Carroll Luther Peery, mentor to musicians, songwriter, Caffe Med’s ‘house astrologer’

Carroll Luther Peery, 1927-2018

Carroll Luther Peery passed away on Jan. 18, 2018. He was born Oct. 5, 1927 in Maternity Hospital in Minneapolis to Caroline Peery, the fourth of seven boys. His father, Benjamin Peery, a railway mail clerk, was transferred to the Mississippi River town of Wabasha, Minnesota, where Carroll started elementary school. The family returned to Minneapolis in the mid 1930s.

Always adventurous, Carroll ran away from home in his early teens and joined a circus troupe. As World War II was coming to an end, he left Central High School to serve with the Seabees in the U.S. Navy.

Back in Minneapolis, Carroll developed an interest in folk music and, in 1948, attended a concert by the legendary blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, known as Leadbelly, whom he invited to dinner the next day and famously introduced to the Dean of England’s Canterbury Cathedral, Hewlett Johnson, who in town for a lecture. Hundreds of people from the lecture showed up as well and stood shoulder to shoulder while Johnson sat smiling as Leadbelly performed with his 12-string guitar.

In the early 1960s, Carroll managed the kitchen and the bar at Los Angeles’ popular music venue, the Ash Grove.

By 1964, he had moved to the Bay Area, and became the manager/owner of the Cabale in Berkeley. Over the years as a songwriter, producer and manager, he developed musical collaborations and good friendships with numerous artists such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, Taj Mahal, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Barbara Dane, Jorma Kaukonen, Lowell Fulson, Cool Papa, Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors, Country Pete McGill, and countless other musicians. He managed the Chambers Brothers and Big Mama Thornton.

Carroll frequented the Bay Area’s numerous music clubs, such as Longbranch, Mandrake’s, Keystone Corner, Larry Blake’s, Your Place, Eli’s Mile High Club, Dorsey’s, Fifth Amendment, and the Serenader, to list a few, where he unofficially mentored a slew of musicians. Along with his music mentoring with his M.O.S.T (Merry Old Soul Talent), proudly contributed to the Oakland community, training developmentally challenged adults at the Telegraph Ministry Center.

Besides being the popular “house astrologer” at the Caffe Mediterraneum, you could find Carroll sitting at the window seat table, playing serious scrabble, and writing his famous blues songs, on any given evening.

​Carroll is survived by his children Claudia-Fatimah Peery-Smith, Joseph, Anthony, Linnea and Loren.

An irreplaceable and deeply caring soul, Carroll touched everyone’s life that he came in contact with. He will be profoundly missed.