When the Beatles played their first concerts in the U.S. in 1964, they were lit by just a couple of spotlights and between screaming fans and inadequate sound, neither the audience nor the Beatles themselves could hear them sing a note. Fast forward a decade and the technologies for lasers, extravagant colored lights and huge sound had exploded onto the stage in a burst of flash powder. By the mid-1970s this newborn technology had matured to the point that virtually anything was possible.
This unheralded Dallas company invented
the technologies to transform a rock show into a
religious experience. Their success was built on
the company’s innovations in high quality, high
performance, highly portable sound and lighting
systems at a time when rock touring was still in
Originally founded in the mid-sixties by fraternity brothers Jack Norton Calmes and Angus Wynne III as an artist management and concert promotion company, SHOWCO evolved under the guidance of three long-haired soul cowboys – Jack Calmes, Rusty Brutsché, and Jack Maxson. Calmes was the maverick salesman and self-described "rain maker". Brutsché and Maxson were the engineering genius and “golden ears” behind the products and services with which SHOWCO would lead the industry. It may have started in 1969 at the Texas Pop Festival when Brutsché told Calmes he could build a better system than Bill Hanley, the legend behind Woodstock, but it went on to encompass a manifest destiny of total concert packaging.
The 1970s were an explosive era for rock n roll and SHOWCO’s client roster read like a who’s who of music royalty. Led Zeppelin, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Paul McCartney and Wings, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jackson Browne and James Taylor, among many others, all demanded SHOWCO equipment and manpower to produce their tours. By 1980 SHOWCO had staged shows for practically everybody who was anybody from the era of classic rock to the disco explosion.
Paving the way with their blood, sweat and tears, SHOWCO roadies and shop engineers changed the way concerts were staged forever. While there were other sound and lighting companies in business at the time, SHOWCO grew to be the biggest and best. As one former crew chief put it, “a good show was one where I didn’t see any roadies or techs on stage at all.” In other words, the better you were at this business, the more invisible you were. The reason Jack Calmes (SHOWCO Director/Visionary) could meet with Led Zeppelin before their next tour and throw down some staggering charge per show is that no matter how crazy or science fiction the selling points seemed (“We’re gonna have LASERS!”, bear in mind this is 1975…) , the Zeppelin cabal knew SHOWCO would deliver. Today, the way we experience a concert was born out of this ethic. Every SHOWCO roadie, engineer, truck driver, logistics staffer and shop technician worked long and hard, for little pay and less sleep – for one simple reason – the love of ROCK! The bands made it rock, but roadies made it roll.
The past twenty years have shown steadily growing interest in stories of the underdogs and the little guys on the periphery of significant cultural events. From the entirely fictional, like the movie Forest Gump, to the autobiographical Almost Famous, the urge to connect with the regular men and women who were "there" on the occasions that stand out in our collective cultural memory continues to grow. This is particularly true when it comes to the ultimate ephemeral event – the rock concert. The recent popularity of the independent movie Anvil! The Story of Anvil offers more proof that the behind-the-scenes lives of touring rock n rollers – both on the road and at home – can be fascinating. Being a rock star is a fantasy. But living the life of a road dog crew member is a unique and bizarre slice of rock n roll life.
The company never documented their tours themselves.
The nature of the business at the time was word of
mouth. Contracts, if they existed, were often signed
after the tour had ended. The company was growing so
fast and each employee was working so quickly that
little evidence remains. The author has compiled
the first ever comprehensive account
of the golden years of SHOWCO from 1965 to 1981.
But this is not just another glorified band history
or memorabilia book. It is the classic American story
of the little company that could – the story of the
real people behind the scenes who pioneered concert
production. True, they rubbed elbows with the stars
and witnessed some of the most talked about shenanigans
in the history of rock n roll, but they were a breed
apart – the real rock n roll working class whose
ingenuity, friendship, endurance, pride and commitment
to rock remains inspiring to this day.
With full backstage access to the working men and women who were the real rock n roll heroes behind the biggest shows, the author uncovered an epic tale replete with hard work and heartbreak, triumph and tragedy, compassion and competition, and of course, sex, drugs and rock n roll. A compilation of interviews, stories, facts, photos and memorabilia, SHOWCO: 10,000 Nights on the Road will be slightly oversized, hardcover, about 350 pages in length. The approach will be fun, visually appealing and informative. Complete with never-before-told first-hand road stories and unpublished behind-the-scene-photos of all your favorite classic rock bands, SHOWCO: 10,000 Nights on the Road will be a must-read for every classic rock aficionado.