Celebrating a Lasting Legacy

It’s all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago

June 4, 2020, is the one year anniversary of the passing of Randy Clamons. He has had an almost un-explainable impact on the Tucson music community. Touching so many lives, he took the time to talk with his audience and get to know them. He was an advocate to those in need heading up yearly fundraisers to the Tucson Community Food Bank. Frequently he talked about how much he loved his family and about how proud he was to play on stage with his son, Ray Clamons, giving him his forever title of “My son Ray”. He was married to Abby Moore on Saturday, April 1, 2017, and he celebrated with the Tucson music community by hosting a large celebration that afternoon at the Top Dead Center show at the Hut.

My heart, my soul, lover & companion. Miss you every day, cherish the time we had. Go on with your bad self!

Abby Moore, June 2, 2020
This video shows the band performing “The Way It Is” and “Too Slow,” both songs written by TDC leader/vocalist/guitarist Randy Clamons.

When the news of Randy’s passing was heard, the community flooded his Facebook page with memories and special messages. Below are a few of those posts:

I will forever cherish the time we had you here with us, words do not do justice to what you have done building a community.

Geof Tenney
Photo courtesy of Dan Guile
Photo courtesy of Bill Hupp

An entire chapter of my existence has been virtually wiped out overnight…..and my heart is in so many pieces I’ll never find them all again…..?
“And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes….
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon..” 

Bill Hupp

I woke up this morning late. My first thoughts were “ok you slept in late but now you’re going out and kick ass today. Get some stuff done.” About 5 minutes later I heard the news of the passing of Randy Clamons. Crushed. I haven’t cried in a long time but you deserve a cry from me man. I won’t be as productive as I thought today. Thanks for keeping the scene in Tucson alive so long. Much love to you, Ray ClamonsAbby Moore, and the TDC family in this difficult time.

Mario Saravia

Photo courtesy of Frank Ramos

Photo courtesy of Bruce Hilpert

This is such a sad day for Tucson Dead community, Tucson’s musical community, and all of the Tucsonans who knew Randy Clamons and benefited from his generosity and community spirit. Randy was a quiet but huge force for all of us. He kept the music going but more importantly, he kept our community going. Without Randy, we would not be a family and the local music would have died years ago. Randy, you were a great friend and a joy and inspiration to us all. You will be missed like no other. You have left your mark on our community and all of our hearts.

This is not a great picture, in a visual sense, but it is a great moment – Randy sharing the love. He began an annual Community Food Bank benefit show and his generosity inspired others. The Tucson Bus Mob jumped on Randy’s bandwagon and started a bus show to raise funds for Randy’s fundraiser. Here is Randy announcing the VW award winners and the amount of donated funds. Randy’s community spirit was an example and inspiration to us all.

Bruce Hilpert

You know our love will not fade away

The community came together to create a lasting memorial reflecting friends, family, and community.

Continuing to bring the community together, a GoFundMe campaign was set up to create a mural honoring not only Randy but the legacy that was left behind. The community raised the money to hire Sean Cannon to paint a lasting mural to help keep us connected. It can be seen on the outside stage of The Hut on 4th Ave.

Photo courtesy of Sean Cannon

We have been granted permission to paint a mural in honor of Randy Clamons on the wall behind The Hut’s stage! We would like to honor Randy with a mural on the wall behind the outdoor stage and we need your help! Frank Ramos has contacted an artist and they have finalized a design. He has also contacted the owners of the Hut and the Sacred Art Tattoo who have given us permission to proceed. Along with this fundraiser we will be collecting cash donations each Saturday at the Top Dead Center, Mike & Randy’s 420 Show. Randy worked hard for years building and keeping our community together. We all know that he looked forward to playing on the outdoor stage, it is one of his favorite places to perform. 4th Avenue Street Fairs, Community Food Bank fundraisers, benefits, birthdays, anniversary’s, celebrations and regular Saturday afternoon meetups all happened here. He brought us all together to celebrate life. This mural will be a visual reminder of his hard work as we continue his mission of bringing community together. Together let’s make this dream a reality!

Randy’s Mural Project, Top Dead Center


Today we remember not only Randy, but John Gatty (keyboards) died on April 27, 2012, of pancreatic cancer at age fifty; Michael Begala (lead guitar) died of natural causes on August 1, 2013, (Jerry Garcia’s birthday, as he predicted), at age 59, Rob Lutes, (sound engineer) who died on February 23, 2018, Tom Woolley who died on July 19, 2019, and the rest who have left this plane.

Thank you Frank Ramos for the information on the dates and for the photos.

