By Jesse Wood
Randy Kelly, program advisor for Student Engagement and Leadership at App State and manager of Legends, is retiring after 31 years of working for the university. His retirement celebration party was held at Appalachian Mountain Brewery on Saturday. His last show as Legends manager was Friday’s sold out show featuring Chase Rice.
Speaking about his retirement celebration, Kelly said, “It was incredible. They gave me a cake and it was just beautiful. Some people surprised me. They came from as far as New York, Florida, Roanoke, Virginia … I am just amazed and very humbled at the group of people who came here. I couldn’t have asked for a better night than the 1,000 happy people at the show and a better sendoff. I am surely blessed.”
Before Randy Kelly started managing the nightclub on campus, he managed the legendary Blowing Rock nightclub P.B. Scott’s. Back then Blowing Rock was the only town that allowed establishments to serve alcohol, so Blowing Rock was the place to be if you were a college student.
When the popular club closed down in 1983 after a lawsuit between the N.C. ABC Commission and the Town of Blowing Rock and the other bars followed suit, Kelly said Appalachian Sate enrollment dropped by several hundred. Kelly said that administration noticed and asked students what was going on.
“They said there was nothing to do,” Kelly said.
So the university decided to buy the vacant Winn Dixie and remodeled it into a nightclub with live music and brown bagging. The university reached out to Kelly because he booked the bands for P.B. Scott’s and asked him to come on board.
H’Appy’s opened in 1986. But Kelly said after everyone figured out that was a silly name, they ended up changing it to Legends in 1989. Every week or two, major national acts perform at Legends, which is a feat in and of itself for a small town like Boone. Throughout the years, students have gained real-world experience in the live-entertainment industry by booking the shows and staffing the nightclub.
Kelly said Legends has always sought artists in the “middle.” They didn’t usually seek bands that had never been heard of or usually attract bands that were looking for a much bigger audience than the 1,000 capacity of Legends.
One recruiting story Kelly recounted was that of John Mayer. Kelly called up a buddy of his that worked for a big agency in Nashville and asked him, “Who did you just sign that’s going to be big next year.” The reply was “John Mayer.” So they booked John Mayer – as he was blowing up. MTV came up to film John Mayer during his trip to Boone. This was back when MTV actually played music videos, so the landmarks of Boone and Blowing Rock were on national TV a dozen times a day.
There was another three-night run in the early 90s with the Dave Matthews Band and Rusted Root opening, Hootie and Blowfish and Widespread Panic. “Not many clubs in the country” could claim that kind of lineup streak, Kelly said.
Other memorable moments for Kelly include driving the comedian Jimmy Fallon up from Hickory and meeting Ron White and the great shows of Avett Brothers and the Indigo Girls before they made it big.
Kelly said that he’s enjoyed working with the students over the years, listening to their musical tastes change and watching their personal growth. “Every year, the students change and challenge you with new musical tastes and new technology for advertising,” Kelly said.
“Some start as freshman and by the time they leave as seniors, you see them mature and go off into the real world or you see them change majors to get into the music industry after they realize they have a passion for it just like I did.”
Throughout the years, Kelly has been the backstage manager of MerleFest’s main stage and organized the P.B. Scott’s Reunion that happened for more than a decade.
So what’s next?
“I’ll go crazy when I hear the bell ring and it’s not me going,” Kelly said. “I am going to see music forever but when I go it’ll be weird to be in the audience instead of backstage.”
Here are pictures from Randy’s retirement celebration at AMB on Saturday:
Here are pictures from Randy’s last show at Legends with Chase Rice performing on Thursday, September 14
Pictures of Legends