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April 29, 2011     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 29, 2011 Page 13 00]00cttitla 00abb"00onno i The end of Lent and the Easter holidays signaled the return to work for free lance musicians. During this period of the year, there were no weddings, few par- ties and even less dances. As a young musician, this didn't matter to me, but to the guys who made a living playing an instrument, it could be dramatic. Back in Babbononno's day and the generation my folks came from, a musician could make a living playing music. Before WWlI, my grand- father, father and uncles did, in fact, make a living play- ing music. By the time I was in my late teens and joined the family business, very few musicians could survive fi- nancially. The studio musi- cians, well known rock and roll bands, symphony musi- cians and a hand full of jazz musicians made their liv- ings playing music, but for everyone else, money made from music supplemented the income earned from day jobs. Babbononno had taught me how to read music when I was in short pants. Be- tween my father and uncles, I tried every practical instru- ment, but was interested in none of them. I guess I was too close to their music scene. When I reached jun- ior high school, I decided to join the drum and bugle corps and learned how to play the bugle. For the three years I attended the Joseph H. Barnes Junior High School in East Boston, a Mr. Ralph Fucillo taught bugle. He was a professional trumpet player and a friend of my father and uncles. When I reached the 9 th grade, Dad borrowed a trum- pet and Mr. Fucillo gave me trumpet lessons. I was more interested in playing base- ball, hanging on the corner and beginning at age 13, working at the Seville The- ater as an usher. After a while, Dad gave up and as- sumed that I wasn't going to become a musician. And so it was. One day, I was sitting on the front steps of our house at 74 Eutaw Street when a friend walked by. His name was John Magnasco and he was carrying a bass violin. He stopped to talk and told me that he was selling his bass to someone as he had just joined the service. He also mentioned that he had been playing with some of the other teens in the neigh- borhood and maybe I could take his place as the bass player. Most everyone in the neighborhood knew that my father played bass and some assumed that I did too. Dad had given me lessons, but like every other instrument I tried, I gave it up. After my friend left, I thought about the band he mentioned, asked Dad to give me more instruction on the bass and asked the leader of the band, a neigh- by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance borhood guitar player named Bob Avola, if I could sit in. I didn't know much, but I held my own and loved the idea of playing with a band. Consequently, I stuck to the bass. Babbononno was happy. He figured that I would be the 3 rd generation in his family to play music. Dad was happy that I was fol- lowing in his footsteps and Uncle Nick was happy that his grandson was going to be a musician. I, therefore, had as much support as could be possible. As I became aware of the music business and how things operated in that pro- fession, I also discovered that most of the musicians played part-time to supple- ment their incomes. Uncle Nick played full-time, and for 25 years, was the vice pres- ident of the Musicians' Union. Dad played all the time and was in the Boston schools during the day. They were in the minority, work- ing full-time at music, and to me, they were special, the tops if their field. By the time I was a sopho- more in college, I had grown out of the local band. Orga- nizing my own group, I began to play with new musicians and bands. I put a trio and quartet together and began playing for bi-weekly dances at the Sons of Italy in East Boston. At the suggestion of my father, I auditioned for the Ken Reeves Orchestras. Reeves specialized in soci- ety music for the Yankee crowd living north of Boston and on the south shore. Com- bined with this, I began or- ganizing college mixers with a couple of other enterpris- ing students and handled the music as my part of the operation. All of it combined allowed me to pay my own way through college and beyond. When Uncle Nick and Dad thought I could play at their level, they convinced me to join the musician's union, which I did. The proudest member of the fam- ily was, of course, Babbo- nonno. As I perfected my skills as a bass player, I joined several other bands and worked almost every night of the week: Wednes- day and Friday evenings at the Lithuanian Club in Cambridge, The Boston Club on Thursday and Sunday evenings, Friday nights with my own group at one of the college mixers or the Sons of Italy, and on Saturday afternoons and evenings, for Ken Reeves with his society bands. I continued to study bass with Dad and a couple of others, honing my skills even more. Experimenting, I electrified my bass and bought an amplifier. Volume problems ended as a result. Curiosity about bass guitars got the best of me and I bought a bass guitar and began to practice. Soon, I was playing both instruments. There was something just as important to me as music had become ... baseball. My college coach thought I was good enough to play pro ball, and was instrumental enough to get me a try out for the Cincinnati Reds minor leagues. I made it to their double A team that spring as a 2 "d baseman, but discovered that there were three guys in front of me. I was good-they were great ... Joe Gordon, Dave Concep- cion and Pete Rose ... right place, wrong time. These three baseball hall of famers combined with double A ball in the Midwest paying about $50.00 a game, made me realize that I could make more money playing bass than baseball, and my career as a professional ball player came to an end. Back home, I delved into music even more than before. I didn't become obsessed with it as some young musicians did. I had seen others put all of their eggs in one basket, as it were, but I had too many interests and didn't want to leave myself vulnerable and out on a limb. As time went on, I joined the New York Local of the musicians union. After obtaining a cabaret card, a necessity for working in New York City, I began to play there on weekends. I had wanted to try my hand at jazz. Some of the jazz musicians I worked with were some of the most talented people in the busi- ness, but there was really no money in that phase of entertainment. My father and Uncle Nick told me to be careful because the reputa- tion many of the jazz musi- cians had, wasn't good and drugs were rampant among that crowd. There was another problem as the 1960s progressed, rock and roll was overtaking jazz and many of the clubs were either going out of business or converting to homes for rock bands and their fol- lowers. As times changed and I got older, I thanked my lucky stars that I had teach- ing to fall back on. I contin- ued to play music part time after I got married and we had kids. I occasionally play today, but the glory days are gone. In my reflections, I thank Babbononno, Dad and Uncle Nick for their support all those years. It was fun and I made money at some- thing I loved. From this point of view, all I can say is, GOD BLESS AMERICA. ST. JUDE AND ST. ANTHONY NOVENA May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world now and for- ever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us. St. Anthony, most loving protector and wonder worker, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day and by the 8th day your prayer willbe answered. It has never been known to fail. Publication must be promised. My prayers have been answered. Favor received. L.M.D. The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) Smiling for the camera at "Carnevale di Moda" are Brendan Ciecko and Elizabeth Dobrska. (Photo by Roger Farrington) Festive cocktail attire and jackets are suggested. For tickets and more infor- mation, visit www.support unitedway.org /gala l 1. ....... Dr. Carmen Mariano, president of Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, reminds us about the upcoming "Summer Social: Man & Woman of the Year" celebration. We are asked to mark our calendars for this year's event on Thursday, June 9 at The Neighborhood Club in Quincy. According to Dr. Mariano, "This year we will be honor- ing two beloved alumni and devoted parents of our AWHS community, Ron and Mary Campanelli '58. Please join us as we celebrate them!" For more information, call 781-535-6066 or visit www.awhs.org. Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda MorriU's gardening Web site, www.bostongardens.eom. In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 K 3 ec h Fullylnsured Lic #017936 anical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 kenskjs @ aol.com POST-GAZETTE EAST BOSTON SATELLITE OFFICE ,S NOW OPEN MARIE MATARESE 35 Bennington Street, East Boston 617.227.8929 TUES. 10:00 A.M. - 3.00 P.M. THURS. 11:00 A.M.- 2:00 P.M. 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