In devoting his life to nurturing and furthering the live arts and entertainment in his native South Africa, Percy Tucker forged mutually productive relationships with creative artists and managements across Europe, Britain and the USA.
The breadth of Tucker’s interests, ranging from his first love — theatre — to classical and popular music, ballet, modern dance, variety and spectacle, saw him become an integral figure in the South African showbusiness industry as adviser, counsellor, mentor, organiser, impresario and innovator.
Internationally he is known for his foresight in creating the world’s first fully operative, computerised, centralised ticket-booking system, which he introduced in South Africa in 1969. Originally known as “Show Service”, in 1971 this gave way to “Computicket”, of which he was the founder and managing director until his retirement in 1994. This unique concept was pioneered by Tucker and changed forever the way tickets for entertainment were marketed worldwide.
Born to Rae and Harry Tucker in the small mining town of Benoni, just outside Johannesburg in 1928, he was educated at Benoni High, the University of the Witwatersrand (B. Com) and the University of South Africa UNISA, where he read accountancy.
His interest in developing the computerised ticket system was sparked by his own frustration at the inconvenience of having to queue for tickets to any show or event. He saw an opportunity to change this outdated system.
Starting with computerised reservations and sales across all forms of the entertainment industry in South Africa, the business expanded rapidly to incorporate sporting events and hotel bookings, including the launch of the famous Sol Kerzner resort complex of Sun City in Bophuthatswana.
Tucker became active as an impresario/producer involved in bringing to South Africa internationally esteemed performing artists, such as opera singers Richard Tucker, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Victoria de los Angeles, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as well as many popular entertainers, including Pavarotti and Elton John.
In 1959 he was part of the production team that brought the first all-black South African musical to the stage, King Kong, directed by Leon Gluckman, which co-starred future legend Miriam Makeba, and played to multi-racial audiences in South Africa for two years before opening in London’s West End in 1961.
As an executive member of the Theatre Managements of South Africa in 1978, he was one of a three-man committee lobbying the Nationalist government on behalf of the arts. In this role he was instrumental in successfully negotiating the de-segregation of audiences and actors in all South African theatres; a pioneering achievement 12 years prior to the abolition of apartheid.
Between 1978 and 1980, the Computicket concept was sold to Canada, Australia and the UK, but all operations were suspended as a result of the international boycott of South Africa in protest against the apartheid government.
Tucker’s unique combination of passionate commitment to the arts together with his commercial vision, business acumen and marketing skills brought him recognition, love and respect that he never sought, and a richly fulfilling life which he treasured.
Following his official retirement in 1994, he published his autobiography-cum-history of the South African theatre, Just the Ticket! — largely from his incredible memory — and remained actively involved in the entertainment industry as adviser, lecturer, board member and researcher right up until his untimely death in Cape Town as a result of Covid-related complications. He was 92 years old.
Percy Tucker was the younger brother of Mossie Tucker (Israel) and consultant paediatrician Dr Sam Tucker (London), both of whom pre-deceased him. He never married but was close to his two sisters-in-law and six nieces and nephews, including three in the UK: Dana Cukier, Trevor Tucker and Lawrence Tucker, who survive him.
Percy Tucker: born 10 July, 1928. Died 29 January, 2021