Randy Landas

Born in Oelwein Iowa and performed locally until he was around 14.  He then went to high school in Marshalltown and later relocated to Los Angeles when he was around 20.

Since leaving Iowa for a career in Los Angeles, Randy has traveled around the world several times with artists that include Rita Coolidge, Burt Bacharach, Engelbert Humperdinck, Andy Gibb, Rickie Lee Jones, Johnny Mathis, Marilyn McCoo, Helen Reddy, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

In the recording studio, Randy has played bass on numerous records, television shows, and films including Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Will and Grace, The District, Who’s the Boss, Boston Public, General Hospital, Caroline in the City, Mad About You, Chalk Zone, and The Tonight Show.

Early Life

Randy’s family lived a couple of blocks from Sacred Heart Church at 712 First Ave. S.E.. His dad, Junior C. Landas worked at Arnold Motor Supply. His mother Mary (maiden name Luckeroth) currently lives in Texas.  Randy has 3 sisters – Linda, Brenda and Gina, and two brothers, Gary and Mike.

While living in Oelwein, his family hosted a foreign exchange student, Augusto (Ding) Exconde, who now lives in Queens, NY. Randy was recently playing a gig in New York City and was able to spend some time with Ding

Randy making his first appearance on stage at the Moose in Oelwein Iowa with The Bilbo Baggins Blues Band.

One of his childhood influences in the music business was his neighbor Steve Bachman who was a guitar player in the band The Plainsman and The New Beginning. Randy used to tag along with to watch him play in northeast Iowa bars and taverns.

Around 1972 he teamed up with his Sacred Heart classmates Mike Vargason and Kelly Murphy and started his musical career by playing bass in the Bilbo Baggins Blues Band. The guys in the band were only 14 years old, that did not stop them from rehearsing enough tunes to start performing gigs in the Oelwein area.

Randy in his Marshalltown band.

Later in 1972 he and his family moved to Marshalltown Iowa where he played with several bands most notably “One Shot Deal”, “Ruby Fruit” and the “Good Lickin Blues Band”.  With the help of a high school teacher named Mr. Melvin, Randy began to formally study music. After being self-taught for years, Randy took Mr. Melvin’s music theory which inspired him to study further.

Randy married Tia Sutherland in 1978.  He decided to concentrate on his music career so that year they relocated to Los Angeles where he attended the Musicians Institute, the Los Angeles Valley College, and also studied acoustic bass privately with Morty Corb, Monte Budwig and later Lou Kobok.

Randy with Hip Pocket

This was a watershed time of meeting many other aspiring musicians, lots of jam sessions, original bands and getting his first opportunities in the recording studio. One of the first steady gigs was playing in the house band at a variety club called The Horn with pianist Jeff Colella and drummer Rod Harbour backing up singers and other acts. Other notable projects that followed were a band called ”Hip Pocket” and singers Shelby Flint and Mary Ekler and band leader Bruce Lofgren. He performed at The Baked Potato, Donte’s and other jazz clubs as well as some festivals. Randy also played with the house band “Don Randi and Quest” at The Baked Potato for a short time. Another band he played with during the mid 80’s was Fat City, with a rhythm section made up of guitarist David Darling, drummer Steve Samuel, percussionist Brian Kilgore. That rhythm section did a lot of recording projects for singers and songwriters that David Darling was producing.

Randy met pianist, music director Ron Abel in the early 80’s. This led to shows, touring and recording with Lucie Arnaz, Linda Purl, Valarie Pettiford, Tami Tappin, Michele Lee and others. Some highlights were performing with Lucie Arnaz in Palermo, Sicily and playing a big production show for the opening of the new Ford Stadium in Detroit.

Randy met pianist, music director Mary Ekler in the 80’s. He played in Mary’s original band. Through Mary’s recommendation Randy worked together with her with artists such as Glenn Yarbrough, Stefanie Powers, Helen Reddy, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.


