Flood in '66.
Must start from my father
From my earliest childhood, I have always listened to music. My father, Daniel like me, had a beautiful voice and, if it hadn't been for the war, he would certainly have become a famous singer. His idol was Bing Crosby, but also Nat Kig Cole and Frank Sinatra. In the summers of the '60s, in Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, the historic Caffé Paszkowski hosted open-air concerts with various orchestras. Friend of the then owners, Messrs. Frizzoni, and of many musicians in the orchestras, my father has often performed in his favorite songs. In the photo, he can be seen on one of these occasions.
In the summer of 1962 he organized musical evenings for foreign tourists at the "Chalet dei Tigli" (it was at the entrance to the Cascine, Florence's park, wasa shut down in the mid-70s), enjoying considerable success. He had put together a small orchestra (piano, guitar, violin, bass and drums) and, to make the show more attractive, he alternated his American "Evergreen" repertoire with an Italian one, sung by a tenor. On the small stage there were also amusing moments, joking on the contrast between the ancient and the modern (of the time) styles: after a few verses of "O 'sole mio", traditionally sung by the tenor, suddenly the rhythm would change and my father took over singing the "modernized" version by Elvis Priestly "It's now or never". The tenor pretended to be strongly irritated by this intrusion and this amused the audience. One evening in August, he took me with him and I have a beautiful memory of that evening, proud of the applauses my father received. The memory is also linked to a less pleasant event, which caused a sensation: during the evening the news spread of the sudden death of Marilyn Monroe, which had happened a few hours earlier.
Hands on the piano
At about seven, my parents suggested that I take piano lessons. The teacher was Prof. Gastone Frangini and the lessons were held at the "Alla Querce" College, where I attended elementary school. I confess that the theoretical part (solfeggio) was of very little interest to me, and the "Musical Jewels" (a seried of classical pieces adapted for the young) were not really my favorites. But at least I learned to keep my hands on the keyboard and pull out something listenable. I remember that in one of those early 'career' years, I was asked to perform at the award ceremony for the best students. I don't remember what I played, but I couldn't wait to finish. Applause followed, but I never knew if it was due to the goodness of my performance or that of the audience present. I learnt the chords on the piano only several years later, when I started playing the guitar: marking the notes, I figured them out on the keyboard.
My first "record"
My father owned some semi-professional tape recorders and had started a private recording studio in Piazza Santa Croce. With a proper "control room", microphones, various musical instruments, including a beautiful grand piano. He often gathered musician friends of his and they enjoyed recording some musical sessions. In one of these, at Mr. Zucchetti's house, they suddenly asked me if I wanted to sing something. I didn't get asked twice! It was time for Domenico Modugno's songs and so I proposed one. Without rehearsals and singing 'by heart' two pieces were recorded: "Come Prima" and "Io". Listening to them now, I find them very sweet.
And now the guitar
However, the lessons continued even in the following years until, now attracted by the music of the Beatles, I decided to switch to this second instrument. To teach me how to play the guitar was Torres, the guitarist of the evenings at the "Tigli", who having an electric guitar to sell, promised me that if I bought it he would teach me. I bought the guitar, but the lessons were reduced to just one, two hours, after which I never saw him again. And neither did my father, who was a little upset. Although this first experiment had not been the best, I helped myself with manuals and a lot of practice. The guitar was a semi-acoustic Davoli which, therefore, I could play even without an amplifier.
The "Lost Souls" group
Those were the years of the "British Invasion" and like many other peers of mine, I found some friends to form our first band. Much of our repertoire was, however, that of Cliff Richard and the Shadows. In this group (they weren't called 'bands' yet) there was my friend Gerardo Ciliberti (solo guitar) and Lando Di Bari (drums), with whom we are still in contact. We owe our first official release to another dear friend: Gianni Mercatali, who later became a very famous creator of events. It was a private party in a Florence villa, Villa Curonia, if I remember correctly. Our music was a bit 'too soft' for young people who were already chewing the Beatles and Rolling Stones, so we ended up playing (and singing) a "Satisfaction" all in a row for at least an hour: a record that, I'm sure, not even the original performers ever achieved!
