Music keeps going on 78 RPM records

DJ Cactus Pete has loyal following for weekly round-up at neighborhood bar

Cactus Pete Stegall, a 78-year-young gent spinning 78s at an unassuming neighborhood bar on Franklin Boulevard, has had a pretty swell beginning to 2019.

Last month, Pete was nominated for a SAMMIE (The Sacramento Area Music Awards) in the category “Creative Achievement in Support of the Music Scene.” Voting is open until March 12.

The Hideaway at 2565 Franklin Blvd., just south of Broadway, has provided a regular home base for four years, though Cactus Pete also has entertained patrons of the Crocker Art Museum, The Golden Bear and private parties.

Every Tuesday night from 8 to 11 p.m., The Hideaway offers the crucial intersection of hillbilly, country and jazz music that floats above the clink of cocktail glasses and pints of PBR under the guidance of Cactus Pete, a renaissance man/visual artist/DJ.

Consummately dapper, often in vintage bow tie or 1940s silk tie and Stetson hat, he is a gentle intellectual. His deep brown eyes sparkle:

“It’s all about the music. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the music.”

He often kicks off “Cactus Pete’s 78 RPM Record Roundup” with “Black Mountain Rag,” a traditional instrumental 1940s bluegrass tune, this time by Curly Fox. He moves into classics by Bob Wills & Tiny Moore (Western Swing), Pete Johnson (boogie woogie piano), Fletcher Henderson, Hank Thompson, Louis Jordan and Benny Goodman (jazz); Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard (Honky Tonk), and on to the iconic Hillbilly Country band Maddox Brothers & Sister Rose, the amazing Oklahoma family band that rode the rails to get to Modesto during the Great Depression.

Cactus Pete works on playlists, but like any great free-form radio host, he absolutely knows what to play next. “It starts on a whim, sometimes I wing it,” he muses, but his categories and sub-genre categories are voluminous. The rare art of the perfect segue lives on within him – he is no stranger to stream of consciousness.

Cactus Pete’s renown has helped to build his record collection – fans often bring him boxes of the black shellac to research. In fact it was geeky record/vintage culture collector/ musician Mark Miller of Curtis Park who bequeathed him the rare Hilton 75 – a vintage mono turntable with a two-channel PA system built in. With a turnover needle, continuous variable speed control, a tone arm with adjustable counter weight and a chassis replete with a 75-watt amplifier and jacks for external speakers, Pete rides in style and grace. “It has decent bass that really improves the sound of these old records,” Pete says.

Looking around the room on any given Tuesday, one can see plenty of Pete’s colleagues, many who live in the neighborhood: record collector/musician Rick DaPrato (owner of Delta Breeze Records in Midtown), writers (Barbara Steinberg, Peter Newton), fellow visual artists (Mickey Abbey, Greg LaTraille) and well known area musicians (Peter Petty, Sasha Prawalsky, Zack Sapunor, Richie Lawrence, Tim Foster, Patrick Skiffington).

Oak Park filmmaker Aaron Zeff is working on a documentary about Pete. It will cover his life as a young baseball pitcher in Eureka, a serious art student at Sacramento State College in the 1960s, as scenic director at the MGM Grand as well as an art professor at the University of Nevada-Reno in the 1970s, a member of a NYC Art Collective in the 1980s and a visual artist in Sacramento since he returned in 1989 and, of course, his lifelong love of jazz and country music.

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