The Music Man

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Charlie Peacock’s speaking voice is soft and steady, lower than his singing voice, which tends toward a high tenor, but just as melodic. You can hear his songwriting instincts play out in his speaking pattern. The majority of it is a lulling calm that serves as a kind of “verse” portion, and then it’s punctuated occasionally by pointed, well-crafted statements that provide an intrinsically memorable “chorus.”

He’s dressed with a similar sense of carefully considered understatement: flannel shirt, loose blue jeans, flat-bottom sneakers. He retains the boyish doughiness of his youth, though a thinning pate of shortly cropped hair shows that time has, indeed, passed since his formative Sacramento years when he was a keyboardist and a burgeoning singer-songwriter at countless clubs that don’t exist anymore, like Melarkey’s, Harry’s Bar & Grill, Club Can’t Tell, Shire Road Pub, and Lord Beaverbrooks, the latter of which was one of the first projects by a young man named Randy Paragary.

“There are two restaurateurs in Sacramento that helped my career,” says Peacock. “Peter Torza from Harlow’s and Randy Paragary. They both bought me instruments, and I paid them back. Peter will tell you to this day that he credits [local musician] Steve Holsapple and I for [being the catalyst that launched] Harlow’s.”

Contacted in his native Connecticut, where he’s developing a new nightclub, Torza does just that. He explains that he was the manager of a restaurant called Nicole’s, and well past midnight he opened it up to cook Peacock and Holsapple an omelet, and to have a few drinks. “I will never forget that night. The next day the owner caught wind of it, and he fired me.” Unemployment was the mother of Torza’s entrepreneurship.Peacock and his wife, Andi, in  their Yuba City neighborhood

Torza, when told that Peacock thinks he may have been the first musician to play Harlow’s, one-ups the recollection: “Not only did he play at Harlow’s, he played there before it was even a nightclub, when it was still just a restaurant.” Torza, who himself studied music under the legendary jazz saxophonist Jackie McLean at the University of Hartford, says Peacock’s musicianship stood out: “It was apparent he had a lot of talent. He had great phrasing and great songs, intriguing tunes, intriguing lyrics.”

Paragary seconds Torza: “I owned a bar called Harry’s Bar & Grill, which I opened in 1980, and I was very impressed with him, not just as a musician, but with what a nice guy he was. I think I helped him buy a keyboard. He wrote original music. I would describe it as ‘new wave’; it was that period. I thought he would be a successful recording star. There were a lot of bands covering other people’s material, but he was doing his own stuff.”

But it was the aforementioned Stephen Holsapple, a visual artist, film editor and musician whose songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt and Dave Mason (co-founder of Traffic), who was Peacock’s biggest supporter. “However many years it’s been now, he was the one. I booked time at Moon Studios,” says Peacock of the Sacramento studio where Holsapple manned the boards. “I got some money from my wife’s grandma, I saved [up some money of my own], and I drove down from Yuba City to record my songs. And after we recorded, [Holsapple] said, ‘You know, you don’t have to pay anymore. I’ll record you for free.’ ”