Remembering Louis Giampetruzzi

Sunday night we held the tribute to Louis Giampetruzzi, about whom I’ve written many times. For me, Lou was not only a musical mentor, but also an introduction to the world of New York City bluegrass and old-time music. At jams on Sunday afternoon, at rehearsals, at shows, on the radio, on the phone, and in detailed emails, Lou helped me and many other players my age realize that everything we did had a place in a tradition, not just the overall tradition of country music and bluegrass, but the New York City tradition. Lou would be the first to remind people that many of the Carter Family’s original hits were recorded right here. And he personally connected us to days when Bob Dylan was a scruffy kid cadging gigs on Bleecker Street and the Friends Of Old-Time Music were bringing then-unknown musicians like Doc Watson to New York to play.

He made those connections for me and many others of us who were lucky enough to see him every week at the Brooklyn jams he loved. He did it online with a Yahoo group reuniting players from the Washington Square Park days. He did it his whole life, and Sunday night, some of the musicians he’d touched and who played with Lou over his 30+ years in the bluegrass scene got up and performed songs for him. And his wife Kate played several songs, concluding with a gorgeous new original called “What Do the Angels Sing At Midnight,” a harbinger of what we all hope will be her re-entry to public performing and singing and songwriting.

There was so much amazing music I can’t even begin to recount it all. I met and saw perform people that I knew only as names on the liner notes on Kate and Lou’s albums, or from stories they’d told me. I played and sang in front of them. The show and the room spanned generations; there were members of several bands there that formed as a direct result of Lou’s encouragement and advice or through having met in various incarnations of the Kate and Lou Band.

But the music was less important than the spirit and the community. Even a hard-and-fast atheist could feel Lou’s presence, with everyone there for him, everyone having been so strongly influenced by him, everyone the richer for having known him. It was a magical evening. It made me even more strongly committed to making the most of this musical moment and growing the connections to and among this community. At the end of the night I sat in the back of the room with a few friends, people I play with several times a week, and all we could talk about was how lucky we felt to be part of this community, to be able to play with so many great musicians, and to have been lucky enough to have known Louis Giampetruzzi.

Drew Smith and Robbie Weeden Drew Smith and Robbie Weeden
Singing “Sowing On the Mountain.”
La Ringuette La Ringuette
Bill Christophersen, Jack Hirschorn and Steve Garcia playing the French accordion tune.
“You Are My Flower”
Kate Giampetruzzi, center, singing the old Carter Family standard with Tone Johansen and Drew Smith.
“Cajun Two-Step”
Rena Rubin on accordion, Trip Henderson on harp, Bill Christophersen on fiddle, and Steve Uhrik on guitar.
Old-Time Fiddle Old-Time Fiddle
Rhys Jones and Christina Wheeler, two fiddles playing in gorgeous harmony.
The Younger Generation The Younger Generation
Brad Einhorn and Jason Cade, who both played in the Kate and Lou band, and whose band the Cobble Hillbillies started with Lou’s encouragement, along with Joel Turoff, a great flatpicker.
Tennessee Whiskey Tennessee Whiskey
Tone Johansen sings the George Jones standard with veteran Kate and Lou bassist David Gandin.
Tennessee Whiskey Tennessee Whiskey
Tone with Ben Fraker, a great NYC mandolin player who was a star of the 21st-century Kate and Lou Band.
“Fugitive’s Lament”
Trip Henderson sings the classic along with Kate.
“Oh My Stars”
Jen Larson and Charles Puckette sing the beautiful song that was a staple of the late John Herald’s sets.
“Oh My Stars”
Jen will be part of the March 17 taping of A Prairie Home Companion at Town Hall.
“What Do the Angels Sing At Midnight?”
Kate closed the tribute with a gorgeous original song.
“What Do the Angels Sing At Midnight?”
“Love each other / Love yourself / Forgive each other / Forgive yourself.”
The Y'all Stars The Y’all Stars
Following the tribute, the Y’all Stars did a set. Jen Larson joined Fran Leadon for a few songs.
The Y'all Stars The Y’all Stars
Close harmony is a staple of the Y’all Stars sets.
The Y'all Stars The Y’all Stars
Diane Stockwell, fiddle, with Fran Leadon and Charles Puckette, the lead singers.
The Y'all Stars The Y’all Stars
Charles, Fran and Jen.

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