- by Kevin M. Mitchell
LAS VEGAS — The Parnelli Board of Advisors has announced that Richard Fernandez will be honored with the 2016 Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award. During an enviable 40-plus year career in the live entertainment business, Fernandez served as tour manager for the Faces, the Eagles, Bob Dylan, the New Barbarians, Frank Zappa, Crosby Stills & Nash and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers among others, traveling around the world and back scores of times.
"When I first met Richard, we didn't even know what a tour manager was!" says Ric Ocasek of The Cars. "At first, I just thought he was cool, a good guy to have around, but after a while I started noticing how really well everything was taken care of. He was dealing with all the band members, the crew, and he had a big responsibility. There was chaos, but he was always calm and cool. He is good with people, and has a computer in his head. Of all the crews I ever worked with, he's really the only one I remember! I'd wish him luck, but he doesn't need it. He does deserve this award, though."
“When musicians are out on ‘the proud highway,’ we need all the help we can get,” says Graham Nash. “The secret is a good tour manager. For decades, Richard has been that lifesaver. I am so pleased to have been taken care of by such a professional, and I say congratulations to him, because this award is well deserved.”
Larry Vallon, executive vice president at AEG, went to the same high school as Fernandez, and the two started their careers at the same time and place. “What has sustained him and made for a long and successful career are his intelligence and his demeanor. That’s what you need in this business, and that’s what he has,” Vallon said. “Nothing rattles him — and he’s always in demand. Artists and managers call him, hoping he’ll say ‘Yes’ to going out on the road with them.”
Born in Los Angeles to jazz-loving parents, Fernandez says he saw Duke Ellington in concert when he was five. His parents, Phil and Helen, instilled a love of music in all their children — younger brother Charlie is longtime tour manager for Jimmy Buffett.
As a teen, after Fernandez started helping local bands get their gear around in his station wagon, he fell in with a regional act, Crabby Appleton, setting up drummer’s Phil Jones’ kit, which led to some work for Johnny Winter. Vallon called him one day to help with a Faces show, and the next thing he knew, he was making sure the Faces got to their next gig.
In 1972, he was working in England when he was asked to help a new band, the Eagles. He worked with them from their earliest touring days through mega hits and chainsaws, getting off that crazy train in 1977. When he first heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, he says, “I thought, ‘Damn these guys are good — they are taking rock in a new direction.’” Ever since, he’s been with Petty and the band, but always staying busy with many other acts, too. He is indeed always in demand, most recently working with Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra.
“Richard was the unanimous choice of the Parnelli Board of Advisers for the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement honor,” said board chairman Marshall Bissett. “From the Faces to Tom Petty, he has brought class, style, and humor to the impossible task of keeping band, management, and crew in harmony. We know of no one more loved by his clients or respected by his peers.”
“I could never thank you guys enough — I am humbled and joyous,” said Fernandez, upon receiving the news.
The ceremony is set for Oct. 22, 2016 at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. For more information and ongoing updates, please visit parnelliawards.com. You can also follow the Parnelli Awards on Facebook.