In the recording studio, Randy has played bass on numerous records, television shows, and films. Some of the artists he has recorded with include:

1990: Randy with Joey Ortega at Sound City Studios – Los Angeles

Live Tours

Some of the artists Randy has toured with include:

Rita Coolidge stage setup

Burt Bacharach



In 1985, Randy got a call to work with Burt Bacharach. He toured with Bacharach for 12 years which included playing many Symphony Pops Concerts in the US, UK, Canada and Sweden.

Engelbert Humpderdinck


Randy toured with Englebert Humperdinck for four and a half years. The Humperdinck gig kept him on the road for 35 weeks a year. He traveled to the Far East, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Europe. They also worked in Las Vegas and Atlantic City several weeks a year.


The Boxing Gandhis


Randy played on two tracks on the first record and joined the band and played on most of the second record (Howard). The leader, David Darling and Randy were friends from the band Fat City.


Red and the Red Hots was a jump swing band led by Red Young with five horns, piano, bass, drums and two singers. The band played 5-6 nights a week including a regular Thursday night gig at The Derby. See their biography and listen to some of their music here.

Rita Coolidge

Randy started touring with Rita Coolidge soon after she released the CD “And So Is Love,” a record of jazz standards from the American songbook. The music required someone who played both acoustic and electric bass. JT Thomas (her pianist) knew Randy and contacted him to join the band. Randy continues to tour with Rita. Some highlights include playing the Blue Note, Billboard Live and Cotton Club in Japan.

Randy and Rita’s band (JT Thomas, John McDuffie, Lynn Coulter) produced a Christmas record for Rita in 2012. It was released on Savoy records. The band is now producing a second record, a compilation of songs performed in their live show. It will be released in the summer of 2015.

Below: Rita Coolidge and Randy perform “Higher & Higher” at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA:

More Clips of Rita and Randy:

HELEN REDDY 2012-2013
Playing live gigs with Helen was exciting for her fans because she was coming back after having retired from singing for 10 years. Her voice was very strong and she sounded great.  She picked up right where she left off.

Below is a Helen Reddy video compilation of songs from B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York City:

Here are some more clips of Helen Reddy and Randy:

In between touring schedules with multiple artists, Randy has worked with Art Deco Entertainment for over 18 years. Visit their website here.  When at the Art Deco site, select “Our Talent” and you can view clips of Randy in the bands, “Rock Candy“, “Art Deco and his Society Orchestra“, “The Bohemians“, and “The Surf Kings” These clips are very well-produced promotional videos that show the style of music and talents of each band.

Here is Randy with “The Bohemians” from Art Deco Entertainment:

The Bohemians from Art Deco Entertainment from tim redfield on Vimeo.

Randy finishing up the recording session for the TV Show Hawaii Five-O Courtesy of Dave Pearlman

Television and Film

Because of the many television shows and motion pictures being created in the proximity of L.A., Randy was able to work a lot in that industry. His television and film credits include:

Musical Theater

Because of Randy’s vast experience and advanced music reading ability, He has done a lot of live theater. His live theatrical performances include:

  • West Side Story
  • Assassins
  • A Chorus Line
  • 110 in the Shade
  • Les Miserable
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Paint Your Wagon
  • Do I Hear a Waltz?
  • Miss Saigon
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Bye Bye Birdie
  • Beehive
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Aida
  • Titanic

Randy on the Internet

Randy in His Own Words

(telephone interview from Summer 2015):
An insight to working as a musician in Los Angeles

The last time I was in Oelwein was in 2004 for my Dad’s funeral at Sacred Heart Church. I drove through my old neighborhood and passed the house where I grew up. It brought back some memories. Didn’t see anyone in town I knew except for some relatives. But I did drive by Luigi’s and remembered hanging out with Mike Stasi and other grade school friends at his Dad’s restaurant.

I was coming out to go to school and I met students there that gave me a heads-up on areas to live. But it was a definitely a culture shock for certain coming from Marshalltown, IA. My wife had an aunt living in Santa Ana. We stayed with her for several weeks until we found an apartment in North Hollywood.

