NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Bandit Lites most recent Annual General Meeting included a special celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of Eric ‘Rock’ Shafferman joining the Bandit Lites family in 1979.
Bandit Lites was just over a decade into its founding when Shafferman found himself with a summer off from college in East Tennessee. His brothers had been working with the company when they asked him to come to the warehouse and meet everyone. In what later could only be a destined happenstance, Shafferman found himself joining the team for a series of weekend warrior runs.
“We had two Shafferman brothers already, and in walks a third,” recalls Bandit Lites founder and chair Michael T. Strickland. “This guy was a high school all-state football player and looked the part. He was so tough, they called him Rock. Boy were they right! Eric was the toughest, hardest working guy at Bandit. Nothing stopped Rock. I was glad to hire him based on sight and the way he carried himself. It was one of the best hires we ever made! I love Rock!”
“Bandit was starting to really grow and was taking on the big names acts,” Shafferman shared. “We still didn’t have any chain hoists, but we had lights that were like little trees that went into the air, and maybe ten or twelve par cans on them. Once we got Kenny Rogers, we got all new equipment and after that it started to take off and we got to doing more bands. Alabama hit it big, and then I joined their tour a little after their first year out of clubs.”
The camaraderie between the techs was a big part of the draw for Shafferman, with a group of them renting houses in the same neighborhood, working the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday runs and then coming back home. And while things in the industry have changed drastically, from technology to standardized safety practices, Shafferman notes that the rush that comes from experience a live show is still unchanged and has made the year’s fly by.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long,” he said. “That’s the best part of live shows- you’re experiencing someone different every day, and that’s part of the fun. Everything is different. Every building is a new challenge. I still remember being out with REM and we’d have the A, B, C, D and E rig to make it fit the different venues. Then we’d go to the next place and have to start it all over.”
In addition to his own storied tenure consisting of many artists including Alabama, Kenny Rogers, REM, Farm Aid, Psychedelic Sirs, Bonnaroo, Robert Plant, Quiet Riot, Dan Fogelberg, CSN, Ratt, Super Bowl XXX, the presidential inauguration of George W. Bush and thirty years as the crew chief to Jimmy Buffett, Shafferman has distinguished himself as a valuable mentor to the new generation of lighting technicians, offering insight and knowledge to those who desire to make a career in lighting.
“The biggest thing is that everyone wants there to be a button to push and just be an LD,” Shafferman shared, “but you’ve got to know everything about a show and the gear. You need to know every aspect and learn the basics first, and even though a lot of kids go to school, and they learn a lot, you don’t know anything until you get on the road and deal with situations. They should know basic electricity. We grew up with basic stuff and the par cans, with no moving lights, and no computers, and we were there when boards appeared that you could program; the old consoles with pins were like playing battleship!”
“Rock is such a legend and force in the industry that Bandit named its annual employee of the year after him, the Rock Award,” Strickland stated. “There is simply no one better in the industry. Period! There is only one other company that is 40 years old in this industry, so clearly Rock has been at it a very long time. Thank you for being you my friend. I look forward to many more years, as long as we both have fuel!”
About Bandit Lites, Inc.
Bandit Lites is a global leader in the entertainment lighting marketplace. From touring productions to fixed installations, Bandit Lites has a full staff of highly trained professionals to deal with all types of lighting needs. Bandit’s global presence will ensure seamless transitions no matter where your next show takes you. More information available at www.BanditLites.com