Randy Hien – 2014

He jump-started Rhode Island’s original music scene by encouraging bands to perform their own material

Randall C. Hien was born in Woonsocket in 1949. He was the great-nephew of entrepreneur B.A. Dario who built and owned Lincoln Downs Race Track and owned major venues such as the RKO Albee Theatre and the Loew’s State Theatre which is now the Providence Performing Arts Center. Randy began working in the music business in 1971 when he took a job with his great-uncle who had recently purchased the decaying Loew’s. They changed the name to the Palace Theatre as a venue for Rock ’n’ Roll concerts.

Randy was liaison to the acts and managed concessions and venue operations until 1975 when Dario decided it was not financially feasible to keep the doors open any longer. By this point Randy was certain he wanted to continue promoting music but needed a venue to do it in. He approached Arnold Hahn who had a small, failing jazz club at the corner of Westminster and Empire Streets called The Living Room, just blocks from the Palace. Randy had no real money, but offered Hahn his Jaguar XKE for the keys to the club and the liquor license. Hahn gladly took the offer to rid himself of what he considered a major headache.

The early days for Randy were very difficult, but with the help of his friend Carl Sugarman and a booking policy which encouraged bands to play their own material, by 1980 the club had become the center of a blossoming original music scene with a dedicated clientele. The future looked promising until his great-uncle, who also happened to own that building, decided to sell the property which was torn down to make way for a new Federal office building. Randy set up shop for Living Room #2 in a warehouse on Promenade St. It was called “the bubble complex” due to a large bubble-shaped bay window which extended out from the side of the building.

This was a great period for Randy and the club scene with many great local and national acts on the bill. Even Randy’s mother got involved by cooking dinner for many of the starving musicians. It was a great time until the building owner decided not to renew Randy’s lease and the Living Room #2 came to a close in 1990.

For five years, Randy searched for a venue he could buy so he that he wouldn’t be at the mercy of a landlord. Living Room #3 was purchased in 1995 and prospered until 2006 when the Rhode Island music scene lost one of its greatest supporters with Randy’s untimely passing. During his entire entertainment career, Randy also focused on his other passion – baseball. He was a coach for the Lincoln Little League for 28 years.

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