Since 1993, entertainer Randy Beecher has held court at the grand piano in the bar at Mille Fleurs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. For 25 years the Rancho Santa Fe “Piano Man” has treated those in the mood for a melody to everything from Cole Porter classics to the latest from Bruno Mars. He has led memorable group sing-alongs, shared his piano bench with Burt Bacharach, crooned for former Vice President Al Gore and President Gerald Ford —he’s even provided the soundtrack for some local love stories.
“I have introduced quite a number of people at this piano who have gone on to get married,” Beecher said.
If you can carry a tune and even if you can’t, chances are he’ll let you join in.
“’I’ve built up something here that’s pretty special,” Beecher said. “People have been very good to me and I’ll never take that for granted.”
A party will be held on Saturday, May 19 to mark Beecher’s silver anniversary and the public is invited to come celebrate with Mille Fleurs during the last two weeks of May. Beecher performs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening from 8 p.m. until midnight.
“Twenty-five years at the same piano bar is quite an accomplishment and we will be celebrating it well into the night,” promised Mille Fleurs owner Bertrand Hug.
Hug has owned Mille Fleurs in the Rancho Santa Fe village since 1984 and music has always been featured at the authentic French restaurant. After longtime pianist Joel Nash retired, pianist Michael Lamy took over. Lamy was looking for someone to fill in for him on occasion and fortuitously discovered Beecher playing happy hour at Kelly’s in the Town and Country Hotel.
At the time, Beecher knew nothing about Rancho Santa Fe or Mille Fleurs but Lamy was certain that Hug would love his style.
Beecher ended up successfully filling in and a few months later when Lamy moved on, Beecher auditioned to be his replacement.
“At that time the piano was in a small little room, 20 people would fill it,” Beecher said. “I did my shtick and they responded really well. I played 20 minutes and the rest is history.”
Hug was instantly enamored.
“He brings a persona and he can play anything,” Hug said of his “unbelievable” repertoire.
A native San Diegan, Beecher has logged over 40 years as a career musician, specializing in piano and voice. With a master’s degree from San Diego State University, he shares his passion for music through teaching—for the last 20 years he has been a music professor at Grossmont and San Diego Mesa community colleges, teaching classical piano and history of rock n’ roll courses.
While Beecher will take the occasional private party performance, he makes Mille Fleurs his priority.
“I arrived here in my 30s and I had reached a point where I recognized this could be great gig and I knew I should hold onto it as long as I could,” Beecher said.
In 1993, the piano was back in the tiny little room at the restaurant until Hug made the “smart move” to reconfigure the space, creating the piano lounge near the bar area, close to the front windows that look out onto Paseo Delicias. With his own space to perform, Beecher could liven it up a little bit rather than just providing ambiance for the main dining room.
On nights that Beecher plays, he usually keeps it light fair from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., letting the room warm up and evolve.
Thursday nights are a little different than the other nights he plays: “Thursday nights are like a cocktail party in my home,” Beecher said.
People stand around the piano and many take a whirl singing or playing along with Beecher.
On all nights he tries to make it a fun environment—he reads the room, finding a balance to keep everyone happy and never, ever bored. He said it’s rewarding when the crowd is having a great time—it doesn’t matter whether it’s a calming instrumental, swinging Sinatra or the recent favorite song “Havana” by Camila Cabello that gets them there.
He knows when to opt for a show tune and when people will jump out of their chairs to dance to a go-to ‘80s hit everyone knows the words to.
“You have to know some Billy Joel, some Elton John…that’s Piano Bar 101,” Beecher said.
There are times when a makeshift dance floor fills up all around him.
“I tend to ride the wave. At 9:45 p.m. the energy comes up, the volume goes up. It reaches a level in here when it’s pretty packed,” Beecher said. “This place can just rock. I rattle the pictures sometimes.”
A favorite of the regulars is his flashy rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire.”
While many nights he doesn’t get up from his bench for hours, other times he circulates the room, stopping to ask “What can I play for you?” He warmly greets every guest entering the lounge and when people come up in the middle of the song to shake his hand, he will always oblige.
“I try to maintain a really relaxed, approachable persona and I think that’s a big part of the key to my success,” Beecher said.
Beecher also gives a tip of the cap to the support he receives from Hug and his Mille Fleurs family.
“It’s not that common to have a restaurateur like him, that is loyal to his entire staff,” said Beecher. “I firmly believe that if you show Bertrand that you’re a hard worker, that you’re reliable and that you value your job, you can be with him a long time.”
Rare for the restaurant business, there are several employees who share Beecher’s 25-year mark or longer, such as manager/maître d, Marko Dedic, bartending sisters Lara and Catharine, and the popular bar-back Ramon.
“I love this gig, the clientele and the team I work with, even after 25 years,” Beecher said.
Beecher maintains there are not many nights when he feels burned out or that he doesn’t want to play. He knows every night will be a journey, whether he heads to “Margaritaville” with a “Brown Eyed Girl” or down the lane and far away on the melody of “Stardust,” the music of the years gone by.