thing for the money as much as anything, but if it’s a tour that’s going to make life particularly difficult, I’d rather not,” Stickells – affectionately known as “Uncle Grumpy” by some – said while on the road with Queen in 1980.
“I don’t think that the logistical problems are what makes this work hard to do. After all, it’s your job to deal with them. The hardest thing is dealing with the personalities involved, but once you become used to artists’ moods, you can usually stay a step ahead. And I don’t spend too much time listening to the music. I’m too wrapped up in the practical matters.”
In another interview. he recalled that Hendrix’s “overnight sensation” label wasn’t accurate. “People find it very difficult to understand it today, but in the beginning we played in pubs, you know, for a few hundred persons," he explained. "As described in rock history, Jimi was an instant hit, but it was not. It was a lot of work. I remember that we played at Scotch of St. James, for free, just to convince the agent that we were worthy to be booked.”
In 2007 Stickells was given a Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award, regarded as the Oscars of live production professionals. Journey tour manager Pat Morrow said there was “no bigger gentleman in the business” at the time. “The hallmark of his work is his presence as a human being," he said.
"He would get the best out of his people. You couldn’t help but love him and work hard for him. There is no way to overstate Gerry’s influence and importance to the live event industry. To realize he did it in the dark days of Hendrix’s time is even more impressive. … [He] pioneered the idea that a production manager needs to be five months, five weeks, five days and five minutes ahead of everyone else.”