February 8, 1929 - July 12, 2014
by Sonya Jason
Prentice 'Pete' Douglas was the founder of the non-profit music venue, The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, located in Half Moon Bay, California. He presented jazz, classical and world music concerts by the sea for over 50 years before suffering a fatal heart attack and stroke on July 12, 2014. He was 85. Pete continued to book the music at his "house" until the day he died.
Friendships sometimes grow in unexpected places and with unlikely people. My friendship with Pete Douglas was one such treasure to me, and I appreciated the unique perspective he brought to my life. His eccentricity evolved out of the 50's Beat Hipster Generation with their Bohemian attitude and love of the arts. The round beanie, sunglasses, pipe and craggy features gave him the appearance of a mythic character that fit well with his tireless telling of musical tales.
I loved Pete not only for his uniqueness, but because of his endless support for live music, especially jazz. He offered his own home as a performance venue, beginning literally as a small beer joint on the beach, then expanding and redesigning it over 50 years to create the ultimate, intimate concert space seating nearly 200. His non-profit musical organization called "The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society" was founded in 1964 to present jazz, classical and world music concerts by the sea.
Thirty years later in 1994 after Warner Music Discovery released my "Tigress" CD, Pete invited my band to come up from LA to perform at the Bach. He took a chance on me as a relatively unknown contemporary jazz artist, because he said that he heard passion and intensity in my performance. That's what inspired him the most. For me, the magic of performing at his music venue was unforgettable. The beautiful, intimate setting and responsive audience made this show one of the highlights of my career as a band leader thus far.
Five years later in 1999, I relocated to the Coastside, just 4 miles north of Pete's place. We became friends -- going out to hear live music together, trading musician stories over lunch, even roller skating on Wednesday nights -- and I became determined to help Pete create a living legacy of The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society which would endure beyond his lifetime. For several months, I worked as Pete's Director, helping to raise awareness and funding for his non-profit.
Once my musical career blossomed in the San Francisco Bay Area, I didn't have as much time to devote to preserving the legacy of Pete's performance venue. But it was still my favorite place in the world to hear jazz. For many years, I had a "back door pass" to come hear any band for free. As a full time musician with an unpredictable income, I cherished that privilege.
In the summer of 2012, Pete invited my newly formed tribute band, Sonya Jason's TIGRESS, to present a concert of jazz fusion from the '70s & '80s. The show was recorded live, and the best songs of the evening will soon be released as a CD. I regret that I did not get to present a copy to Pete as a personal thank you. The recording will now be dedicated to his memory.
Pete Douglas was musicians' best friend; a dedicated music presenter who lived for the rush of witnessing the creative passion bursting forth from artists and who nurtured a performance space in which to share that experience with appreciative audiences. He lived a good life, and he will be greatly missed.
VIDEO: Pete Douglas shares a little history and his philosophy as a music presenter in this brief video, "Soul Stirring Music in an Awe-Inspiring Atmosphere."