Pete Girardi

05/26/2011

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{Today’s Joe comes from Al Gorgoni, a Joe himself. Apart from his influence on Al, Pete’s guitar from 1957 remains one of the most famous guitars in history. The “Teardrop” model by John D’Angelico is rare and unique and was made specially for Girardi. Read more about it in Guitar Heroes.]

Pete Girardi was my teacher, my friend, my big brother and if guardian angels exist, he was mine. There are people we encounter that open doors for us that completely transform our lives. Pete did that for me. He was a traditional player from the Django Rienhardt school of playing. He loved music and played with such passion and emotion. I think that’s what inspired me most. He was the kind of musician that causes you to feel something, that wonderful kind of bliss that wakes up your heart.
That was his gift.

He taught me how to read music and sent me to Joe Biviano to study theory. What I learned from Joe enabled me to do the work in writing and arranging that I was called on to do later .
Pete took me under his wing. I would have my lesson on Sunday at 12:30 at his parent’s apartment where he lived. After a while his mother and father began inviting me to stay for Sunday dinner. His parents were Italians who had immigrated to Argentina and then here.

After eating a wonderful meal the instruments would appear. Ralph, Pete’s father played the accordion, the kind with buttons instead of keys. We would accompany him on beautiful South American tunes as well as Italian songs that I had heard ever since I can remember. We had a great time.

After a year or so Pete got a job in Greenwich Village. It was in a very nice supper club called Charles the 4th. It just happened to be on the corner of Charles and Fourth St. He invited me to work with him. Just the two guitars. We would play sets and accompany various singers for the show. We did standards, show tunes, continental music, some jazz, and certain beautiful Italian classic songs. I learned the gig by Pete calling out the changes to me over his shoulder while playing the leads. All this was happening at the time I started in the music business. That’s another story.

Al Gorgoni

Posted in 1950s, Guitarists, Teachers/ Family

Rock and Roll Joe – The Album

05/24/2011

RRJOE Cover

The album and songs that inspired this site is officially out today. Chip Taylor wrote a group of songs that celebrate the unsung heroes of rock and then recorded it with his touring band, featuring guitarist John Platania (Van Morrison) and fiddler Kendel Carson. You can listen to, and buy, the album at the Train Wreck Records site. It is also at iTunes and Amazon.

Posted in Breaking News

Nicky Hopkins

05/19/2011

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Session Man

Nicky Hopkins was certainly a session man, playing piano and keyboards on some of the best tracks and albums of the 60s and 70s. In part due to health problems, Hopkins never joined a band (some say he turned down the opportunity to join Led Zeppelin when they first formed) but you have definitely heard his music. Ray Davies wrote the song “Session Man” for Hopkins and you can find it on one of the Kinks best records.

Nicky Hopkins can be heard on the single version of “Revolution” by the Beatles, great albums by the Who (My Generation, Who’s Next), as well as many tracks with Jeff Beck, Steve Miller and the Move. This is a good list of the many songs that you can hear that feature Hopkins’ outstanding playing.

But Hopkins is rightly best known for his work with the Rolling Stones. He played on some of their best tracks during their best period. Here is one of his first appearances on a Stones record:

You can also hear Hopkins on one of rock’s best ever songs:

And Hopkins is all over the seminal Exile on Main Street album (Ian Stewart also plays keyboards on several Exile tracks but he is a Joe for another day) and his great playing is prominent here:

A book about Nicky Hopkins (who died in 1994) was recently released in the United States and is recommended.

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, Keyboards / Tagged , , ,

Cornell Dupree

05/17/2011

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“Not many people read the back of albums.”

That’s what Cornell Dupree told an interviewer years ago. But here at Rock and Roll Joe we do read the back of albums and an awful lot of them featured Cornell Dupree’s name next to “guitarist.” He played with the best of the best – Wilson Pickett, B.B. King, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr and Miles Davis all featured Dupree on their records.

One of Cornell Dupree’s signature riffs can be heard on Brook Benton’s version of Rainy Night in Georgia – a truly great song.

But Dupree’s best work may have been with Aretha Franklin. He played on some of her biggest studio hits like Spanish Harlem

And Dupree was also part of her touring band (he started out with the King Curtis band) and can be heard on her seminal live recordings like the amazing Live at the Fillmore West.

Cornell Dupree went on to work on his own projects, including a stint with the jazz funk band Stuff in the 1970s.

We had hoped to post about Cornell Dupree sometime in the coming year but we had move it up because he passed away last week at the age of 68. But his music lives on and he will always be a true Rock and Roll Joe.

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, Guitarists

Baker Knight

05/11/2011

Baker Knight

I never met Baker Knight. I wish I had. But what little I do know about him has held my interest for almost 50 years.

Baker was born in Birmingham Alabama in 1933. He played guitar, wrote songs and fronted several local bands including Baker Knight and the Knightmares.

With dreams of making it big, Baker moved to LA in 1958, hoping to get his songs recorded, secure a recording contract or become a movie star. For several years he struggled with little success in any of these endeavors.

A chance meeting with Ricky Nelson provided the songwriting break he needed.

Nelson decided to record two of Baker’s songs which helped establish him as a songwriter. The two songs Nelson recorded were Lonesome Town which reached #6 on the Billboard charts and I Got A Feeling which reached #11. Ricky Nelson recorded many more Baker Knight songs as did Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Sinatra and Mickey Gilley.

[This was the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year in 1975]

Throughout his life Baker continued to write, record and release his own recordings but found little solo success.

He returned to Birmingham Alabama in 1985 where he unfortunately developed and struggled with some serious health problems. He died in 2005.

Lonesome Town in my opinion is one of the greatest rock n roll ballads ever written. It certainly may be one of the saddest.

Baker has yet to be recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Songwriter Hall of Fame.

A true Rock and Roll Joe.

Kevin Hale
Westlake Village California

Posted in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Guitarists, Songwriters

Clyde Stubblefield

05/05/2011

Clyde-Stubblefield

“Give the drummer some” grunted James Brown on one of his signature hits, Cold Sweat. That drummer, who was crucial in helping Brown create a whole new genre (funk) in the late 60s, was Clyde Stubblefield – a true Rock and Roll Joe. One of the most influential drummers in rock history, and probably the most-sampled, is largely unknown so Rock and Roll Joe wants to give the drummer some.

Stubblefield was in James Brown’s band for only about 5 years but he played on many iconic hits at a time when Brown was changing the face of rhythm and blues. In addition to Cold Sweat, Stubblefield played on monster hits like Mother Popcorn, Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud and arguably the most famous drum break of all, Funky Drummer.

His rhythms were innovative and have become timeless as hip-hop artists have gone back to the Stubblefield well over and over again. Despite this amazing legacy, Clyde Stubblefield is not a well known name. Read this recent article in the New York Times for an interesting update on Stubblefield’s story. And then put on some of his music and try not to get up and dance.

Posted in 1960s, Drummers