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Unsung Hero of the Music Industry, Ross Lowell, Dies

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Unsung Hero of the Music Industry, Ross Lowell, Dies

February 27, 2019

Ross Lowell did not invent guitars. He didn’t even invent the plectrum. However, his role played in the music industry can scarcely be over-stated. Without question, any musician worth their salt who has trodden the boards or recorded in a studio has benefited from his revolutionary innovation, from guitarists to drummers to keyboard players, tech guys, venue workers and set-builders. He was the silent partner in the creation of some of the world’s greatest music. Today, we all mourn the loss of the inventor of Gaffer Tape.

Gaffer Tape (or Gaffa Tape), so-named, it is believed, as “gaffers” (the stage manager/head technician or similar) would turn to it at any given crisis as a cure-all remedy. First, it’s important to remember that Gaffer Tape is different from that pretender to the crown of adhesives, Duct Tape. Shiny, plasticky Duct Tape has its place but the film set or music venue is not it. Although utilising the same gluey substance as Duct Tape, Gaffer Tape is its grown-up half-cousin, clad instead of plastic with matte-effect cloth material. Lowell was already holder of the patent to the Lowell-Light, a highly adaptable swivel light to be used on film sets. Seeing an almost constant need for repairs and adjustments to be made during productions, Gaffer Tape offered a heat-proof fix to the issue, without the shine of Duct Tape nor, just as importantly, the inevitable struggle to remove it after it had served its purpose. No more damaged parts or ripped equipment, Gaffer Tape was a technician’s equivalent of a football physio’s magic sponge. The material used also makes it ideal for writing on, ensuring leads are correctly labelled and mixing desks and lighting boards are clearly marked. It would be unthinkable to go to work without it.

In a musical setting, the hallowed Gaffer is used to control the tangled vines of cables, affix wayward lighting, hold instruments together and, on occasion, keep clothing from leading to national tabloid scandals. Your singer might be having a meltdown on stage but, whatever else happens, Gaffer Tape is holding it together. Bury St.Edmund’s band, Gaffa Tape Sandy (so called as an emergency repair to a snare drum was greeted with the legend, “Gaffer Tape’s ‘andy”) have clearly already paid homage to the great man but now’s the time for the rest of us to offer a minute’s applause to Ross for his sticky solution to so many musicians’ problems. If you need a black armband, you know what to do. Cheers, Gaffer.

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