PLSN — June 2012
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Joe Branam to Receive Parnelli Visionary Award
Kevin M. Mitchell

LAS VEGAS — The Parnelli Board of Advisors has announced that Joe Branam, owner of Branam Enterprises, will receive the Parnelli Visionary Award at the annual gala dinner and award ceremony in Las Vegas. The event is set for Oct. 20, 2012 at the Mirage Resort and Casino.

“I think it’s quite an honor,” Branam said, noting that Parnelli Awards executive director Patrick Stansfield called to tell him, “I got a little choked up. When I think of all I’ve gotten to do and all the great people I’ve gotten to work with, I have to say it’s nice to be acknowledged this way.”

“Joe is a rigger extraordinaire, who started as a flying trapeze performer in a circus and went on to create one of the largest, most respected rigging companies in the business,” said Terry Lowe, PLSN/FOH publisher and Parnelli Awards executive producer. “Previously, this award has gone to lighting and staging designers, but no one will deny that whether he’s flying tons of gear or Mick Jagger, Joe is a visionary. To this day, he and his company are creating memorable moments for live events that are dazzling, and we look forward to honoring him at the 2012 Parnellis in October.”

Branam was born September 7, 1947, in Mobile, AL, and grew up in Tampa, FL. By the time he was 13, was a trapeze artist for the circus. “When you’re in the circus, you do a lot of your own rigging,” he said. “And then you make extra money doing rigging for others.”

In the late 1960s, he would become one of the five “Disney Riggers,” along with the other founding fathers of the business — Roy Bickel, Rocky Paulson, Jim Barnes and Mike Grassley.

The team was increasingly called upon to do visuals like flying a Volkswagen car. Their reputation grew quickly and they were soon well known in rock ‘n’ roll circles, which was then evolving into big arena shows.

Promoters realized that if they could fly all the PA gear, they could sell more seats. Jethro Tull was the first to call on Branam for that, and the calls never stopped — and soon others got more creative.

In 1975, for the Rolling Stones’ Tour of the Americas, Branam was asked to rig a lot of huge set pieces and also fly Jagger over the audience — a first. Then came a parade of big acts that continue to this day: Neil Diamond, John Denver, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Queen — and too many more to list.

Branam also continued to fly performers themselves, from Gene Simmons to Jon Bon Jovi. During the MTV era, his skills were in constant demand for the small screen, and soon also for feature films.

In 1978, Branam founded Branam Enterprises, which he now runs and operates with two of his three children, Kristy and Joey. The kids will take over when Joe retires in October. “I felt there was a need for a complete theatrical rigging company,” he said, also noting its emphasis on safety above all else.

“Joe is a gentle, decent soul who, when he looks you in the eye and said, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’ you have no doubt he can,” noted Stansfield, who worked with Branam several times over the years, most notably with Neil Diamond. “He’s always been trustworthy and credible, and a great team player. If it’s rigged by Branam, you know it’s winning.”