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Ken Watts, tour director and “fearless leader”, passes

Ken Watts, a much-loved tour director for the likes of George Michael, Duran Duran, Natalie Imbruglia, Bond, Blues Brothers, Jamiroquai and Duran Duran, passed away suddenly over the weekend.

Colleagues, friends and artists have paid tribute to the late tour director, who worked on the very first Wham! tour in 1983, as well as with artists such as Michael Flatley, Spandau Ballet and Susan Boyle.

Dennis Gardner, production manager for British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens, wrote in a Facebook post: “It is with much sadness, this weekend I received news of the passing of my mentor, my friend, my brother and fearless leader Ken Watts. He was (and will remain) an industry legend and a personal hero of mine. I have learnt and continue to learn from Ken and the way he approached everything he did with heart, a heavy dose of common sense and, as ever, a wonderful sense of humour. Simply put, Ken taught me nearly everything.

“Everything he did was with heart, a heavy dose of common sense and a wonderful sense of humour”

“I’m still expecting my phone to ring, to hear his voice and discuss everything under the sun from work to his love for his family and how proud he was of his children. I have been with Ken from the late ’80s as a lighting man, through the various GM tours, and being Ken’s Production Manager, for many years. Over the years, we have laughed and commiserated over many bottles of red wine, had sleepless nights, argued, disagreed, but also foremost, been friends and trusted comrades, if not family.

“Our work and my world will not feel the same without his attention to detail, high standards and wisdom. He always had time for his crew, not just the close ones, but everyone, and made sure they were always respected, cared for and felt like they belonged. We are also family and he has been so much more than a Tour Manager to his touring family.”

“One of the industries mega personalities who will be greatly missed”

Veteran production manager and Touring Production Group founder Wob Roberts commented: “One of the industries mega personalities who will be greatly missed.”

Violinist Haylie Ecker told Slipped Disc: “My heart goes out to this legend’s tour family and loved ones at home. He was a force of calm with a mischievous sense of humour, who always made us laugh when we needed to most, living selflessly behind the scenes, paving the roads for us to smoothly travel.

“No problem was ever too large to overcome. He made our sound, and in our ever-changing world, he also made us a bubble of safety, luxuriously so. Ever there to hold our hand as we sweatily stumbled off stage, ‘Don’t do a Laura Ashley’, he’d say…. May someone be there to hold your hand as you ascend the stairway to heaven, Ken Master.”

“He was a force of calm with a mischievous sense of humour”

Neg Earth Lights, a leading independent entertainment lighting hire company, wrote on Facebook: “The shock with which we learnt of the loss of Ken Watts, who passed away suddenly over the weekend, has given way to deep sadness and heartache; an industry giant, and friend of Neg Earth Lights for decades, we will miss him greatly and hold his family, friends and colleagues in our thoughts.”

“What a terrible loss. Ken Watts was a genuine talent and inspirational leader to many. A Wonderful Man,” one Facebook user wrote.

Another added: “What a fantastic man, he will be greatly missed by many.”

“A true friend and one with whom you could always pick up where you left off after a long absence. A truly huge loss to the entertainment industry,” read one tribute.

“Huge loss, such a lovely and respected man that taught so much to so many,” read another.

Watts’ family has requested that those who would like to pay tribute to Ken do so by making a small donation to Stagehand’s Covid-19 Crew Relief Fund here.


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