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The First 20 Years of the Parnelli Awards: Looking Back At Number One

Kevin M. Mitchell • News • November 30, 2020

Inaugural Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award winner Brian Croft looks back at the annual ceremony’s rock ‘n’ roll roots in a 2020 video. (The award, bestowed in 2001, can be seen on his mantle on the right.)

LAS VEGAS – We at Parnelli HQ are taking advantage of this “gap year” for the Parnelli Awards, and sifting through 20 years of live event industry memories. This is in preparation for our big January issues of PLSN and FOH magazines where we celebrate it all in all its glory in a special 12-page section. We have also partnered with NAMM to stream a special video celebration on Jan. 22, 2021 to “Keep the Torch Lit.”

Brian Croft

Brian Croft

Between now and then we’ll be sharing tidbits, photos, and videos. We start at the beginning with the Parnelli Awards’ first lifetime honoree – Mr. Brian Croft. “It is impossible to overstate Brian Croft’s influence on our industry,” says Marshall Bissett, Chairman of the Parnelli Board of Directors. “Part father figure, part mentor, a generation of designers, production managers and entrepreneurs owe their careers to his guidance. He showed us that you can run away with the circus without falling off the high wire. Today’s mega shows can all be traced back to Brian’s early work with the Stones, Queen and many others.”

Brian’s career began at the Perth Repertory Theater in 1959, and in 1968 he became Technical Director at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. But then he took off for three months to work with another future Lifetime honoree, Chip Monck, as part of the Rolling Stones’ lighting crew on their 1970 tour. There was no turning back, as he went on to work with  The Who, David Bowie, Elton John, Abba, and the Moody Blues, among others. He formed ESP Lighting with John Brown, and would  become Managing Director of TFA Electrosound, whose clients included Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, and Rod Stewart. His work continued through companies and tours and in 1985, he was one of four stage managers at Live Aid at Wembley. In 1994, he became managing director of Vari-Lite Europe and later became chairman of the company that became VLPS. He retired in 2003.

Despite the well-deserved Parnelli honor, apparently no one remembered to take video or even a photo for that first Parnelli Awards (at least that we can find). So we asked Brian to tell his version of the story … and from across the pond came this video. Enjoy!

We thank this special year’s sponsors of long-time friends, supporters, and forward thinking companies participating in our “Keep the Torch Lit” program:

Gold: 4 Wall Entertainment; All Access; Bandit Lites; d&b audiotechnik; Harman; Maryland Sound International; Meyer Sound; Rock-it Cargo; Sound Image; and Strictly FX.

Silver: Elation Professional; Global Trend Productions; Hemphill Brothers; and Stage Line.

Here’s the six minute video:


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