Drummer, frontman and Portland music store stalwart Eric Peavey died April 16, 2023. Friends are remembering Peavey for his humor, good nature and genuine love of music. Courtesy of Jeff Day Credit: Courtesy of Jeff Day

PORTLAND, Maine — When word got out last week that Eric Peavey had died, tributes began flooding social media. Every member of the city’s music scene, it seemed, had a funny snapshot or crazy story to share about the man known to most as Peavdog.

Peavey, 59, died unexpectedly at his mother’s home in Millinocket on April 16.

His premature departure from Portland’s musical stage has left a hole where his enormous, go-for-broke personality used to reside and perform on a daily basis.

By night, Peavey’s energetic drumming and frontman shenanigans propelled a string of popular, working bands through countless local and over-the-road gigs. By day, he held court, working at local music stores, cracking wise on the sales floor, shepherding seasoned professionals through nuanced gear upgrades and helping starry-eyed kids pick out their first guitar.

“I’m usually never at a loss for words, but they are not coming to me tonight,” said Tim Emery of Buckdancer’s Choice Music Co. “He was my roommate, bandmate, coworker, groomsman and brother. I will miss him immensely. Godspeed, Peavdog, rest easy.”

Peavey was born January 20, 1964, to Norman and Barbara Peavey in Millinocket. He graduated from Stearns High School in 1982.

Growing up, and throughout his life, Eric Peavey loved dirt bikes, skateboards and, later on, skydiving.

“He was on a first name basis with many of the ER staff and the officers on the police force while he was growing up,” reads his obituary.

Eric Peavey (left) and Tim Emery (right) pose for a photo with Billy Gibbons of the band ZZ Top at Buckdancer’s Choice Music Co. in Portland. Peavey worked for a time in Las Vegas for the Blue Man Group. Courtesy of Tim Emery Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

But music was always Eric Peavey’s biggest love. Big brother Jay Peavey remembers when it started.

“I was nine and he was eight when we both got guitars we bought with our own money,” Jay Peavey said. “When he realized that I was getting better than him, he decided he should probably try something else.”

That’s when Eric Peavey started playing drums.

“He went to the garage and he fashioned cardboard boxes into a full drum kit,” Jay Peavey said. “And he heard Grand Funk Railroad’s ‘We’re an American Band’ and learned that opening drum part and then he took off like a freaking machine. From there, he became a very, very accomplished drummer.”

Later, Eric Peavey moved to Portland where he hooked up with a prominent booking agency, drumming for all kinds of bands, from metal to top 40.

“He was in Mystic, Syrinx, Vendetta and the Strooms,” Jay Peavey said, rattling off a string of band names.

Eric Peavey also fronted his own popular band for a while. It was called Three Orange Whips, in a sly reference to a famous scene from The Blues Brothers movie.

His former Munjoy Hill apartment on St. Lawrence Street is still remembered for its epic parties.

“I felt so sorry for the old lady that lived downstairs,” Jay Peavey said. “There was a lot of action in that house.”

Eric Peavey worked for stretches at both Crazy Ed’s Music and Buckdancer’s Choice. His long-haired, wide-eyed, welcoming personality helped put people at ease and make them feel like they belonged in the store as part of the musicians’ fraternity.

“Nearly every time I went into Buckdancer’s and Eric Peavey was there, he would have some bizarre, hilarious, out-of-left-field video to show me,” said musician Mike Berkowitz. “I will never be able to see ‘Winnebago Man’ without thinking of him.”

“Winnebago Man” is a strange, obscenity-laced viral YouTube video showing outtakes from an old commercial where a salesman struggles to get his lines right in a recreational vehicle commercial. It’s odd, almost unbelievable and totally hysterical — just like Eric Peavey.

Around 2000, Eric Peavey drummed with a band touring the southwest. Falling in love with the desert, he spent the next 15 years living in Las Vegas where he worked for a high end-music store, procuring vintage guitar equipment.

Eric Peavey also eventually got a job working for the Blue Man Group on the Vegas strip, helping run their show and maintain their equipment.

“In Las Vegas, he was a big deal,” Jay Peavey said. “He got invited to the Drew Carey Show, he met Tom Arnold, he met Daryl Hannah — and he met Paul Gilbert from Racer X.”

Eric Peavey returned to Maine around 2015 and picked up right where he left off, drumming, working at Buckdancer’s Choice and moving in with his old friend and coworker Tim Emery.

“Went from 2006 to 2018 not seeing or talking with each other and when he came [back] it was like we had been talking the whole time. Never lost a beat,” said childhood friend Craig Markie.

On Sunday, Eric Peavey’s friends are having a noontime music jam in his honor at the Millinocket Elks Club. His family is asking musicians to come dressed in his unofficial uniform: Jeans, a hoodie and cool sneakers.

They’re also asking folks to remember Eric Peavey by paying his love of music forward, into the future.

“In lieu of flowers, please donate an instrument in Eric’s name to a child that otherwise might not have one, or to your local elementary or high school,” reads his obituary. “He would love to know that he shared his love of music with the next generation.”

Author’s note: Eric sold me some of my first musical equipment when I was 18 years old, around 1990. He also sold me a bass guitar, 30 years later, which I play every time I hit the stage with the Unfinished Blues Band. In between, he gave me a lot of laughs, free of charge.

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.