Pianist and orchestra leader Margaret Pope Perrin, an institution on the Atlanta music scene for much of the last century, died on March 7, 2021, after a short illness. She was 101 years old. Born in Elberton, Georgia, in 1919, the youngest of George and Mary Perrin's eight children, Margaret first performed as a singer on radio station WSB when she was just eight years old. Her older sister, Lois, taught her and her brother Forrest to play the piano. Thus was born a brother-sister two-piano act that performed on the radio and became a regular sight at Atlanta social functions and fashion shows. Margaret and Forrest ultimately moved to New York City, where they played at society events and in top venues of the time. The twin-piano team was a fixture on Piano Playhouse, a popular weekly radio show broadcast in the 1940s and 50s, and they toured Europe and North Africa with the cast.
In the late 1950s, Margaret left the bright lights of New York City to return to Atlanta to take care of her mother. Back home, she used her encyclopedic memory of songs to play for countless social events, weddings, fashion shows, and debutante balls. She played for Georgia governors and international heads of state, including at the White House for her longtime friend President Jimmy Carter. For almost 40 years, she was a fixture at the Piedmont Driving Club, sometimes solo and sometimes with the entire Margaret Perrin Orchestra. She was known for having the best musicians because she took the best care of them. She was also a mindreader at the piano, with a sixth sense for which obscure song to play that would light up a particular party guest's eyes and bowl him over, whether it was Prince Charles or Richard Avedon. She worked tirelessly until her late 80s, when she passed the baton, jobs, and her devoted musicians to her longtime bass player and right hand, bandleader Del Baroni.
At home Margaret continued to play the piano nearly every day until the last month of her life. Home was the Perrin family house in Tucker that she had lived in during her early childhood. Her parents lost the house in the Great Depression, but her brother Fred Perrin, who became a top executive with Coca-Cola, bought it back many years later, ultimately bequeathing it to Margaret. She lived in that childhood home for the last 38 years of her life.
Margaret was adored by many people in Atlanta and across the South, and by musicians from Broadway to Hollywood. "Whenever we went out, people would recognize her and be delighted to see her and walk up and start chatting," said her niece Wendy Perrin. "Everybody knew her because she had played their weddings and their children's weddings and their friends' parties." Margaret always said that she was born in a crowd, lived in a crowd, worked in a crowd…and did not want to leave this earth in a crowd. At her request, her interment was private and public notice of her death was deferred.
Although she was the recipient of numerous marriage proposals, she never married. She is survived by Forrest's children, Wendy Perrin and Scott Perrin; another niece, Elizabeth Flowers Ashworth, and another nephew, William Perrin; and many other relatives who loved her dearly, including Wendy's children, Charles Baker and Douglas Baker. Margaret taught Doug to play the piano, in the same house where her sister taught her, and he carries on her legacy. Margaret did not have a favorite charity—her favorite charities were musicians in need—so if you would like to honor her memory, be kind to a musician.
Announcement by Berry Funeral Home.