Jul 282010
 

The Rock ‘n Roll Caterer takes five, in 1985!

Years ago, when my wife and I were first dating, we ran into one of my old musician friends on a street corner. His long hair and slacker Shaggy Rogers facade hid the fact that he was a gentle, thoughtful guy whose only vice was sweets. After continuing on our way, she said something like, “Band members have this reputation for being tough and cool, but whenever I meet them they’re usually the nicest people in the club.” From 1978 through the 1980s, Penny Rush-Valladares interacted with rock stars galore while running Backstage Cafe, a concert catering company in Kansas City, Missouri. In the process, Penny became a member of the Kansas City rock scene herself. From both the tales on her website, Rock and Roll Stories, and our conversations about her her experiences, it quickly became clear that Penny was among the many nice ones in the rock scene, super nice.

But this hard-working, rock ‘n roll-loving hippie (in the best sense of the term) isn’t beyond dishing more than her patented turkey dinners. In the course of our talk we gain some shocking insights about the likes of Roger Waters, Neil Diamond, and Bob Dylan – not to mention a story about Van Halen that’s more disgusting than I would have thought possible. A key detail about a diminutive purple presence in the ’80s rock scene explains so much, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In the true spirit of the Halls of Rock, Penny brings a cheerful attitude, a bruised-but-not-beaten sense of idealism, and the willingness to let it all hang out. You won’t run into a Penny on any old street corner.

Penny’s website chronicles some of her earliest rock ‘n roll stories, including her night with The Beatles; we start with her entry into rock ‘n roll catering.

RTH: Can you summarize your work as a rock ‘n roll caterer? How did you get started as a caterer for touring musicians? You were initially based out of a certain venue, right?

Penny: Well, yes and no. I worked out of the Uptown Theatre in the beginning, helping another woman and learning the ropes. But it soon extended out into other venues. It was in its infant stages and we made it up as we went along. Basically we had to come up with a little dressing room food for the artists and some crew dinner for 20 or so guys. The reason I got involved was because I loved going to concerts and wanted to be backstage, so I soon realized there was a need for food and I knew that was something I could do.

It just kept evolving and demands from the artists kept getting more involved and official. A contract “rider” came along, which listed all the particular needs of each act and their food requirements were included. So it didn’t take long for me to start specializing in concert catering. I never wanted to do other kinds of catering, because I was only doing it to be backstage.

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  11 Responses to “The Rock Town Hall Interview: Rock ‘n Roll Caterer Penny Rush-Valladares, or If You Gotta Serve Somebody, Why Not Serve Bob Dylan Banana Pudding?

  1. BigSteve

    Wow, great interview. She does seem really nice, and it’s interesting to hear how at the end of the 80s the biz changed so much she had to get away from it.

  2. It is good to see there are decent people trying to do a good job behind the scenes in big-time rock n roll biz.

    And it’s not so surprising that Neil Diamond may be a pothead. Check this and be sure to read the 1st comment
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Tm8EJaoFO8

  3. ladymisskirroyale

    Great interview! I hadn’t really given much thought to the food portion of the tours, except for those legendary riders. Thanks for a behind the scenes look at the business. And can we get your recipe for banana pudding? (I see a RTH holiday cookbook!)

  4. Mr. Moderator

    That’s great, k., and ladymiss, we’ll see about acquiring that legendary recipe – the pudding, not Diamond’s request:)

    I’m still trying to get my head around Max Weinberg asking for his pasta to be kept warm during the course of one of The Boss’ 6-hour sets. The pasta would be mush after all that time! You mean to tell me Max doesn’t like his pasta al dente, as I’m sure Penny and her crew prepared it before putting it in the warming drawer or wherever, as his rider required.

  5. sammymaudlin

    I just now got a chance to read this. Even better than Mrs. Maudlin said. What a great interview on both sides! Thanks so much Penny for sharing.

    Regarding Ray Charles- you shoulda just left it, put it out of his reach and told him it was gone.

  6. Glad everyone enjoyed the interview, I sure enjoyed doing it.

    Banana Pudding recipe is very simple. Line a casserole dish with vanilla wafers, layer with vanilla or banana pudding, sliced bananas and cover with whipped cream and a few nuts. Refrigerate for awhile. Nothin’ to it…

  7. I saw Penny’s son’s band. They did a killer version of “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”

  8. I enjoyed reading this very much. Thank you, Penny and Jim

  9. 2000 Man

    I liked this, too! I think I’ll have to check out Penny’s blog, too.

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