There’s something a bit jarring (and also bitter-sweetly nostalgic) in the caption that accompanied this Scott Manchester photo from 1992 (see Mystic Theater anniversary story in this week’s Argus-Courier). The picture captured the moment, 25 years ago, when The Palace Theater – having operated for years as a movie house – was transformed back into The Mystic, its original name, and designated a music hall, its original purpose. Toward the end of the caption comes a mention of “concert promoter Doug Smith,” and his own vision for the Mystic Theater.
Smith, a longtime music professional and radio personality, was killed in a solo motorcycle accident, just over 12 years ago. It was June 18, 2005, and his death rocked the North Bay music scene.
Smith’s popular morning radio show on KRSH was heard all over Sonoma County. A blend of music, news, comedy, commentary and regular features celebrating a wide spectrum of arts and sciences, the show had helped turn Smith into a beloved local figure. He was also an active producer of shows, eventually partnering with Bill Bowker to form Smith and Bowker productions.
“Doug had a belief in music, and in musicians, that was really unique,” says Bowker, acknowledging the recent anniversary of his friend’s death. “He loved these little up-and-coming artists, and he’d champion them to the end. If he believed in you as a musician, he really believed, and he’d do everything in his power to get other people to believe, producing their shows, putting their music on the air. He would get so excited about them it was just infectious.”
It was, Bowker says, Smith’s natural way of being in the world.
“He judged people with his heart,” Bowker says, “and he booked music with his heart, too.”
“I miss him all the time,” says Sheila Groves-Tracey, former music booker for the Mystic, and also the former owner of the Twin Oaks Roadhouse in Penngrove. “Doug was such a good friend. We’d just started our own production company when he died. We had all these big plans of what we were going to do in Sonoma County. Losing him was really, really hard, not just for me, and his wife Tina, but for all of Sonoma County. His loss really is one of those you don’t quite ever get over.”
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TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO
Ron Purcell paints new name on the marquee of a historic downtown theater Friday afternoon. The newly renamed Mystic Theater marks a return to the facility’s original name in the early 1900s. Over the years, the theater has also been called The State, The Plaza and The Palace. Concert promoter Doug Smith plans to present monthly concerts at the 21 Petaluma N. theater. The first shows planned are the Arc Angels on July 19 and Leon Redbone on August 1.
Argus-Courier July 12, 1992.