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In Memoriam: Stephen Gudis, 68

FOH Staff • News • January 9, 2020

Stephen Gudis, 1951-2020

NASHVILLE — Stephen T. Gudis, Parnelli Awards board member and founder of The Production Department LLC, died Jan. 6, 2020. Mastering the art of keeping production costs and stress to a minimum for a wide array of clients, he enjoyed a richly varied and successful career that spanned more than four decades, working with artists ranging from Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin to Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels.

 

Born in Morristown, TN, on Aug. 21, 1951, he went to Morristown West High School and worked part-time at his family’s P. Taylor Shoe Store, but took a different career route at age 15, when he formed the Stephen Gudis Talent Agency. He hired his 10-year-old sister, Patricia, to serve as a receptionist and used the family’s basement as a rehearsal space for R&B artists such as Percy Sledge.

A musician himself, Gudis also performed in a band as a drummer, but soon discovered he could make more money booking the band than playing in it. By the time he was 17, he was booking shows around the University of Tennessee/Knoxville under his own agency.

After high school, Gudis studied criminology at Walters State Community College and served as a sergeant in the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office. He was also a member of the Morristown Civil Defense, Morristown Fire Department and the Tennessee Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

He also worked for a radio station in the promotions department, and in the early 1970s, he moved to Charleston, WV to join Lashinsky Brothers’ National Shows, promoters of live entertainment and Broadway productions. There, he gained experience as a stage and production manager for acts including The Doobie Brothers, America, KISS, Elton John, Aerosmith, Journey, Michael Jackson and many others.

In 1994, Gudis moved to Nashville, working as in-house production manager for Pace Concerts, which booked shows at the Starwood Amphitheater, the biggest outdoor music venue in the Nashville area from the late 1980s until the mid-2000’s. Gudis also traveled throughout the Southeast as a promoter rep. His experience as a rock show promoter helped him build his expertise in live shows, television and production. He was known for mastering virtually every job that contained the word manager—stage manager, tour manager, road manager and production manager — for live shows and TV. His shows always ran on time and on budget. A true connector who was invigorated by mentoring young people, he was the first one many called with questions because he knew everyone, and everything related to the music business.

“Stephen Gudis is one of those select people in Nashville that you can truly call a ‘Man about Town,’” wrote Nook Schoenfeld, editor of PLSN, for a profile feature on Gudis published in Feb. 2016. “There’s nobody that’s been in the live event biz around Nashville for any length of time who hasn’t crossed paths with this guy.”

Gudis was particularly proud to have served as the TV stage manager for more than 20 Farm Aid shows. He also stage managed Tennessee’s Volunteer Jam for over a decade, managed country music awards shows and launched the first Nashville Hard Rock Cafe’s New Year’s Eve guitar drop. He recently worked on both the Music City Irish Festival and Music City Jazz Festival on Public Square Park and also served as talent booker/production manager for Innovation Amphitheater in Georgia.

“He was the artists’ safe space, the calm in the middle of the pre-show storm of nerves and chaos,” noted a tribute posted on the website for Dignity Memorial. “He not only solved problems, but also anticipated and avoided them altogether. He had an old-school approach, treating people with kindness no matter what their title or affiliation.”

Gudis’ life on the road included tours with The Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Charlie Daniels Band, Toby Keith, Paul Stanley, Brooks & Dunn, Marty Stuart, Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson and many others. But after meeting singer/actress Beth Anne Musiker on a blind date, and marrying her in 2005, he shifted his work focus to event management via his company, The Production Department LLC. Clients included Nissan, T.J. Martell Foundation, Tennessee Performing Arts Center and Warner Music Group along with the Parnelli Awards, where he served as stage manager.

Gudis, preceded in death by his parents, Bertram Gudis and Jean Taylor Gudis, is survived by his wife, Beth Anne Musiker and his sister, Patricia Gudis Smith, along with a nephews, a niece and in-laws. A graveside service was held Jan. 13. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that contributions be made to MusiCares or the Tennessee Kidney Foundation.

For a tribute authored by longtime friend Michael T. Strickland, go to https://plsn.com/featured/a-word-about-stephen-t-gudis-from-michael-strickland-of-bandit/

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