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I saw him perform in a small venue in New Canaan CT when I was a young teen. Great player. It was the first time I’d ever seen a 7 string guitar.

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9 hours ago, DaveH said:

At 94, anything is a potential killer. Still sucks tho.

Gone too soon.

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                                                                    Great guitarist and nice guy I met him long ago,met his son also who also is a fine player and singer. Sorry to hear of his passing,but at 94 he lived a long full incredible life.

 

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This dude was one of my recording partner AC’s heroes. He is really bummed. It sucks that anyone of any age is dying from this hideous virus.

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I was just messing around with a nylon guitar patch on my Boss SY-1000 and started playing "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian, and suddenly remembered that Bucky Pizzerelli did the wonderful guitar work on that song.

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Apologies ahead of time for this short book. I've told this story before (but I'm not sure if I shared it on the HFC, so...):

Back around 1993, when I was 15 and had only been playing for 2-3 years, my parents brought me to a really wonderful, intimate performance by Bucky at Raritan Valley Community College. It was sort of a BYO wine and cheese concert, with everyone seated at picnic tables on stage, just a few feet from Bucky and his bassist on a one step riser. Being NJ, the audience was probably 90% his close friends, and I remember thinking it was weird that I was at a concert with my parents where they were the youngest folks there by 20 years (other than me, of course), and stranger, still, that we might have been the only 3 audience members not on a 1st name basis with the performer!

It was magical. We ended up seated at the table right in front of his riser, so I spent the whole night watching his hands and his playful expressions as he came to a break, realized he had no notes to play, seemed to relax for a moment only to be shocked back into action when the bass solo ended before he expected. This pantomime was highly entertaining, and I suspect was an inside joke directed at a few specific audience members, because they laughed louder at it than anyone else the first time he did it, and there were multiple winks and nods in that direction throughout the show. He was amazing, never missing a note, playing with the relaxed comfort, joy and familiarity of a man on a couch in his living room playing for his family and friends. He felt no pressure and was all smiles.

When it was over, he moved around the crowd of 40 or so, shaking hands and giving and getting hugs and well-wishes from old acquaintances. I waited until he'd finished saying goodnight to most of them, then approached with my parents to say thanks. My Dad said something about what a pleasure it was, both to hear such amazing music and to see his son so engrossed and focused throughout. Bucky turned to me and said, "Oh! So you play?" I was 15, and somehow thought my snark and sarcasm wouldn't be inappropriate, here. "Yeah. Thanks! Now I need to go home and start all over!" He laughed, grabbed the guitar and thrust it into my arms. "Here ya go!"

I may have only been 3 years into the guitar, at that point, but I knew who Bob Benedetto was, I knew he had a ten year waiting list, and I knew his guitars were commanding over $20k new. This was never going to happen again! I'd never seen a 7 string before, so after turning it over in my hands a few times, I asked what it was tuned to. A. I played an A in a few different positions to see what that low note felt like ringing open, and nearly lost my breath in shock! The whole instrument came alive, with every piece of it seeming to vibrate at 440, from the neck in my hand to the back against my stomach... it was ALIVE! I never knew a guitar could be so fine, so beautiful, and so resonant! It felt like it might actually shake itself apart, the way it was moving! I began examining the guitar, inspecting every little detail. I looked inside the bass f hole and saw the label. "Benedetto Guitars, Stroudsburg, PA," with a note in faded #2 pencil. "To my friend, Bucky, from Bob" along with the serial number and date, though I've forgotten both.

I knew I was holding something priceless, a true piece of musical history, but I needed to check one more thing before I handed it back, so I held my nose up to the f-hole and inhaled. He cocked his head to one side, giggled, then said, "You just bought a Martin, didn't you?" Then he dissolved into a hearty laugh, I turned crimson and sheepishly nodded. "Yes sir, a D35..." I'd been getting donations to my Martin fund for over a year instead of any holiday or birthday presents, and had finally picked one only a month or two before. By this time, I'd been holding that Benedetto for a few minutes, and I could hear my parents both grinding their teeth over my shoulder, so I handed it back, thanked him again, and we left.

The whole ride home, I couldn't get that guitar's incredible responsiveness and tone out of my head... I knew I'd never be able to afford such a fine work of art. I'd have to learn to make them! Three years later, I graduated, took a "gap year" and built my first guitar under the tutelage of the late Norman Reed and Phil Messer at the Totnes School of Guitarmaking. After dropping out of college and deciding to pursue luthierie, I tried the Roberto-Venn School in Arizona, argued with the late lead teacher until he booted me, called up Norman and returned to Totnes for all of 2001.

I never got the guitar shop up and running as a business, though I still hope to, eventually, but I never would have discovered my curiosity about guitar construction, or my talent and passion for it if I hadn't held that box of maple and spruce and had my mind blown by playing just a couple of chords on it. I owe my entire journey as an aspiring builder and working and touring tech to that encounter with Bucky Pizzarelli when I was 15. A concert I didn't really want to go to. A brief conversation. A life and path permanently altered. We never know who or what will leave that mark on us, or when. All we can do is try to be open to it and perhaps recognize it in hindsight. RIP, Bucky!

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