News November 11, 2015

Aussie concert production pioneer Eric Robinson dies

Christie Eliezer
Contributing Editor
Aussie concert production pioneer Eric Robinson dies

A founding father of Australia’s concert production industry, Eric Robinson, passed away in Port Douglas after a battle with cancer.

He was CEO of JPJ Audio and Jands Production Services (JPS) since 1970, just as the country’s tour and concert production came into its own. 

Throughout his 45 years in the business, Robinson was responsible for the staging and technical production of tours by Elton John, ABBA and Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s, and events including the ARIA awards, Sound Relief, Australia Day Live, Mushroom 25th Anniversary, V Festival, Rumba and Big Day Out. His wife Patti Mostyn handled the publicity for some of those early tours.

Robinson’s start in the industry was running a small lighting rental company catering for the dance, live music and surf clubs in northern Sydney with three others.  One of their friendly competitors was J & S Research Electronics (later shortened to JandS) run by two other Australian sound pioneers, Bruce Jackson and Philip Storey. At high school they had run one of Sydney’s first pirate radio stations. In 1970, when Jackson moved to America – to do sound production for Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and Barbara Streisand – Robinson and his partners bought the company. Within four years, Jands was manufacturing a range of lighting and audio products that were used worldwide.

In July this year, Robinson was honoured by the live sector’s peak association Live Performance Australia with the Sue Nattrass Award for contribution to the industry.

Accepting the award on stage at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney during the Helpmann Awards, he told the audience he was battling cancer. 

He rated Jands’ 25-year old in-house training scheme which saw some of its staff members courted by overseas companies, as one of his greatest achievements.

LPA’s Chief Executive, Evelyn Richardson, lauded Robinson as “a true asset and source of inspiration to so many within the live performance industry.”

She added, “Mr Robinson has long been at the forefront of live production innovation and is admired and respected by his peers for his enviable reputation for technical excellence, reliability, safety, business acumen, and endeavour for perfection. 

“His experience encompasses every aspect of sound reinforcement, lighting, rigging, large screen projection and special effects and Mr Robinson takes great personal pride in ensuring every production runs smoothly.”

Robinson had a no-nonsense reputation which earned him the nickname Ear Ache in some quarters. Entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins in his book Black Ties, Red Carpets, Green Rooms recalled the time he was covering a major benefit concert. He was elsewhere shooting some footage when Robinson told Wilkins’ date he had to clear the backstage area and asked who she was. ”I’m here with Richard Wilkins,” she replied. Robinson responded, “I don’t care who you’re rootin’, sweetheart, fuck off out of here.”

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