‘Summer is the busiest time’: Meet the Geneva man who provides sound services at area shows, concerts

Ah, the sound of music. It’s especially wonderful outdoors because it means temperatures have risen, and local festivals and concerts are upon us.

It’s how Richard Peck of Geneva likes it, even though his steady R/J Recording & Sound business can get hectic when outdoor shows are added to his busy indoor-venue bookings.

But this is what happens when you’ve been providing the sound mixing boards and stage equipment for musicians and other acts since 1976.

Anyone who has attended a Swedish Days show since the late 1970s, or even the recent 60th-anniversary show for the Ides of March at the Norris Cultural Arts Center in St. Charles, has been enjoying the results of Peck’s experience with concert sound and his massive array of equipment.

Peck works the sound mixing board during a Swedish Days concert event. He has been involved with Swedish Days events since 1976, when he began providing the sound equipment for bands and other acts and eventually provided sound for the main stage acts each day of the festival, starting in 1983. Courtesy of Richard Peck

With his sound studio on the west side of Geneva, Peck has spread his wings to serve clients throughout Kane, DuPage and Cook counties, as well as in Indiana and Wisconsin.

“Summer is always the busiest time,” said Peck, who has set up the sound system for all sorts of music acts from classic rock to current pop, jazz and full orchestras.

“Last year, in the same week, I worked shows in West Chicago, Downers Grove, Swedish Days in Geneva, and a DuPage Symphony concert at Cantigny,” he added.

That explains why Peck hires independent contractors to work for him. Even though he is engaged in some aspect of every show his company books, he can have as many as three or four workers helping with shows on busy weeks.

“There are so many (musical) groups I work with, including international groups, and they are all amazing,” Peck said, mentioning local bands and classic bands like The Buckinghams, The Ides of March, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees, and even the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, among his clients.

Peck, left, at his mixing board during the World’s Largest Office Party event in Chicago in the early 1990s, with WGN radio legend Wally Phillips looking at his equipment. Courtesy of Richard Peck

He’s also worked with Journey, The Cowsills, Sugar Ray, Tommy James and Shondells, Don Felder of the Eagles, Three Dog Night, The Grass Roots, Sonny Rollins, Maynard Ferguson, and jazz singer Nancy Wilson.

“I feel privileged to be able to do that,” he added. “It’s just amazing to hang out with people you used to see on TV or listened to on the radio. Most of the time, I do get to meet these people.”

In that regard, it’s been quite a journey for Peck, who once lived on Division Street in St. Charles and attended St. Charles schools but had friends on the other side of the street who lived in Geneva and attended Geneva High School.

While working as a grocery bagger at Frank’s Finer Foods in Geneva in 1976, Peck was asked to attend his friend’s music performance at the annual Geneva Viking Revue at the high school, put together by band director Hank Pinter.

“I went to that event and sat in the gym and just saw a lot of people that I bagged groceries for at the time, performing on the stage, and I was shocked,” Peck said.

One of those shoppers was Pinter, who performed “Get It On,” a brass rock music song by Bill Chase that was one of Peck’s favorites. The next time he saw Pinter at the store, he asked if Pinter possibly had a recording of that song that he could have.

“He said he had good news: the drummer had recorded it on a reel-to-reel tape, and he could make a copy of it, which I still have,” Peck recalled. But he had bad news: this drummer who recorded the shows was a senior and graduating,” Peck added.

That bad news turned into life-changing good news for Peck, as Pinter asked if he would like to take on the task of recording his concerts.

That was the only incentive Peck needed to start engaging with recording music and mixing sound with Pinter’s equipment. He continued working at the grocery store for the time being but started buying his own equipment and plotting a strategy for a lifelong occupation.

Many of the shows and festivals he began working regularly in the 1980s remain clients today, such as Summer Nights in Hillside and Swedish Days.

Unfortunately for Peck, working the sound mixing boards for concerts was the type of gig in which something unforeseen — like a pandemic — could completely derail it. And COVID did that to R/J Recording & Sound.

“COVID was the worst thing,” Peck said. “I got a call that first night (of the shutdown) and a school event I was working was canceled. Within 24 hours, my whole future disappeared. I had not one penny coming in for the entire future that I saw.”

Peck said he continues to struggle with some debt for loans he had on new equipment before the COVID nightmare but hopes to work things out with lenders as his work schedule has normalized.

Those who attend outdoor shows, especially Swedish Days, may notice Peck working hard before a show to get the sound just right. And it can sometimes take a bit of time.

“It’s very common (to have lengthy sound checks) at local shows,” Peck explained. When you go to see big professional shows, they have done all of the sound checks ahead of time. At a local festival, you are going to see a sound check taking place.”

Sometimes, the band members are not experienced at doing the sound checks and may not entirely know what sound they are seeking.

“I bring cases of microphones, cables and other pieces and never run out of anything,” Peck said of preparing for any possible needs. “I always keep systems put together with maybe 40 channels of sound and 70 microphones with me.

“I take every opportunity to make it sound better,” he noted. “That is what I do for these groups.”

Diner shows staying power

In a past column, I wrote about the small diners in the Tri-Cities and how popular they remain.

Daddio’s Diner in Batavia confirms that, with the Beltran family recently celebrating its 18th anniversary of serving area residents from Daddio’s at 134 W. Wilson St.

“Daddio's has grown and adapted to the many changes and challenges over the last 18 years, but has stayed true to itself and continued to be a consistent cornerstone in the community,” Kristi Beltran said.

A glance at the Daddio’s menu provides a hint as to what “consistent cornerstone” might mean in this case.

All torn up

Even before we get into our official “road construction season” around here, many places seem already torn up.

The work on the Route 31 underpass in Geneva in preparation for a third rail on the Union Pacific west line has caused plenty of detours. Some sidewalks are torn up along this stretch, making for plenty of signs, construction cones and tape.

St. Charles still has plenty of work taking place around the First Street plaza, making it a haven for construction fencing and other obstacles.

Batavia has had work unfolding on Wilson and Prairie streets and occasional work along Fabyan Parkway.

We’re used to all of this, of course, but usually not until the summer months when work crews can count on the weather cooperating.

In honor of Earth

My first Earth Day task in 1970, the inaugural year of this annual environmental protection commitment, was to pick up trash in a nearby forest preserve during a high school gym class on April 22 of my junior year.

It wasn’t the best way to get me motivated about Earth Day, but as I learned more about what sparked the event’s creation, I was more interested and engaged.

In that spirit, I’m reminding readers that the Geneva Park District and city’s Natural Resources Committee is hosting free Earth Day festivities from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Peck Farm Park, 4038 Kaneville Road.

In addition to various activities for kids, a plant sale, scavenger hunt and self-guided prairie tour, area residents can recycle shoes, clothes, small electronics and holiday lights for free. Large televisions and computer monitors carry fees. Paper shredding will also be offered.

More information is available at

No softball that day

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Checkmate restaurant fire in downtown St. Charles in early August 1983.

I didn’t mention that our newspaper softball team was playing the St. Charles Fire Department team that Sunday afternoon in a park district league game at the Davis School ball fields.

The fire emergency scanners went off for the firefighters, reporters, and photographers on our team during the game. And just like that, the game was over, and players were running to their cars to get to the fire, which destroyed the restaurant.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.