Globetrotting with the Greats
Madison native tours the world with music industry's top acts
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 10:00 AM
Jon Huntington keeps good company.
Jon Huntington is photographed on a recent visit to Madison after a year on the road with Fleetwood Mac and other world-famous bands.
(Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
As a video engineer, the Madison native has worked with some of the entertainment industry's biggest names.
He began his career as a video engineer working for Paul McCartney.
He toured with the legendary musician in 1990 during the "The Paul McCartney World Tour."
Huntington's career hasn't slowed down much since then.
In 2013 he toured almost exclusively with Fleetwood Mac, except for a month spent with Mumford & Sons and two weeks spent with Aerosmith in Japan.
"It's been a pretty good year," the brother of former Madison Mayor Al Huntington said.
As a video engineer, Huntington adjusts the exposure and color balance of the cameras recording live performances.
"For folks who haven't been to a concert recently, now there's always a video screen that's part of the show, and there are usually some side screens. So, I take care of all the stuff that feeds into those."
Since he began working with musicians in 1990, Huntington has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry: McCartney, Janet Jackson, John Mayer, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Justin Timberlake, Neil Diamond and Ozzy Osbourne.
The job turned him into a globe-trotter and allowed him to work in world-famous venues.
"I enjoy the travel," he said. "But pretty much like everything in life, it's more fun while you're younger."
After graduating from Madison Consolidated High School in 1972, Huntington attended the North Carolina School of the Arts. He moved to New York City and became involved in broadcasting.
He worked in newsroom broadcasting booths from 1975 to 1990. But he also worked on several soap operas and covered most of the New York and New Jersey professional sports teams.
"I really like working in live television. That's what I liked about sports," he said. "If it's (being recorded) to tape, they just do it over and over and over."
"It's a little more pressure (to record live), but I find it easier to deal with."
In 1990, Huntington was told that McCartney was unhappy with the people who shot his live performances and that he was looking into hiring broadcasters because of their experience working live events.
"I went into that tour and I really liked it. Of course, it's not a corner you can turn very quickly, so I continued to do a lot of sports in New York. I finally got to where I was doing enough tours that I didn't have to go back and do sports."
While touring with musicians around the world sounds like a lot of fun - and it is, Huntington says it's also a lot of work.
"It's a long day. You start at, on average, it's probably eight in the morning and then you end up closing the doors on your truck at around two in the morning."
He said he usually finds time for a nap in the afternoon.
Huntington said the control room at each venue is exactly like a television studio, except instead of a transmitter, the equipment feeds directly onto the large screens.
All the information on screen before the concert runs through Huntington.
"The rest is what they call 'imag' or image magnification. It's, in essence, so that the people who have the crummy seats in the back have a good view of the artists," he said.
Huntington is technically a freelancer. Once a band decides to go on tour they usually hire a production company, and that production company will look for people like Huntington to hire.
The nature of the work means there is usually an ebb and flow to Huntington's work schedule. Summer and spring are usually pretty busy.
"Sometimes when you think you're going to have the winter to put your feet up, you end up working all the time. You never know what's going to happen," he said. "At the moment I don't have anything until July, but that could change tomorrow."