LAS VEGAS — The Parnelli Awards Board of Directors awarded Jim Fackert the Parnelli Visionary Award honoring his influential career in the live entertainment industry. Fackert received his Parnelli Award at a gala dinner on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Peabody Orlando.
In the 1970s, serving first as a pro audio engineer for bands like Grand Funk Railroad, working with Stefan Graf, he went on to create the forerunner of the moving light, and his custom lighting boards spurred a company, Leprecon. Later he founded Littlite.
“Jim Fackert is the MacGyver of the entertainment business,” states Bob Peterson, owner of Real World Lighting, and formerly with Upstaging, Inc., where he worked with Fackert for decades. “With an idea, a pile of parts, and a tube of RTV, anything could happen. Many things did. Cyclops, color changers, parametric EQ for audio consoles, bump buttons, Rainbo Consoles, slider matrix dimmer patching, working variable intensity pin matrices, control multiplexing, high density modular dimming, solid state dimming, Littlites…just a few of the many offerings from Jim over these years.”
“Jim is a pretty incredible individual,” says longtime friend and associate Graf, principal lighting designer at Illuminart and CEO of Fantasee Lighting. “He has a brilliant approach to things, very creative, but is also very down-to-earth and connected. He doesn’t talk over anybody’s head, and doesn’t have an ego that gets in the way.”
Fackert was born in St. Louis in 1948, spending his childhood building models, “especially rockets, because I was a space nut.” His family would move to Elkhart, IN, where he developed a deeper interest in science and technology. He bounced between his own band (where he built his own amps and speakers) and college before finally ending up doing sound for some of the biggest acts out of Detroit at the time, including Ted Nugent, the Stooges, Alice Cooper and MC5. He would be hired by the biggest at the time — Grand Funk Railroad — and, over the next decade, traveled the world with them.
During his time with GFR, he would move over into creating lighting systems with Graf. He built the Leprecon LP 1000, a 24-channel board with a matrix pin patch that was revolutionary at the time. These have been known to show up on eBay even today. His Cyklops was a light fixture that could be remote-controlled via a joystick, a precursor to the moving light. Some of his “smallest” ideas have had far-reaching influence, too, as a good, dependable working light for the board launched another company, the Littlite.
“I think it’s long past time for this award for brother Fackert,” declares GFR guitarist Mark Farner. “I would have carved him one out of a stick from the woods back in the day, but I couldn’t remember how to whittle. But know this: Jim’s innovations have come from his own personal practicality. He’s one of a kind, so just stand back and love him.”
As to receiving the Parnelli Visionary Award, “I was totally surprised,” Fackert says. “I have always been a behind-the-scenes guy, and I’ve had no expectations, nor even thought much about, an award. I’m honored and I take pride that the Parnelli is a reflection of those I’ve worked with through the years and bounced ideas off remember me, and that we all did something together that is memorable and useful… I like to be useful.”
“In addition to being a true innovator still creating great products today, Jim is one of the best guys in the business,” says Terry Lowe, Parnelli Awards executive producer and publisher of live event magazines PLSN and FRONT of HOUSE. “We are looking forward to giving him his due honor at this year’s Parnellis for all he’s done and continues to do.”