Rafael "Rafe" Perno passed away suddenly on January 29, 2011 at the age of 73. Though a long-time resident of Santa Fe, he was buried in New Jersey, as arranged by his family.
Rafe led an exceptional life, as a hairstylist to budding Chicago starlettes, (including Betty Grable who he toured with for a year), a musician, and band-boy to the Count Basie Orchestra.
Rafe was a "cool cat", literally drumming to his own beat. He basked in his role as a "band boy" or Roadie for the Count Basie Orchestra, often recounting the one night when Harold Jones got lost before a gig. Knowing every song by heart, Rafe nervously grabbed the drum sticks, walked up to the drums on stage, and got ready to count the band in. Harold strolled in just in time to take over, relieving Rafe of the duty, though he was ready to step up to the plate.
Prior to joining Count Basie, Rafe sat in with bands in the The Playboy Club in Chicago playing conga drums.
After touring with the Count Basie Band, Rafe moved out to Las Vegas and played drums for the Circus Circus Band for 10 years before moving to Santa Fe to live out the rest of his life enjoying breathtaking desert sunsets, often capturing them on film and sharing them with the family back in NJ.
Rafe also enjoyed gardening and sharing his tips and recipes with family back east. He had an ever-uplifting personality that could break anyone of a bad mood.
You will be sorely missed, Uncle Rafe - keep beating those drums up in heaven until we meet again.
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