Randy Perez, tough but beloved local music-scene icon, battling liver cancer


One thing about life: bad things really do happen to good people. Somebody at the Vatican should talk to God about that, especially as regards one Randy Perez. Warm-hearted with a wry wit, solid a professional as you’re ever apt to come by, Perez is one of those cats everybody who knows him—even his wife—has something nice to say about.

The name likely doesn’t ring a bell, because behind-the-scenes folk don’t get a whole lot of play. But ask around the industry in these parts: technical director Randy Perez’s reputation precedes him. He does lights and sound and is so good at it that P.D. Pappy’s in Stillwater, where he runs house, has him pretty much under lock and key (he’s received offers to jump ship and couldn’t be less interested). He’s worked with more than 150 acts over the course of 21 years at P.D. Pappy’s alone, including Gypsy, Crow, Jumpstreet and his brother Chico’s old band One World (which spawned a good half-dozen careers).

There’s a common theme, no matter who I ask about Randy: people love him. By the time I got done doing interviews, I’d never met the man (we spoke over the phone) but couldn’t help but like him. Mary, his wife, had me in hysterics, talking about the night they met. Randy was trying to impress her, name-dropping like a big dog, telling her he’d worked with this, that, and the other heavyweight. Mary, who isn’t particularly impressed by the music business, hadn’t the foggiest notion who or what he was talking about, but realized right away she was crazy about him. “He was trying to pitch woo,” she says, “throwing all this stuff out at me. And I’m like, ‘Okay.’ I had no idea.” So, while he was working overtime to gain interest, what really blew her away? “His heart. Probably the first night we were ever together, I just knew if there was anybody in world who could break my heart it would be him. I also knew that was the person I would be with. There are so many depths about him that are unbelievable.“

Chico will happily bend your ear backward about his brother. “He has unconditional love for everyone. The boy would always open up and give his best to everybody in the place and make sure every day was bright and sunny. It was always a party for him. Always a joy to be around him.” He recaps some of Randy’s professional growth. “He’s my right-hand man. He started off as my roadie at a young age, then went to lights, then got better at stage production. Then sound. P.D. Pappy’s offered him [a job] and he couldn’t refuse. He even moved to Stillwater. He’s been in the music business all his life. He’s all about music and all about the care of music.” I couldn’t get their dad on the phone, but he told Chico to tell me, “[The boys’ mom] said ‘Randy was born with a smile and a golden heart.’ The kid never stopped smiling and never stopped opening his heart to everyone else.”

Jenny Sanford, near as I can tell, would like to sprinkle Randy Perez on an ice cream cone. “Randy and I had a very fun and playful working relationship when I was with One World. I call him ‘Randis the Menace.’ Every Sunday I would show up to the gig with a piece of gum or candy for him…it was our little thing. And I was always trying to make him laugh from the stage. Even now, when I play at Pappy’s with Belladiva, I still look forward to seeing Randis and I still bring him gum. I love that guy. He’s a very loyal friend.”

“How long can you hold your breath, sir? Because if you don’t turn that guitar down, I’m gonna have to hold you by your ankles and see how long you can hold your breath in the river.”

It was fairly unavoidable that Randy entered the business—it truly is a family affair. “We’d wake up Sundays to my dad singing and playing [guitar] before church at 5:30 in the morning. Each one of us had a different instrument. My mother played piano, I play the clave, my brother would beat on a drum, my sisters, Pam and Dawn, would be on a drum, and we’d learn parts.”

Sunny-shiny spirit or no, he’s also not averse to setting someone straight when it’s called for. As the owner’s right hand at P.D. Pappy’s, Randy relates, “If we got somebody in the place and they’re cocky, I’ll ask, ‘How long can you hold your breath, sir? Because if you don’t turn that guitar down, I’m gonna have to hold you by your ankles and see how long you can hold your breath in the river.’” He says this with a cackling, warmhearted laugh, and you get the distinct impression that he’d never abuse his authority at P.D. Pappy’s: you just wouldn’t want to wind up on his bad side.

Okay, so, why am I running on and on about Randy Perez? Well, he has primary liver cancer and there’s going to be a show at the Minnesota Music Cafe on April 19th, featuring New Primitives, G. B. Leighton, and Jenny Sanford, to help out with Randy’s medical bills. Perez, naturally, is grateful. “I feel so blessed that there are people that understand and loves somebody who loves them. I have so much love for people that do have the heart and show the heart. I tell them it comes right back.” He adds: “They see what I do on my job and say, ‘You’re the quarterback.’”

Want to hit two birds with one stone? Show up. Catch some hellified music, and at the same time, do something good for somebody who deserves it.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.