Unsung hero of rock and roll passes away
Lydd born Gerry Stickles passed away recently and although many people would not have heard of him, he was widely regarded as the ‘Godfather of Rock and Roll touring’, as under his management he made sure that some of the most iconic bands and artists in history not only made it on stage, but he also held the bands together.
He was a school friend of fellow marsh lad Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix’s bass player) who asked him to assist in helping get Jimi’s equipment through customs at Heathrow Airport with the promise that if you can sort this out you can come on the tour as a roadie.
After Hendrix’s tragic death and facing up to the grim responsibilities of identifying the body in London and taking the casket back to Seattle, Gerry moved to the U.S. He returned to the road, working with amongst others, Three Dog Night, Elton John and Queen.
He was described in Rolling Stone magazine as ‘The go to man in Rock and Roll’. The bands took on the job of supplying the Rock whilst Gerry was responsible for the Roll. In the article it said that the business was always full of divas but Gerry just did his job. He said that it was quite simple really, “All I have to do is make sure that the bands get to the gigs and get on stage on time, get to the hotel or airport and onto the next gig, what they do in between is not really anything I care about.”
Despite making what must have been one of the most exciting jobs in show business sound very mundane, Gerry had a very much love hate relationship with many of the acts he looked after, but nearly all of them stated after a tour that they just could not have done it without his help and guidance.
Teaming up with Chris Lamb to form GLS (Gerry Lamb Stickells) in 1977, Gerry would help ensure that complex tours for Elton John, Queen, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, ABBA, Paul McCartney and Madonna, among many others, would go as smoothly as possible. Business partner Chris Lamb, said that when we took Queen to South America, that was a huge thing because it opened up those countries for everybody in the business. It gave people a lot more work, because now there was a place for bands to perform in the winter. The whole business profited from that.
In 2007, Gerry 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 would get the best out of his people and 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 and to realize he did it in the dark days of Hendrix’s time is even more impressive.”
For the epic 10-day Rock in Rio event in Rio de Janeiro in1985, an estimated 1.4 million people attended to see an eclectic line-up including Queen, James Taylor, Rod Stewart, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, George Benson and Ozzy Osbourne, among many others all stage managed by Gerry.
Stickells faced tragedy again with the illness and death of Queen’s Freddie Mercury in 1991, and he organized the Freddie Mercury Tribute in 1992. He continued working with top acts throughout the 1990s and early 2000s including Paul McCartney and was on tour with McCartney in Moscow when he suffered a small seizure. After returning to the U.S., doctors found a benign tumour lodged between his brain stem and carotid artery. While benign, the tumour’s location was potentially life threatening, and efforts to remove it did not succeed.
Queen co-founder and drummer Roger Taylor, shared the heartbreaking news about Gerry’s passing and said, “Gerry Stickells, the world’s greatest tour manager, passed away after a long struggle with illness. He was more than a tour manager to Queen – he was a father figure, great friend and teacher and an island of calm in the midst of chaos. He had a profound affect on my life, all of it good. From his early days with Jimi Hendrix through all the years with Queen and Paul McCartney, Gerry was THE MAN!
We will miss him greatly and send love to Sylvia and the family at this difficult time.”