LACONIA — Roy Small, the musician whose career was resurrected when he was befriended, and was then invited to join, the band Recycled Percussion, has died, according to his daughter.
Small, 78, died on March 24, about a month after sustaining serious injuries after a fall he suffered at home on Feb. 22.
“He was an amazing dad, he was my number one,” Karen Houle said on Friday.
Small’s life was anything but ordinary. A native of Laconia, he spent his whole life as a resident of the Lakes Region. However, his career as a Roy Orbison tribute artist had him tour across North America.
His career was cut short, though, on Dec. 8, 1992, when he suffered the first of several strokes. The strokes took away, for the most part, his ability to communicate verbally. He spent the rest of his life living at his daughter’s home in Lakeport.
Small’s life took another twist in the late summer of 2019, when the first Chaos and Kindness store opened on Union Avenue, just a few blocks from his house. The store was opened to represent the brand developed by Recycled Percussion, had a bin of candy, with a sign inviting visitors to help themselves to a single piece. Small ignored the limit, and ate as much taffy as he wanted, day after day. When employees mentioned the situation to Justin Spencer, founding member of Recycled Percussion, he said he would come down and deal with the situation.
When Spencer confronted Small, though, he was immediately taken with him. Though he had no idea of Small’s past at the time, it was apparent that, despite all the things that the strokes took from him, they left behind his charm and his infectious smile.
Over the next few months, Spencer and Small became close friends, and when Recycled Percussion performed in nearly 30 shows for their “Holiday Tour” at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, Spencer brought out Small to bring down the house with a rendition of Orbison’s signature hit, “You Got It.”
Speaking at one of the shows, Spencer told the crowd that living a rock star’s life can leave one jaded, that fame can make relationships feel distorted, or even artificial. Small, however, related to him without pretense. Spencer took Small shopping, for rides in his sports cars, even replaced his prized guitars, which had been stolen years ago. Still, he felt the scales were unbalanced, he told the crowd that filled the Flying Monkey Perfomance Center in Plymouth on Jan. 17.
“I realized that he’s done more for me than I’ve done for him, because he’s made me feel that, at the end of the day, I know how much I love this man. I know how much of a void he fills in my life. I’ve done so many things wrong in my life that it makes me feel like an imperfect role model. But I know that the true me is a giver, the true me genuinely loves to help people and I genuinely love to give this man something,” Spencer said.
In a post announcing Small’s death to his fans, Spencer repeated that sentiment, and added that he felt that it was destined for the two of them to become friends.
“I truly believe Roy and I were meant to meet, we were supposed to find each other so I could give him his encore in life, give him the platform and the fanbase to see that once in a lifetime contagious smile he posses (sic). Everyone says WE changed his life but I know the truth, he changed OURS,” Spencer wrote on Facebook. “I will continue to scroll through the endless videos, pictures and memories in my phone, sit in my car and cry, not just because I’ll miss my best friend but because you made me feel loved again, something I had been missing. You have done more for me Roy then I ever did for you, for that I thank you. I hope your Performing someplace tonight wherever you are. ‘Anything you want you got it, anything you need you got, anything at all you got it’. Love you Roy.”
Small had been out shopping with his bandmates on Saturday, Feb. 22, and was back at home and walking up to his bedroom when he lost his balance and fell backward. He suffered serious injuries, including 10 broken ribs. A long hospital stay followed, and it looked like Small would recover. He was discharged into a rehabilitation center, but then went back to the hospital when he developed pneumonia, according to his daughter, Houle.
She said that the family is postponing memorial services until after the coronavirus is no longer a threat to large gatherings. She doesn’t know what the dates will be yet, but said there will be a private service for the family, as well as a public service for his fans.
Houle said that her father’s unexpected friendship with a rock star made a noticeable improvement in his quality of life.
“Watching what Justin did with him was amazing,” Houle said. “I could never thank them enough for the end of my dad’s life that he had. He went out with a bang, I couldn’t have asked for anything better at that point.”