Display Ad
Hide Ad

Bob Morrissey, President of ECLPS

by Michael S. Eddy • in
  • 1000 Words With...
  • June 2018
• Created: June 4, 2018

When Bob Morrissey was 20 years old and starting a lighting rental company, his hope was that he’d get to work with all of the bands that he admired. During his 46-year career he has done just that and so much more. His contributions to the music industry were recently recognized as he was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in the Technical/Lighting category along with production designer LeRoy Bennett and former business partner Andrew Polin.

First forming Polico Lighting with Polin, in support of regional New England bands, he would become a lighting designer for the band Boston as they moved from a local act to a headlining international act. Some of the touring acts Polico worked with included The J. Geils Band, the Allman Brothers, Jerry Garcia and The Ramones.

In 1995, Morrissey and Polin split their partnership, and Morrissey continued to build the business, renamed East Coast Lighting & Production Services (ECLPS). With Morrissey as president, ECLPS has won multiple honors in PLSN’s annual Hometown Hero awards competition — four as the Northeast finalist and one as the overall winner, taking home the Parnelli Award for Hometown Hero Lighting Company of the Year in 2010. ECLPS also maintained a 35-year relationship with the renowned Newport Jazz Festival, and its clients include the Gravity Games and Big Air along with music acts.

Bob Morrisey, LD for the band BOSTON 1977

PLSN: Tell me how you got into the industry.

Bob Morrissey: My parents both played in a local country band throughout most of my childhood. My father sang and played guitar and my mother sang and played bass guitar. I’ve always loved music but the British Invasion in the mid-60s took my interest to another level. I would go to concerts whenever I could. When Led Zeppelin was released in 1969 I was totally blown away by it. That summer Led Zeppelin played the Newport Jazz Festival and with two of my friends we jumped the fence of the sold-out show to get in. The date was July 6, 1969 and that was the day that I decided that I had to be in the music business somehow. It is funny to think that today I’ve worked with the Newport Jazz Festival for 35 years.

I was working full time as a head baker with Valle’s Steak House in Fall River and going to concerts, including any chance to see the Boston-based band Aerosmith. They were a local band at the time and one of my favorites. It was while waiting outside the stage door at one of their shows that I met Andy Polin. We had a shared interest in the band. At some point, Andy suggested that we start a lighting company like Virgolight, which Aerosmith used.

Andy was four years younger than me, so I pretty much just brushed him off, but I would run into him over and over again, and I began to consider taking the leap with him. In 1972, I took my life savings of $2,500 and we drove down to Yonkers, NY, in a bread truck, to spend the money at Altman Stage Lighting. As crazy as it sounds it was as simple as that, I was 20-years old and I was in business!

Was there a particular job that you think really set you on a course in your career?

Around 1974-75, Polico was working with a band named Johanna Wild whose front man was Jon Butcher. They were the biggest local band in Boston at the time. At a Johanna Wild practice session, the road manager of the band played me a four song demo tape of a band which became Boston. I was floored! We made it a priority to try to get work with the band. As luck would have it, Boston was going to perform their second show ever as a group at Rocky Point Amusement Park and Polico was hired to provide the lighting for the show. Boston’s manager Charlie McKenzie hired us on the spot and we began touring with the band. That’s when I quite baking bread. I had kept my day job for the first five years of Polico, baking in the morning and doing shows at night, it was a rough grind. When we got Boston’s spring tour in 1977, that’s when I quit my regular job and went right out onto the road. Boston became a headline act in a matter of three months and many tours followed.

What’s been one or two of more unique or memorable experiences that you’ve had over the course of working that really stand out to you?

The experiences that have meant the most to me have been fundraisers that brought in millions of dollars to causes that I support, and I was proud that ECLPS was able to donate all equipment and labor for the events. They would include A Night of Healing (April 22, 2018) and the Phoenix Rising Concert (Feb. 25, 2008), both were for the Station Nightclub fire victims. Also the Boston Strong Concert for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. That event really sort of tied my career together, because at Boston Strong, Boston played and the J. Geils band was there, among others. It was like, all bands that we had worked with before, and toured with, so we got to work with a bunch of good people at Boston Strong. Butch Allen did the design, and Cosmo [Wilson] was there with Aerosmith and Rob Koenig was the programmer. Gregg Maltby was there with Boston. It was like, everybody was there. It was nice to see everyone and work together.

LeRoy Bennett and Bob Morrissey at the 2018 RIMHOF induction ceremony

You were recently inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame with one of your early hires, LeRoy Bennett.

That was a real honor. Roy, Andy [Polin] and myself are the first technical people that have been inducted. It was a proud moment for all of us. Yeah, as you said, we hired Roy. He was working for a local band and my girlfriend knew of him. A time came, we needed a fourth guy, and I gave him a shot. That simple, and he worked with us for a bit. Since then he has gone on to a pretty amazing career. He is still one of the nicest people. It was great to be inducted with him.

What’s the best piece of advice that you got when you first started out?

Don’t get intoxicated by your own fumes. Be humble.

What advice would you pass along to someone starting out in the industry today?

As a business owner — remember the old adage that you will meet the same people on your way up as you will on the way down. Be nice to everyone and don’t forget those that have contributed to your success. As a tech — be humble, be honest, be accountable, and be on time! Put your phone down, network with the people that you are working with; they will probably be the person recommending you for your next job.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

You know, I’m the Forrest Gump of rock ‘n’ roll, man. I was always there when some big event happened. I always seem to be right there at the right time. When opportunities arose I was fearless about jumping in with both feet. I am now starting my 46th year in business and still loving what I do. I started because I love music and I have worked with a lot of cool bands. A lot of good people. And good lighting designers, too. That’s what I enjoy most, the people in our industry that work behind the scenes and the camaraderie that we share. Yep, a lot of good people. That’s the part I love about this business.

For more information on ECLPS, visit www.eclps.com.

Leave a Comment:

Check Out Some Past PLSN Issues