The great season of the bands had begun: every weekend in the ballrooms (not yet 'discos') there were competitions for musical bands. The prizes up for grabs were almost always derisory, but for us kids the prize was to compete, to participate: to be there. In that period the bands were formed a few hours before, once decided on which song to interpret, they played and, sometimes even just a few hours later, each one went on his own way. I remember a couple of the names of these instant formations: "The Hyksos" and "The Things", but I don't remember who the note-mates were.
Once high school started, the Italian and international music scene was mainly dominated by English or American bands and the formation of the
group changed: Andrea Foglianti on drums and Fabio Portera on bass. Initially, thanks to Andrea's father, we were able to park our instruments
in a private association with a beautiful location in Palazzo Capponi, in the homonymous street. Since the name of the association was "Le Frecce"
("The Arrows"), we were asked to call ourselves "Les Fleches". After this brief experience, we changed the name to "The Knights". In the photo we
are at the Hotel Giotto in Bivigliano, for a New Year's Eve party. Once we also attempted an afternoon concert at the Chalet "Gli Assi", on
Viale Michelangiolo, but the success was almost irrelevant...
It was at that time that we also played at "Space Electronic", a very trendy club, where "The Rokes" (yes, the group from Englan at the top of the italian charts) had also played, and at "La Siesta", in combination with the (musical) opponents "The Addams", formed by two Crivelli brothers, Daniele Dal Monte and Guido Bonatti.
A blitz in Versilia
I think I can also place a solo experience in Versilia here. One of the many competitions. I introduced myself, if I'm not mistaken,
with Tom Jones's "Green grenn grass of home", wearing a shirt made with the Union Jack. I finished second and was approached by a 'talent
scout', who asked me if I intended to take up singing as a profession.
An inappropriate intervention by two of my relatives, present at the evening, involuntarily cut off this perspective, when they proudly stated that I had already made a record. They were referring to the recording I made with my father when I was 7, but the "talent" misunderstood and walked away without saying anything else. End without beginning of a career as a singer.
The "Perché" group
Then, I moved on to another band: "I Perché" ("The Why"), composed by Daniele Dal Monte, my neighbough, on lead guitar, Stefano Ciatto
(who unfortunately died in a car accident a few years ago) on bass, Roberto Fontanelli on drums, and Stenio Moschini, son of a famous
musical and theatrical impresario. With Stenio we alternated between guitar and keyboard.
With the "Perché" the matter became more professional: we had quite decent instruments, great enthusiasm and a rather large repertoire. We mainly played at private parties. One in particular I remember well: it was on the occasion of a "Fashion Festival" and was held at Villa Corsini in Mezzomonte. The occasion was very lucky for us, because "Gli Scooter" had been hired for the evening, a group that had achieved success with a record "La Motoretta". They had an incredibly better instrumentation than ours and for the first time I was able to get my hands on a Hammond organ: the top of the top! I remember that we started with an instrumental improvisation: everyone danced happily until a guy, protesting the volume beeing too high, literally pulled the plug out of the socket.
It was the moment of the 'uniforms' and we were no less: the arabesque jacket was in silk-like fabric, in an electric blue (not so evident in the pictures).
And I could say that, with those early '70s esperiences, my public music career (if you can call it that) came to an end.. Now busy with our jobs, we found ourselves only occasionally to play 'for our own use', generally on Sunday morning. Then the meetings thinned out and it all ended there: with great memories of a unique and unrepeatable era.
Obviously, I never gave up music: I continued, on my own, both with the guitar and, above all, with the piano I had at home. And over the years, I went back to the beginnings, or, to be more precise, to my father's repertoire. In the period 2011/13 I enjoyed singing, using some great pre-recorded backing tracks, songs by Sinatra, Nat King Cole and ... so on. I became a lonely crooner ...
Unfortunately, for a matter of copyright on the backing tracks, it is not possible for me to reproduce the songs I sang here. However, if anyone is interested, we can find a solution ...
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