I had come out with a little money I had saved up and my wife got a job so I could concentrate on school. Within the first 6 months I started meeting some folks and getting some musical gigs here and there. It was a slow at first. Did a lot of networking and learning what you need to know to work.

Andy Gibb and Randy


First of all, define “Make It”!! I feel like I’m at the twilight of a mediocre career….

Probably the time I knew I could make a living out here was when I started getting some regular side man gigs doing casuals, demo sessions backing up singers. But that took a little time.

I never had to get a regular day job other than doing some small odd jobs. But I had it in my mind that I was going to make a living playing music. Also, it was not as expensive to live here as it is now. In 1978, we rented a one bedroom apartment in North Hollywood for $210. Now that same apartment would be 5 times that amount or more.

I was heavily into the jazz fusion scene of the late ’70’ early ‘80’s and owned a lot of records from artists such as Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, Steps Ahead, The Brecker Brothers, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Weather Report, The Crusaders, Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny as well as bands like Little Feat, Sons of Champlin, Tower of Power and Earth Wind and Fire. These influences were a big part of what brought me to L.A..

You could go out to local jazz clubs and hear guys who were playing on a lot of records. It was a super culture shock after coming from the small pond of Iowa. Everywhere you turn around in L.A., there were some monster musicians. But it was a great inspiration. It was also an awakening seeing these guys working locally on all different kind of gigs and realizing that just because you had some major recordings, you still had to pay the bills.

Before moving to Los Angeles I only played electric bass. In L.A. I started playing acoustic bass and studied with a couple good teachers. In time I started doing some jazz gigs and then “doubling” (playing electric and acoustic bass) on shows and working with singers.

PeeWee Crayton and Doug MacLeod

In L.A. I started playing all the time with guys I met at the Musicians Institute and from other schools. I also attended a lot of jam sessions. It was different from playing in Iowa where you played in one band and that was it. You were kind of married to that one band. I did a few top 40 bands and some blues gigs with a great blues player named Doug Macleod. With his band we backed up some blues legends like George Harmonica Smith, Pee Wee Crayton and Big Mama Thorton.

George Harmonica Smith

It brings to mind a story of one gig when George Harmonica Smith didn’t show up. We soon found out that he had had a heart attack. We were all surprised when he showed up for the gig the next week looking pretty weak and pale. We finally convinced him to go home and take it easy. But not before he played several songs. The show must go on I guess.

Soon after that I started getting called to do “casuals” (pickup bands). These guys knew a million tunes and played a lot of weddings and other private parties. I learned a lot of songs and developed my ear doing those gigs. I also discovered that the L.A. scene had a lot of great players doing sideman gigs.

In the 80’s I started getting some session work doing singer songwriter demos. It was great experience and occasionally a chance to work in some great studios. There were a lot of B session guys doing a ton of songwriter demos. This lasted for a few years and the slowed down as drum machines and synths came on strong in the mid ’80’s.

Randy with Bert Bacharach in Stockholm


Burt Bacharach was very particular about his music. He wanted the music played exactly like he wrote it. You can’t really argue though. He’s written some beautiful songs. I have fond memories of sitting in the middle of a symphony orchestra playing “Alfie” or “A House is Not a Home”.

Doing the Engelbert Humperdinck gig I learned how to survive on the road. We were out 35 weeks a year. It’s a challenge to try to keep your life and family together and also try to keep the gigs that you have in town, being gone so much. The good memories I have are of all the International travel. He took me all over the world to places I would’ve never got to on my own. And another plus was traveling with some good friends on the band at that time.

Englebert and Randy

Englebert had a few idiosyncrasies.  He was very particular about hearing his vocals VERY LOUD in his monitors. This caused the monitor mixer a lot of grief and we saw a quite a few of them come and go. It’s funny how some talented successful people can still have insecurities.

Touring with the Boxing Gandhis was the opposite of touring with a star. We were bunking up or sleeping on the bus and not making much money. But I enjoyed playing the music more, especially supporting a record that you played on. One highlight was doing a month tour opening up for the Dave Mathews Band.

