Murdered Sound Engineer Tom Pfaeffle Was An Area Native

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by Janet Grella

By now many of our Readers have heard about the death of Tom Pfaeffle, a noted sound engineer who was recently killed in Twisp, when he apparently put his hotel room key into the wrong door then was shot.

But what you may not know is that Tom was born and raised nearby in Des Moines. He continued to live in his family home there until he and his family needed more room for the kids and sound studio and moved to Black Diamond where he opened “The Tank Studios.” This was about five years ago.

We first first learned about the shooting death of this music industry sound man extraordinaire when Matt Pina and his wife stopped by our booth at the Farmers Market last week. Matt alerted us to the news, and was visibly shaken.

At that point we Googled Pfaeffle’s name, and there was no information yet about his death since it had happened just the night before. Now there’s numerous sites reporting his death and paying homage to him, remembering him as the great sound guy that he was. Pfaeffle, a 30-year veterean, worked as a sound engineer with these bands:

  • Nirvana
  • The Black Crowes
  • Great White
  • Heart
  • Queensryche
  • Scorpions
  • UB40
  • Aerosmith
  • Alice Cooper
  • Rodney Crowell
  • B.B. King
  • and “countless others”

But what mainstream media and the internet aren’t saying is that Tom Pfaeffle was born and raised in Des Moines.

His childhood friend Aaron DeAnda remembers him this way:

Tom and I first met in our neighborhood Delrose Manor in Des Moines near Highline Community College. He was a few years younger than me. We had such good times as kids. His dad is gone now, and his mother, Charlotte, lives in Arizona. Tom was an only child, so he considered all the neighborhood guys his brothers. We played a lot of football in the streets. Tom was in our band, “Session,” in high school. Tom played guitar and was the sound man. He wanted to do sound as long as I can remember. He was very focused. Of all of us he was the only one to make a living in music. He had a good ear for sound…a critical ear.

He was passionate about music and he reached out to everyone. He considered everyone ‘family’. We’d still get together for sushi or at 909 in Burien listening to live music.

Aaron is now a Burien resident and is in a band with fellow MRHS graduate Matt Pina. Their band, “Uncle Ernie’s,” recently performed at Mick Kelly’s and hope to be back there soon. Aaron plays drums while Matt plays bass.

Matt not only played in the band “Rolling Boulders” with him, he provided these exclusive photos of he and Tom in younger years (Tom’s in the striped shirt):

Matt and Tom were in the class of ’79 at Mt. Rainier High School. We asked Matt to remember his friend and fellow Des Moines native.

I was very proud of Tom, he had a great ear and knew how to make the music sound great.

Like everyone, we fumbled as we learned our craft, but Tom persevered. He became successful and turned his dream into reality. In fact he’s the only person I know who ever turned their musical dreams into reality (more than a hobby).

One of my most vivid memories of Tom is about 12 years ago. He was engineering a recording for a few of us from Instant Karma that were getting re-aquainted. On a break when everyone had headed outside, Tom picked up an acoustic guitar and began strumming a favorite song of mine, Neil Young’s “The Needle and The Damage Done”. I was captivated and really enjoyed that moment. I can’t say why it was special, but it was. It was just a moment of purity. A short performance by the man who ran the board. He wasn’t really known for his guitar playing, but that moment was genuine and awesome.

Friends from Tom’s life, the music industry and others will celebrate his life at St. Philomena’s Church, located at 1790 South 222nd Street in Des Moines (206-878-8709) on Wed., July 29th at 11am.

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One Response to “Murdered Sound Engineer Tom Pfaeffle Was An Area Native”
  1. Mike Shuey says:

    I’m so sad to hear about this. There were a group of us at Mt. Rainier with musical aspirations but Tom was the only one who “made it happen” at the next level. I feel honored that I had a chance to jam with Tom. He was always a very friendly guy with an upbeat spirit. Even though I only talked with Tom on a few occasions after high school, I can’t tell you how many times I told other musicians about the guy from my high school who worked with all of these top bands. There was always something satisfying knowing somebody lived the dream for the rest of us. Tom, you will be missed.

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