Randy Dennis – Professional Touring Keyboardist and a McCauley Sound Believer
SM95-1 Stage Monitors Stand the Test of Time
A great music experience requires high-quality sound, and professional touring keyboardist Randy Dennis knows a thing or two about that, having spent his life immersed in the world of music. From his days as a young 5th-grader in Texas, learning classical piano from a gospel teacher at Fort Hood military base, to living a mile down the road from Willie Nelson’s recording studio in Austin, Randy has been, as he puts it, “blessed to share his talent”.
At the beginning of his career, Randy taught himself to play rhythm and blues, and learned the music of inspirational icons and fellow piano-playing prodigies Elton John and Billy Joel, naturally. He set lofty goals—to play the Astrodome and the Grand Ole Opry—which he’s since achieved many times over. He says, “I’m just so lucky that it comes through me. I can’t imagine my life without music.” Randy’s played hundreds and hundreds of gigs: opening for Alabama (while still in high school!); touring with Tracy Byrd’s band for 11 years; backing Brooks & Dunn, Reba McIntyre, and Wynonna Judd, among many other acts; and jamming with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Los Lonely Boys, and up-and-comers such as Ian Moore. He’s since worked as a studio/session musician and played live with a number of professionals for decades. In short, this man knows music.
Randy recalls the grueling touring schedule, “To establish yourself, you play every club, bar, and honky-tonk you can. Sometimes two shows a day, about 250 shows per year, at first.
We tour with our instruments and stage gear, and proaudio techs provide whatever’s needed at the venues. The set up and crew guys help ease each full day of the performance, pulling into town at 8am to start setting up, going right through the sound check at 4pm, plus packing everything back up after playing the show until the midnight hours. They make it easy on the performers. It’s like the frontline with the quarterback. Everybody pulls together and that includes equipment. You can’t have failure on the human level or the equipment level. If something sounds bad, it keeps you from ‘feeling it’ and performing optimally.”
It was during a stint playing keyboards at Washington State’s Tacoma Dome and Puyallup Fair—while on tour with Reba McIntyre—when he met and befriended Central U.S. Sales Manager Bruce Anderson and the team at McCauley Sound. It was to be the start of a great relationship.
Randy states, “I live in a music mecca community. We can identify what sounds good and we’re all big fans of McCauley’s products. All of us talk to each other talk about instruments, monitors, amps, you name it. Word gets around, constantly, that McCauley Sound has a great reputation for high-end equipment and is well-respected in the proaudio industry. Proaudio companies that tour do seem to use the McCauley products gear more often, providing backlines for touring acts.
“Since 1994, the McCauley Sound wedge SM95-1 promotional stage monitors* have really held up to the touring life for me. What’s amazing is that I play all over the U.S. and Canada, and they get banged around all the time. How they’ve held up to all that abuse of being loaded on and off that 18-wheeler, I’ll never know. Roadies are not known to be all that gentle with equipment, and after all that time and all those miles, it’s still a nice, compact, high-performance piece of quality gear. I’ve really only needed to cover some nicks by touching them up with black spray paint. But the components and speakers themselves held up.
“After all this time, all I’ve suffered is one little tear in a speaker column. McCauley sent me a complimentary replacement 6244CX basket (a 15" coaxial sub-component high-performance woofer assembly) and some replacement foam for a grill. But what’s remarkable is that the quality of the sound never suffered, never diminished. It was tip-top until it tore. I’ve reinstalled the parts already and everything’s working great. Without that tear, who knows how long they could have kept going. To withstand road abuse, miles, time…McCauley sets the precedent and standard for their quality control, but goes above and beyond that, even.
“Your instruments and pro sound gear need to be top-notch. You also need reinforcement when you’re out there in the elements, as you roll from one town to the next. If you have a breakdown, or issues of quality or performance, with McCauley you never have to worry about it. When I needed them, doggone it, they were there. You need that lifeline of support. It’s easy to sell something, but it’s much more difficult to stand behind your products and back them up.
“Weather is another factor. And so is humidity. You can build a nice piece of gear in a climate-controlled environment, but will it stand up to the elements? We’re talking weather extremes, too—106 degrees in the Phoenix, Arizona desert heat to 10 below in frigid South Dakotan winds. You gotta have a tough piece, and with McCauley, the weather never seems to matter.
“I’ve got everything I need, and I stick with what works. I’m picky on sound, but I’m happy. If the equipment meets my personal standards, I can be confident about what I’m playing. I’ve tried probably everything that’s out there. McCauley’s products are physically heavy and constructed well. A lot of other stuff seems lightweight, and that makes a difference.”
Randy sums up, “From when I met McCauley, to 15-plus years later, the company has really grown. It’s the Cadillac of sound systems. I’ve needed a few repairs on my piano but I’ve never needed repairs on the monitors. If I have any issues, I call Bruce and it’s: “No problem, when and where do you want it shipped?” Service is important these days, and if you need support or a part, you want someone you can depend on and I got it. If you’re out there on a bus, gigging 250 or more shows a year, and something ever does go down, you’re going to need that back up, you just do. When you go to war, you need to have the proper ammunition. You can depend on McCauley. I am a testimony to that.”