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Remembering SXSW behind-the-scenes guy, band road manager

Peter Mongillo

Steven Stelmach, who was known as Biff Parker, died last week in his home in Butler, Pa., of unknown causes, according to close friends. He was 49.

Parker, who split his time between Austin and Pennsylvania, joined the South by Southwest staff in 1989. He worked in several positions, but he was best known for his role as community liaison, serving as a go-between for the festival and club owners.

"I heard about Biff before I ever met him. He was described as ‘that guy that can get anything done that needs doing,' " SXSW director Roland Swenson wrote on the SXSW website as part of a tribute to Parker. "Whenever there was a scary situation outside a club, Biff was the one you wanted to have your back."

Parker, who graduated from Austin High School, was a member of Austin's music scene for more than 30 years. He worked as road manager for Austin bands including the Reivers, the WayOuts and the Wannabes, and a ran a record label, BiffCo Records.

Robbie Araiza, guitarist for the WayOuts, met Parker in the mid-1980s, when Parker would drive the band to shows in Houston and elsewhere in a brown van nicknamed "the log."

"He was the kind of guy who would not let anyone drive because he wanted the band to enjoy themselves and drink or whatever," Araiza said. "He's just a wonderful soul; he was kind of our roadie, but more than anything he was our friend."

SXSW creative director Brent Grulke, who knew Parker since the early 1980s, said that Parker was always eager to lend a helping hand.

"He did things his way, but he was always serving other people," Grulke said. "He took pride in doing in right and did it kind of quietly and extraordinarily competently."

Parker's friends have posted more memories on the SXSW website. His life will be celebrated from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Caswell House, 1404 West Ave.

pmongillo@statesman.com