Bill McManus...RIP...


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Got this in PSN e-mail alert today... Not sure if anyone here ever knew or ever worked with Bill..and I'm sure some of the younger folks on here never even heard of him...but Bill McManus was a legend in lighting and what concerts have become today. I myself had the pleasure of meeting and working with him in the mid-late 80's a couple of times...a great and BIG guy. I had not seen him in many years but Wow...a legend in lighting who has always been around...has passed....

Bill McManus, Lighting Industry Pioneer- 1946-2005

Bill McManus, one of the early pioneers of rock and roll lighting and
the president of both McManus Enterprises and PeakBeam Systems, passed
away on Thursday, January 13, 2005. Born in Pontiac Michigan on
December 16, 1946, McManus died unexpectedly as the result of a
bacterial infection.. He is survived by his wife Jean (who ran PeakBeam
with Bill), daughter Anne and son Billy.

McManus began his career supplying lights for concerts at Saint
Joseph’s University, where he attended college. Later on he became the
lighting designer at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory, where he honed
his chops lighting a variety of touring acts. In those early days of
rock and roll tours, it was the responsibility of the local promoter to
supply lights and sound for the bands when they came to town. He found
that he had a natural ability in lighting design and he designed
lighting packages for Jethro Tull, Elton John, Cat Stevens, The Eagles
and The Who. As the industry developed and bands started carrying their
own production, some who had worked with McManus would use his design
as a template or technical rider for the lighting package.

In 1972, lighting designer Chip Monck designed a touring package for
the Rolling Stones STP Tour that, at the time, was the most
sophisticated of its kind, revolutionary in scale and plan. It was the
first to include a painted set, touring follow spots and a rear
lighting truss that was raised by hydraulics. The tour showed the
industry that it was possible to create and keep a consistent look from
city to city. It also gained considerable media attention, putting the
Rolling Stones on the cover of Time and Life magazines. It was a
pivotal point in the touring industry.
One of the fixtures that Monck had on the Stones tour was the
Cine-PAR, originally built by Kliegel Brothers for the newsreel
industry. Said McManus, “The Cine-PAR was barely a fixture. It had a
yoke that held a very shallow round stamping with two ridges and two
retainer rings; one for PAR 64 lamps and a smaller inner ring for PAR
56 lamps. The back of the lamp stuck out of the fixture and the exposed
lamp prongs were attached to the porcelain socket and wires that ran to
the yoke. 10" by 10" gel frames were held in place by gravity and clips
were spot-welded on the two sides and bottom.”
The fixture was rarely used by anyone in the concert touring industry.
It produced an oval-shaped pool of light, unlike the traditional circle
shape. Because of its short barrel, it burned through gel very quickly.
Monck used it on the Stones tour for backlight with saturated gel for
deep, intense color washes. The Cine-PAR backlight created a vivid
contrast to the white follow spots lighting from the front. The
contrast gave the band depth that was noticed from even the back rows
of the arenas.

At the time, McManus had been on tour for three years with Jethro
Tull. Compared to the Stones show, the lighting package in the Jethro
Tull tour was very basic, consisting of ellipsoidals, Fresnels and
strip lights. Ian Anderson, lead singer of Jethro Tull, approached
McManus and asked him to propose a lighting package that would compete
with the Stones tour. McManus explained that it would be difficult to
create a 144,000-watt show on Tull’s limited budget and one that could
be loaded in, set up and loaded out every night. This was crucial since
their schedule included 30 straight nights of shows, five times a year.
But Anderson okayed the budget to design and build duplicate theatrical
settings and lighting systems. McManus assembled two complete systems
and road crews, the “B” and “C” teams, each with two semis that
leapfrogged each other. In addition, the “A” team of road crew,
directors and band members traveled with another truckload of sound and
band gear working every day from noon to midnight. McManus’s innovative
design included the first control console expressly built for pop music
that allowed him to “play” the lights with the music like a band

With the new Jethro Tull budget, McManus approached Altman Lighting
about making a variation of the Cine-PAR. He took a prototype of the
new fixture and met with Ronny Altman. Together they reengineered the
fixture, lengthening the barrel to set the gel further away from the
lamp. The longer barrel had holes for heat dissipation and baffles to
prevent light leaks. They added a spring latch to hold the gel frame in
place and put a rounded cap on the back of the fixture. In the cap,
they cut a hole so a technician could twist the socket to rotate the
beam of the lamp. Within five weeks Altman had built 500 of the
fixtures and the redesigned fixture redefined the lighting industry

McManus, who partnered with Chip Monck on several epics in the mid
70’s, continued his innovative Emmy award winning lighting career by
moving into location lighting for film and TV sports from the early
80’s until his death. He lit, among others, HBO’s Boxing events for the
last 24 years. He also manufactured the Maxa Beam Xenon Searchlight,
the “world’s most powerful handheld, battery-powered light.” Besides
being designed into several pop/rock tours, sci-fi films and theme
parks, the Maxa Beam has been deployed with the troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Over 18,000 units have been fielded since it was first
introduced to the US Navy in 1989.

Bill McManus was a giant in the lighting field and he will be missed
by many.
Us the new stagehands, techies, and lighting designers will miss this great man for all of his contributions along with the great company he left behind. My friends and theatre do much work with McManus Co. and it is saddening to here such a great revolutionizing man has died. He will be greatly missed...
Thanks, I had not had time to send the copy I sent home yet. A legend I unfortunately never met.

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