RIP Randy "Poodie" Locke

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Poodie Locke in his office
A legend has left us, and his name was Randy “Poodie” Locke, a friend of mine for over a decade and close associate of Willie Nelson for almost 40 years. The longtime stage manager and hospitality chief died today of a heart attack. I don’t know the details, but I can tell you a bit about the great and powerful Poodie. A large man with a profile reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s, Poodie’s bus was the first stop at any Willie show, just to get your bearings after a long and disorienting trip.

Poodie always seemed to me to have a very special combination of talents, like all longtime members of the Willie crew do. It’s required because like any great team, you never know when it will be your turn to save the day. With all the thousands of Willie shows in every place from football stadiums to a grassy field next to a 200 year old stage coach stop, you can bet Poodie and the guys have overcome every possible obstacle to getting a show done, and until today, survived. It’s just a mind-blow that Poodie’s gone.

He would wrangle the local crew, runners that went for food and people who helped load the equipment on and off the trucks. For a long time he handled guest passes, and of course Poodie patrolled the wings of all Willie shows making sure things were proper. For those that think there might be a lack of precision in Willie shows, I once saw Poodie report to Willie that his famous Baldwin amplifier would be a different height than the usual 18″.

Poodie was originally from Waco and often bragged that his nickname came from his sister saying “Poodie baby” instead of “pretty baby” because he was supposedly voted prettiest baby in Waco, 1952. He got his start in show business with BW Stephenson, and was just recalling him warmly a few days ago at an event held at Willie’s Place in Carl’s Corner, near Waco. BW did something great for show business by opening a door for Poodie, and he never forgot who gave him his first chance. His loyalty to Willie was peerless, however.

And Poodie ran his own club the Hilltop in high fashion too, with his collected mementos decorating the walls and his office where he showed me some Elk antlers someone gave him. When I questioned where they came from, how it was bagged, etc., Poodie held up a hand and stopped me in his Texas drawl. “John, 30 years on the road, you don’t ask where it came from you just roll it up.” Poodie gave countless artists a chance at his club, and they all loved him. He was particularly proud that Dave Mason had played there recently.

One time I was present when Poodie saved the day was at the San Antonio Rodeo a few years ago when Willie got sick and got Pat Green to fill in on a few hours notice. That was a tense afternoon, but Poodie put in a call and smoothed an anxious situation with an arena full of fans expecting Willie.

Yes I drank tequila with him every time I saw him. Yes I brought him pastrami and corned beef until he knew the Zabar’s name. Yes he got me and all my friends and business associates into every Willie show ever and made us feel totally welcome. He and his friends and family taught me how to hang out like real Texans, drinking pickle juice from the jar while playing pool, talking about football and so many other important topics. I’m pleased we got a bit of Poodie and his stories on tape for the Willie podcasts last year, please stop by to hear the man tell Willie stories sometime. Mama Locke let me know it was expected that I get salsa on my shirt during my first visit to Maudie’s.

When I last saw Poodie, he had just finished laundry backstage in New Brunswick NJ. He put me on the phone with his beloved Mama, Gloria Locke, who like Poodie was nothing but encouraging (and all about good friends and good food and drink). My heart goes out to Shay, Mama, Cindy, all Poodie’s friends and family on the Willie crew and in his wild orbit like Sid and Traci, Cowboy Linda, Earl Campbell, Goose Gossage, The Ghoul, Bernie from Vermont, Norm (who had Willie sign a fucking skull at the New Brunswick show) and just countless others along the road. We already miss you, Poodie. A lot.

Let the yellow wine and Patron flow, the great Poodie has left us.

5 comments to RIP Randy "Poodie" Locke

  • Yes, We will miss you alot….

  • ruthellen

    Great tribute. You were lucky to meet him. What a distinctive character.

  • I wrote this song in memory of Poodie:

    That Very Sad Sixth Day Of May (At Poodie's Hilltop Roadhouse)

    I'd hitchhiked to Poodie's to play
    For a fun Wednesday night open mic
    At Poodie's Hilltop Roadhouse on the sixth day of May
    Was where I'd heard the news that he'd died

    That was such a very sad time
    With the look in Brooks' eyes which were glazed
    I think that he'd wanted to cry
    A quiet moment of remembrance we paid

    On that very sad sixth day of May
    A quiet moment of remembrance we paid
    At the place where there's no bad days
    On that very sad sixth day of May

    At the place where there's no bad days
    Nobody knew exactly what to say
    Me, I just hitchhiked away
    On that very sad sixth day of May


    ©2009 Dean Strickland

  • I'm in a touring band called Ninja Gun and we recently played Asbury Park, NJ. We had the next day off in New Brunswick, NJ and we got to town and found out Willie was playing. Poodie found out that we were a broke touring rock band and he gave us 5 free tickets to see Willie and Ray Price at this beautiful old ornate State Theater. This show was sold out and the tickets were $150 to $300. There was absolutely no other reason for him to do such a kind thing other than because he was a sweet, sweet fella. We played Austin last Friday night and I found out there about his passing. I've seen how ugly the inner workings of the music business is and it's a sad day when someone as thoughtful and genuine as Poodie leaves us.