If you’ve ever been in a band, you’ll know that you should always have a roll or two of gaffer tape in your gigbag. It’s great for everything from securing cables and sticking setlists to the stage, to dampening drum heads and cymbals.
Let’s all take a moment, then, to remember Ross Lowell, the man who invented gaffer tape back in 1959 and died last month at the age of 92.
The story goes that Lowell transferred the adhesive from Johnson & Johnson’s Permacel tape - also known as duct tape - to silver tape, and then brought his new product to market. Unlike duct tape, gaffer tape has a fabric backing, and the adhesive is supposedly more resistant to heat and easier to remove from surfaces that it’s attached to.
Lowell, who was known for his work in the film industry, also invented a swivelling ball-and-clamp system for mounting lights, and wrote a book called Matters of Light and Depth: Creating Memorable Images for Video, Film and Stills Through Lighting. He won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 1980 for his compact lighting system.
In case you were wondering, we’re assuming that it’s from the film industry that Lowell’s famously versatile tape got its name: ‘the gaffer’ is the colloquial title given to the chief electrician in a movie or television production unit.
So, the next time you stick a cable to the ground, remember Ross, the man who helped to get you out of countless sticky situations.