Meet Petaluma Pete

Celebrating his 15-year anniversary this year, one-time musical instrument marketing executive John Maher, aka Petaluma Pete, is still out there in downtown Petaluma “honking out the tunes” as he puts it, playing on one of 30 artist-painted pianos stashed away in the back of the nearby Small Craft Center warehouse. Pre-Covid, these pianos were placed on Petaluma’s downtown sidewalks for people to honk out their own tunes while John used them to help draw fundraising attention to help save the dilapidated river trestle. Today, the pianos are slowly reappearing, this time sporting QR codes so visitors can donate directly to the Petaluma People Services Center’s SAFE TEAM in support of our first responders.

Describe your idea of perfect happiness.

Hanging out with Brenda, my bride of 50 years. Making music. Street busking. The absence of deadlines. Making unhappy people smile, especially those who don’t want to. Watching my two kids navigate pushing 50. Discovering a Dixieland LP that I don’t already have. Helping downtown Petaluma merchants. Sharing conversations with toddlers. Supporting music education. Volunteering. Retiring in Sonoma County.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself, and why?

Feeling guilty about just sitting there.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Obsessive music-related hoarding, which includes over 5,000 LPs stashed in most every room in the house… and in our garage, along with 21 guitars and 30 pianos tucked away in a warehouse . . . and in our garage.

Explain what you consider to be your greatest achievement.

Talking my way into driving a van full of guitars through the backstage security gate at the first Farm Aid concert and having them autographed by Willie Nelson, the Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, John Denver, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Carole King, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers, Eddie Van Halen and Neil Young for a national nonprofit auction and a springboard to a very exciting 40-year marketing career.

Who are your heroes in real life?

First responders, mentors, teachers and Jelly Roll Morton.

What is your motto?

Quit whining and volunteer.

What are your three favorite things about living in Sonoma County?

No freezing weather. No stifling humidity. No pesky mosquitoes.

What local business would you like people to be more aware of, and why?

The Petaluma People Services Center (PPSC) because it is dedicated to improving the social and economic health of our community by providing programs that strengthen the dignity and self-sufficiency of the individual.

Next Story

Sonoma County Farmers' Markets

Story by Jess D. Taylor

Read this Story