Johnny Mathis and Randy

Living in Los Angeles and playing parties and events, you see a lot of celebrities and sometimes you get introduced. It is more commonplace out here and you kind of take it for granted. For example, I just played a gig with Michele Lee (an actress/singer who used to be on Knotts Landing). She does a cabaret /jazz kind of show and Dick Van Dyke was in the audience. Mary was recently doing some work for Bette Midler and I met Bette after her L.A. show.

I’ve also met the first two astronauts to walk on the moon, Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Pretty cool.

It is difficult to pick specific “notable” gigs from all the places I have played, but some places that you might recognize are Radio City Music Hall and B.B. King’s in NYC, The Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Arena in London, The Greek Theater in L.A., and The Blue Note in Tokyo.

I traveled to Amsterdam and played an outside concert at the UitMarkt (the out market), by the Van Gogh museum, with conductor Charles Floyd (formerly Natalie Cole’s Music Director). We did a concert called “Soul Symphonic” with the Symphonic Holland Orchestra, featuring the Tramps, Michelle David, and Boris. I play bass during the entire clip but you have to look closely to see me.  (Editors note: Randy is positioned to the drummer’s left. Some of the few close-ups of him are between minutes nine and twelve.)


The record business has certainly changed. There’s a whole generation or two that thinks music should be free. They don’t realize artists need to make money to keep producing records. Also Spotify, Pandora and other streaming apps pay a very small royalty to writers and musicians. The Internet can have a good side as well. If you can get your music online and get some attention you don’t have to sell a million records if you own your own thing. With computer-based recording, it’s easier and less expensive to make your own record now.

Some record companies are now finding talent from music competition shows like The Voice and American Idol. I don’t see them finding too many artists. It’s more developing entertainers and then plugging them into the corporate machine. If you’ve got all the television exposure and name recognition, it’s easier for record labels to promote you.

There is some new good music in the mainstream, but there’s also lot of pasted together songs with no melody and auto tuned vocals. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Randy with Glen Yarbrough

Starting an original band takes a lot of energy and there’s no certainty of getting over. It’s always better if you’re the songwriter though. I’ve been in a few original bands that have had a little success but not life changing. I guess that’s why I have been a freelance/sideman musician most of my career. There are a lot bands in L.A. playing the club circuit looking for a break. Clubs don’t pay much here, especially for original bands.

There are a lot of great musicians that play gigs just to get out and play. They make a living recording, touring and other ways. I think there are other places around the country where people go out and dance and support live music more than Los Angeles. I hear more live music when I go to Texas to visit my mother.

I graduated from the musicians Institute in Los Angeles and studied with some good bass players. I’ve learned a lot from just playing a lot of varied gigs from big bands, jazz groups backing up singers, party bands recording sessions. I really enjoy doing lots of different kind of work and playing different styles of music. That’s one thing I would really miss if I left L.A.. The deeper you go into music you realize there’s so much more to learn.

Being versatile and understanding and knowing how to play different styles of music will help you get more work. Developing your ear and learning to read music will help as well. Being able to sight read allows me to show up and do live gigs and sessions with little or no rehearsal. That being said I know some great players that don’t read well but have big ears.

I got a good lesson in developing my ear and faking tunes when I started doing casuals (pickup gigs). I’d show up and be playing with guys I hadn’t played with before and they’d just start playing songs, a lot of them I didn’t know. After getting vibed out by a few salty old piano players I went home and learned a lot of old standards and popular songs.

Keeping up with technology is really important these days. Learning some kind of recording program and music notation software is a definite plus. I’m doing a lot of recording at home. People send me files and I add bass to it. I also work a lot with DrumAndBassTracks.com. I’ve played bass on hundreds of songs for Jim McCarty (the drummer who started the site). We also add bass and drums to original songs that songwriters and composers send us. And more recently, we’ve been working with some artists who want full productions tracks.

Left to right: Randy Landas, Rita Coolidge, Mike McDuffie

Even though veteran musicians are wiser and more seasoned, or supposed to be anyway…there is a changing of the guard in music. The world keeps getting younger. Each generation gravitates to the music they grew up listening to. It’s only natural. That said, I play a lot of parties where people still want to hear classic rock and Motown along with some current stuff.

I listen and learn a lot of new music, some I like, some not so much. Virtuosity does not seem to be championed as much as it was when I was coming up. But if you did a little deeper there’s still some great music and musicians out there.

I use a pick when the music requires it. I also use a bow frequently on my upright. I think I have 12 or 13 electric basses. I prefer more “Fender style” basses. I have a couple Michael Tuttle basses, and a custom made 5 string Jazz bass.

I also have two Yamaha basses and a Bossa 6 string fretless. And a couple of old Fender stock Precisions and Jazz. I also have several guitars. I use guitar as my writing tool. I also play a little piano on my recordings, but very simple stuff.

Regarding bass amps, I have a Gallien Krueger, a Mark bass, and just bought a little Aguilar. I have a couple two 10 cabinets, a one 12 box, another box with two 8’s, sort of depends on the gig.

Glen Yarbrough and Randy

I’ve always been interested in woodworking. I’ve built some electric upright basses. I built the first one for the Engelburt tour. I took it on the road to be able to practice and maybe use in the show. They would truck or fly it with the rest of the gear. Eventually I started using it in the show and some other bass players saw it and liked it. So word got around and I think I’ve built and sold about 15 or so. I haven’t expanded too much beyond that. Unless I wanted to go full time with it the “time-to-dollar” ratio on handmade instruments isn’t that strong. Plus, I still like to play bass more than build them. I haven’t built any “for sale” uprights recently, but still work on my own personal basses.

Randy in Studio – Courtesy of Cantor Tifani Coyot

Well, we would do the basic studio tricks of double tracking vocals or stacking vocal harmonies. And I realized early on the importance laying down a good solid bass line with the drummer.
In the old days doing TV recordings, you might have a 40 person orchestra all playing at once being recorded. So you don’t want to be the guy that says “I need to do another take!” But nowadays most everything can be fixed in post-production with digital editing software.

Be as musical as you can be. Develop good time, feel, and tone on your instrument. Know your role in whatever style of music you’re playing. Listen and lock in with the people you are playing with. Be as versatile as you can.

It seems like a lot of musicians coming out of school now are “Pro-Tools” proficient and knowledgeable in notation software. Those are both good tools to have to find work as an engineer or in music preparation both being music related. Working in studios is a great way to meet people. People tend to go to New York, L.A., or Nashville or other music hubs to network and meet other like-minded musicians. Even though the competition is tough, I know that once I moved to L.A. I grew and advanced much faster than what I could have in Iowa.

I think that one of the beautiful things about playing music is that you’re always learning new things. I’m constantly having to learn new music for different situations from shows, classical, roots and ethnic music. You don’t have to be a master at everything but you at least have to have a basic understanding and be able to play the style. Of course it all depends on where you live and who your playing with. Growing up in Oelwein Iowa and playing local gigs with Mike Vargason and Kelly Murphy, there was not much of a need to be able to play everything. We were young and basically rock and roll guys that concentrated on bands like Led Zepelin, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk, Deep Purple, The Allman Brothers and Grand Funk Railroad. However, that was a cool time for music for me.

In my car right now is a CD by Lou Enstedt – a songwriter I’ve been recording with over the past year. He just sent me his newly mastered CD to check out. I’ve been listening to The Punch Brothers, Hiatus Kaiyote, and the new James Taylor record.

Some other things that come to mind are “Dirty Loops” They’re a Swedish group that takes pop songs and fuses them out. Their keyboard player/ singer sounds a bit like Stevie Wonder. Snarky Puppy is an instrumental fusion ensemble from New York that’s doing some cool stuff. I tend to listen to all kind of music from jazz, rock, electronica, Latin, country. Whatever as long as it’s good.


There is an old adage about choosing your career: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Children often have dreams of being professional athletes, actors or musicians but few realize those dreams. Randy is one of the lucky ones who is living his childhood dreams.

He has worked with some major artists but still is just a down home Iowa boy who is reluctant to brag about his stellar career. In Randy’s own words on his career, ”I’m fortunate and happy to get up every day and be able to do something I love.”

Sara Landas, Randy Landas, Mary Ekler, Ryan Landas

Randy has a daughter Sara (27) and son Ryan (23).  Sara is a film editor. She is currently making a feature length documentary film entitled The Goddess Project. Ryan is busy working for a company called Microfence.

Randy has been in a relationship with Mary Ekler since 2000. They currently reside in Glendale, CA and continue to work together on many musical endeavors.

10 comments on “Randy Landas
  1. karen weltzin says:

    great story! you mention Mr. Melvin and he was an amazing person and teacher to many of us at Marshalltown High School. I hope you will return to visit some day. I have loved music and always have a song in my heart and being…. thanks to Steve Melvin and his wife,Zolene.

  2. Harry Landas says:

    Good to catch up with what’s going on in your life ! Time flies , I went to work with Randy’s dad in 1972.

  3. Sue says:

    Great to hear about your adventures & life over the years. My husband is an artist as well, music, writing,photography & painting. So hard to keep with it. Hope life treats you well!
    In Peace,
    Sue Stewart Mathews Lodmell

    Class of 76 mhs

  4. Diann Smith says:

    So wonderful to read about the success of a neighborhood boy making his dreams come true. It was beautifully written Kelly. Also, wanted to express my sympathy for the loss of Mike. Keep going and sharing your musical abilities Randy! Diann Adam’s Smith

  5. Hi Randy glad to see your doing well remember hitch hiking to Sedalia Rock Festival?

  6. Darryl Landas says:

    Good to find you on the internet.. Darryl Landas

  7. Kelly: I was blown away by your story on Randy Landas! You should have been a journalist! Did you do the telephone interview?
    His “mediocre career” would be a dream come true for the rest of us “musicians” from the big “O”! Fun stuff! keep blogging !
    Charlie Hallberg, Hiawatha, IA.

    • indianakelly says:

      Interesting that you say I should have been a journalist. Randy Landas thought I should have been an historian!

      Up until I tracked Randy down last spring, I had not talked to him for 40 years. But among my friends who knew him while he was in Oelwein, there were legendary rumors about how he had made it big in Los Angeles. But nobody had any hard facts. So I decided that I needed to find out if any of those stories were true.

      I talked to Randy over the phone about 4-5 times. One of them was when he was driving through LA on the way to a gig.

      I had a prepared list of questions to ask him but we often went in different directions which gave me some of the best stuff. After each conversation I would write it up and send it to him to verify and fact check.

      Some of the stuff we talked about was somewhat sensitive and we decided not to include it in the final version. For example: discussions about how much money was made via touring, recording and playing local gigs. Another set of discussions centered on the behind the scenes adventures with some of the big names (and not so big names) he worked with. He said that he could keep me laughing for hours with stories about one particular artist (who shall remain nameless). After we went through my notes, we decided to sanitize or omit many sections that were a little too personal.

      Also, after many rewrites, redesigns of his page, and going back and forth with photo options, he was questioning whether we should even include the “interview” section. I was able to persuade him how powerful that section was and that I thought that using his personal comments made the article come alive as a human interest story to the people in Oelwein and not just an online resume.

      But overall, I constantly told him that this was HIS PAGE, and he had the final say on what should, or should not be on it. After we finally got to his final “sign-off” of the webpage, he modestly said it was kind of “over-the top.” But I told him it was all true and that his story needed to be told and shared.

  8. Mary Ryan says:

    I remember going to school with Linda until about 6th grade. What a story. Best wishes to the whole family.

  9. Kathy Adams says:

    Great story! My parents, John and Lucy McNamara, were in couple’s card club with Randy’s parents, when they lived in Oelwein, Iowa.
    Kathy McNamara Steele Adams
    Oelwein, Iowa

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