Randy “Baja” Fletcher, a production manager for Waylon Jennings, Brooks & Dunn, Randy Travis, ZZ Top and, for the last 10 years, Keith Urban, died Aug. 27 after suffering an injury while setting up an Aug. 26 Urban concert at Bash on the Bay in Put In Bay, Ohio. He was 72.
In 2017, the Country Music Association honored Fletcher with its inaugural CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement award. The following year, he was named production manager of the year at the 2018 CMA Touring Awards.
“You run the road long enough, and you find out in our business, ‘It takes all kinds.’ Randy Fletcher, or Baja, or ‘the ‘Gorilla,’ was the best of the best — if he ever had a bad day he never showed it,” Brooks & Dunn’s Kix Brooks told Billboard in a statement. “If there was ever a problem out there he couldn’t solve, I never heard about it, and if he ever had a cross word to say about anybody, there’s a good chance, they were no friend of mine. We ran the road for almost 20 years together, and when Ronnie and I took a break in 2010, Urban made the quick call. Baja was a guaranteed asset to any tour, but much more importantly, he was the comfort any tour must have when the road gets long, when the crew gets tired, when the smiles began to fade at the end of a long day — he was the man! Rest in peace, my friend — you will be missed.”
“Baja was a classic bigger than life force,” Brooks & Dunn’s Ronnie Dunn added. “Kix and I never looked at him as someone who worked for us, he just walked in at a very early chapter of the Brooks and Dunn story and took the bull by the horns. He hand selected every member of our crew over the years. We were told time after time after time by concert promoters and arena managers that we had the best bunch in the business. There are stars onstage and there are stars backstage … Baja was never down, he lead by example not ego and all of the rest of us were happy to fall in line and follow his lead.”
ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons also told Billboard, “Baja, as we all know, drove the Cadillac as few others could do. One of our first and foremost way back when who went on to show how it’s done.”
Fletcher began his career at age 17 in the ’60s with Bill Deal and the Rhondels. After a stint in the U.S. Army, including serving in Vietnam, he returned to work with the Rhondels. In 1978, he began a decade as stage and production manager for Jennings, also working with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson among others.
In 1988, he began working with Randy Travis on Travis’ first headlining tour, and continued with Travis for the next five years until the superstar took a break from the road. Fletcher moved to then newcomers Brooks & Dunn. For the next 18 years, Fletcher served as the duo’s tour production manager, as the pair rose to fame not only on the strength of their numerous hit singles, but alsotheir theatrical, effects-filled concert production. When Brooks & Dunn went on hiatus, Fletcher joined Urban’s crew as production manager in 2011. Fletcher worked with Urban on the road up until his death on Friday.
“Randy Baja Fletcher loved people,” Urban told Billboard in a statement. “Now that’s a phrase that’s a lot easier, and more often said than done. But, this man truly did love people, and music, and life, and he lived it right. He saw the commonality in all of us and I can promise you this, once you’d been in the orbit of his light, he’d stay with you forever. Some people ask are you a ‘glass half full or a glass half empty’ kinda person? Baja’s view was ‘What a beautiful glass.’ I loved him. We all loved him, and I’m grateful he chose us as his road family for 10 years.”