I had the pleasure of experiencing John Gatty’s wit and wisdom, not to mention his expert musicianship, after “meeting” Top Dead Center at a Woodstock Tribute Concert in 2009. I shot a few photos of the band there and shortly afterward I began regularly attending Top Dead Center’s shows at The Hut in 2010, shooting photos and video of the band and getting an education about the Grateful Dead’s music; music expertly played live by John and the rest of the band. These are a few of the photos I shot during the short time I knew John (2009 – 2012). In fact, the very first photo in this series of photos is literally the very first photo I shot of John or any Top Dead Center member, at that 2009 Woodstock Tribute Concert I mentioned earlier.

I’ll never forget his kindness, especially when it came to my photography. He once told me, “You’re the only photographer I know whose photos consistently make me look good.” ? Rest in peace, John. You’ll never be forgotten.✌❤??

Frank Ramos, April 27, 2020

Tucson lost a beloved local musician last week. Michael Begala, a Tucson resident since the late ’70s, played mandolin for The Desert Drifters and sometimes played guitar with The Wayback Machine and The West River Band; but he was perhaps best known as a singer and guitarist for Grateful Dead cover band Top Dead Center.

On Friday, Aug. 1, the band was scheduled to play at the Rialto Theatre as part of the Local Love Tribute Fest. When bandmate Randy Clamons went to pick him up for the show, Begala was found in his bed. He apparently died of natural causes. He was 59 years old.

Somehow, the band soldiered on and played the show “in missing man formation,” according to Clamons. Begala and Clamons had a weekly standing gig at The Hut each Saturday — the Mike and Randy 420 Show — and Clamons reports that there was “a little celebration in his memory at The Hut this last Saturday.” According to Clamons, Begala was “the biggest Deadhead” in Top Dead Center: “Michael had told me of a dream or a vision he’d had a couple of months ago. In his vision, he was asked what day he wanted to die. He answered he didn’t want to die, but if he had to pick a day, it would be Jerry’s birthday. Then he told me if he died on Jerry’s birthday, I was the only one who would know what happened—the angels came and took him away—then he laughed like only Michael can. I just wasn’t expecting it to be this year.” Begala’s death comes just 14 months after the band lost its keyboardist, John Gatty, to pancreatic cancer.

Stephen Seigel: Aug 8, 2013

Haven’t mentioned it because its just hard too even think about but today’s also tough because all my friends back in Tucson are having a celebration of life for my buddy Rob Lutes who passed away from cancer on Feb 23rd, 2018 and unfortunately I can’t be there. Rob was incredibly special to me as he was one of my very best friends. I recall in my mind all the great times we had together which began when I first met Rob while watching him create his visual arts above the stage, listening to Top Dead Center play music at Berky’s, the Bashful Bandit and the Hut to our time we spent working together at my glassblowing studio. He always amazed me with his thought provoking conversation, knowledge of music and the passion he displayed running sound for every band he worked with. Rob, I love you like my brother and I’m gonna miss you for the rest of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you taught me and for all the times you had my back when i really needed it as it meant more than you’ll ever know. Cheers to you my friend, may the four winds blow you safely home ???

John Mims, March 10, 2018

My best bud Tom Woolley, the first and perhaps only person who specifically said, “I want to play music with you,” passed peacefully last night, a few weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I wish I could say Toms battle was a courageous one but by the time he was diagnosed it was a done deal. And so he went out the same way he lived—smoking cigarettes, dope, drinking beers and watching baseball-his beloved D-Backs who never failed to disappoint.

This year marks 20 years of the Wayback Machine.
I’m sure we’ll do something musically once we collect ourselves.

Jim Lipson, July 19, 2019

Keep on keeping on

As hard as it is, the band is still playing but now when they play on the outside stage at the Hut they play in front of a mural of Randy. The band is led by St. Stephen James (guitar, vocals), Phil Anderson (bass), John Einweck (keyboard), and Ray Clamons (drums). Several guests have sat in with the band including Ross Browne, William Yates, Hugh McCrystal, Nick Szumowki, and Shanti Foster. Frequently unannounced appearances by Brian Barbarisi, Timothy Darko, Scott Futrell, Ted Reyes, and Rick Pierce make the weekly Saturday show more memorable.

Photo courtesy of Frank Ramos

All good things in all good time

COVID-19 has put a pause on the weekly gatherings but fans still stay connected through the band’s Facebook group and through various online activities. When the time is right, we will all gather and continue the weekly celebration of our friends who have journeyed on and our friends who are by our side today.

In the meantime, stop by Frank Ramos YouTube Playlist which contains just under 3000 videos of past Top Dead Center shows and help us remember the good times!

1 thought on “Celebrating a Lasting Legacy”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons