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The Premier Awards Show for the Live Event Industry


Bobby Thrasher Named 2018 Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Honoree

July 3, 2017

Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher

ANAHEIM, CA — The Parnelli board of advisors announced that Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher, longtime production manager for Billy Joel and other top artists, will be honored with the 2018 Parnelli Audio Lifetime Achievement Award. The ceremony will take place Jan. 26, 2018 at the Hilton Hotel near the Anaheim Convention Center during Winter NAMM 2018.

In the course of his career, which includes stints with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and others, Thrasher has handled almost every aspect of live events, from carpentry, building stages, rigging, running audio, site coordination, stage managing, and touring and production duties. (He was named Parnelli Production Manager of the Year in 2009.)

“Bobby ‘Boomer’ Thrasher runs his backstage with humor and authority,” said Marshall Bissett, chairman of the Parnelli board of advisors. “Putting together huge outdoor events with Billy Joel, Paul Simon and other high profile clients takes a lot of talent, patience and a huge network of worldwide contacts. Bobby embodies all the qualities at the heart of the Parnelli awards.”

Thrasher, born in Ontario, got involved in the live events industry through his older brother, Ted, who was working for Emerson, Lake and Palmer in the 1970s. Thrasher’s work ethic and general ingenuity about anything mechanical (particularly hydraulics) made him immediately valuable, especially on ELP’s elaborate and complex Works tour in 1977.

After that tour, Thrasher did one-offs with many acts and became associated with Montreal-based Audio Analysts. That company developed a partnership with an American who would many years later be honored with the second Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award (in 2003), Mike Brown.

Thrasher became the Canadian outdoor staging manager for Brown, working with a lot of acts including Loverboy, Foreigner, and the Who in Canada.

In 1980, he met another future Parnelli Lifetime Achievement honoree, George Travis (2013), who asked him to build a stage for Bruce Springsteen. This would his first world tour and the start a relationship with the Springsteen family that would last until 2002.

In 1984, he was asked to be a carpenter on Billy Joel’s Innocent Man tour. In what is likely one of the fastest ascents in concert touring history, by the time the tour ended, he was production manager.

Later that same year, he handled both set construction and production manager duties with the late Lyle Centola on Springsteen’s Born in the USA tour, which launched in mid-1984.

“Billy and Bruce were both on the same record label, and it just so happened they didn’t tour at the same time, so I bounced back and forth between the two for 22 years,” Thrasher noted.

Along the way he worked with many other acts including Britney Spears, John Mellencamp, Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross, Tina Turner, Faith Hill, and Maroon 5; and events including the US Festival, Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now, Harley Davidson’s 100th Anniversary Celebration tour, and others.

Steve Cohen, veteran LD for Billy Joel, first hired Thrasher for a Simon & Garfunkel Tour in 1982, and Cohen has been working with him ever since. “Bobby is the guy that instantly makes everything happen — he’s amazing,” Cohen said. “I come up with an idea, like having the piano come up through the floor when Billy [Joel] walks out, and Bobby buys the pieces and finishes the idea.”

Cohen raves about how Thrasher pulled off miracles with Joel’s historic 1987 tour in Russia and his Last Play at Shea concert in 2008, among other epic concert achievements, calling Thrasher a “true Renaissance man. I’ve worked a lot of production managers, and many have a great pedigree, but there is nobody who so willingly lays down on the train tracks for you like Bobby Thrasher. Everything is possible him — we call it ‘Boomer’s Magic.’”

“I’m very honored,” Thrasher said, of the Parnelli news, adding with a laugh, “and a little stunned, for sure. Grateful. I’m just very fortunate to get to work with an artist who still sells out stadiums after 25 years, and so I feel spoiled and grateful for all of it.”

Thrasher will receive the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award at the awards gala set for Jan. 26, 2018 at the Hilton Hotel near the Anaheim Convention Center, taking place during Winter NAMM 2018.

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