Tag Archives: Scott Ricciuti and Pistol Whipped

Great Scott! Ralph’s Show Features Music of Huck, Childhood, and Pistol Whipped

by Matt Robert/ photo by Louie Despres

Originally appeared in the December 27, 2012, Worcester Magazine.

“The main concept of this was that it isn’t really a memorial, it’s a celebration of music,” says Paul Dagnello, bassist with late local legend Scott Ricciuti’s longest running band, Huck, about the show Saturday night at Ralph’s that will bring together three of Ricciuti’s most enduring musical projects: Childhood, Huck, and Pistol Whipped. “The focus is on the music. The memorials were very visual for people. This is going to be the audio portion of that.”

Ricciuti’s untimely death in a car accident in April devastated a massive fan base that included among the most ardent fans a sizable core of local musicians, artists and club owners, and left a gaping hole in a scene in which Ricciuti played an outsized role, performing most nights of the week in one ensemble or another, or appearing solo. Numerous emotionally charged memorials were held – the most notable at Vincent’s – and a variety of tributes have occurred since, but none to this scale.

“We could have done a week’s worth of events,” says Dagnello. “He was involved in so many different things…[but we] kind of just whittled it down to those three bands.” The choice to feature Huck, Childhood and Pistol Whipped (and not Friday Farewells, A Pony for My Birthday, or Preacher Roe), Paul says, is that “those were probably the ones he was in the longest,” recalling that Childhood was together for about 10 years, and Huck for 17 or 18 years. Finally, Dagnello says, “It’s a good representation of his different types of songwriting, plus a decision just had to be made on what was possible to do for a night where it wouldn’t get too out of control.”

This event—sponsored by longtime Scott Ricciuti patron, Orcaphat Records owner, and executive producer of Huck and Pistol Whipped’s CDs, Colin Butler (“He was there in the studio with us every single day,” says Dagnello), and organized by Ricciuti’s friend and collaborator, Bee’s Knees (and Friday Farewells) guitarist Michael Thibodeau — faced several obstacles.

“I know, for me, and I think for Danny [Lucas, drummer with Childhood and Huck, and Ricciuti’s longest running collaborator], it’s the first time we’re going to play since…in a club or live. We all have a very hard time doing this, says Dagnello, further citing less obvious and more pragmatic difficulties, some of the material is simply hard to recreate.

“Childhood [is] kind of figuring out how to do Childhood with just the surviving members,” he says, “whereas Duncan [Arsenault], Jeff [Burch], and Scott were the core members of [Pistol Whipped]. And then with Huck [as with Pistol Whipped], we lost our lead singer, our guitar player and our front man, so I know it’s been difficult — beyond just the emotional — dealing with that: How do we actually play a show without a third of our band.”

“We were gonna need help,” he says.

“For this show,” Dagnello says, “Huck is going to have nine members. We have two guitar players playing the whole night, and then we have a couple people filling in vocal duties, and then I’m probably going to do a couple songs up on vocals.”

Additionally, the show will feature (including the numerous Huck extras) several special guests from Ricciuti’s rather large circle of peers, though organizers are loath to reveal them.

“In some ways we want it to be a surprise,” says Dagnello, “because we don’t want it to be part of the promotion for the event…because, as far as we’re concerned, on that night they’re in Huck…. The people that are involved are doing it because of their love for Scott and their love for his music, their friendship. As far as Huck is concerned, all those people are in the band that night, they’re part of the band that night.”

Recreating the original sounds, even with a roster of talented fill-ins, many of whom were familiar and even devoted to Ricciuti’s music, or intricately linked with its production, also proved a challenge.

“We kept everything as close as we could [to] Scott. He had a specific way of playing guitar; he had a specific way of singing and that’s hard to replicate, but the guys working on this are definitely trying their hardest to emulate that, because it’s part of our sound,” Dagnello explains. “Not having Scott there playing guitar, it’s not going to sound just like Huck. It’s going to sound close, but it’s still not going to sound like it.”

“[Ricciuti’s] vocal range, and the power behind it, was tough for people,” Dagnello says. “Danny and I and someone like Roger [Lavallee, who, as engineer at Tremolo Lounge Studios, produced most of Ricciuti’s career output] and somebody like Colin Butler, we’ve sat with these songs for hundreds of hours—recording, playing and everything. And it’s kind of like bringing these people into this world that they’re brand new to. So, they get to see more of Scott than the prior four got to see.”

Lastly, players had to grapple with a notebook of deeply personal lyrics whose genesis was the intimate bonds forged over decades of intensive, and mostly glamourless, work and play in clubs, rehearsal rooms, vans, studios – friendship, love, loss, mistakes, and hopes.

Dagnello notes the particular challenge faced by those who “are going to have to sing the songs. I think the hardest part was all of us all having to sit down and read all of these lyrics….To actually sit back and take these groups of songs, read the lyric and tell the story of the lyric definitely hit a lot of us…as pretty tough. Scott was definitely a magic worker with words. So, that was a real tough part with everybody.”

Even the venue has significance, though, this choice, too, proved hard, as Ricciuti, over the years, could have had his number retired in just about every music room in central Massachusetts. Organizers ultimately chose Ralph’s, though, because, as Dagnello says, “as far as Huck…and Childhood…was concerned, Ralph’s was one of our homes. I think [Huck] played Ralph’s more than any other club. There’s a connection with Vincent [Hemmeter, owner of Ralph’s, Vincent’s, and Nick’s]. He was good friends with Scott. Erick [Godin, owner] from the Lucky Dog was good friends with Scott [too].”

The $10 event will feature Pistol Whipped at 9:30 p.m., Childhood at 10:30 p.m., and Huck at 11:30 p.m., as well as a rolling soundtrack between sets of Ricciuti’s prodigious recorded output.

“We’re going to be playing all of the other stuff that Scott has been included on, like the Pony for My Birthday stuff and the Preacher Roe stuff…Huck songs we’re not playing that night, Childhood songs…and possibly unreleased Pistol Whipped material.”

While no CDs will be made available at the event, those wishing to purchase Ricciuti’s music can visit “Scott’s website where they can go song by song and pick and buy whatever they like,” says Paul. “Everything is online.” Scottricciuti.com.

Catch the celebration of Scott Ricciuti music on Saturday, Dec. 29 at Ralph’s Diner, 148 Grove St. at 8 p.m. Tickets $10.

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Scott Ricciuti: Epilogue (1963-2012)

Article that ran in Worcester Magazine on Thursday, April 12, 2012, one week after the passing of local musician, Scott Ricciuti. Check out the Worcester Magazine version for outstanding photos by Louis Despres, and check back here for the upcoming extended version of this article.

by Matt Robert

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“I was in the studio and my phone rang,” recalls Roger Lavallee, a musician, engineer and producer. “It was my friend John Donovan, who performed every Tuesday night at Vincent’s with Scott. Why would John be calling me at 11:30 a.m.? I answered it, and he began with, ‘I really don’t know how to say this…’”

This scenario – one we all fear – played out around central Massachusetts and throughout the Bay State, as well as up to Vermont, where childhood chum, Childhood band mate and close friend Ken Ebell lives. Similar phone calls delivered the same tragic news to a nexus of distraught family members, a life partner, musicians, fans, friends, club owners, bartenders and music writers – a massive web spun over 48 years of life and almost as many making music: James “Scott” Ricciuti had succumbed to injuries incurred when his car left Rt. 290 in Northboro and landed in the median strip.

“I ended my [recording] session, and like a zombie, went to be with my girlfriend and my dog. I spent the day cycling between numbness and breakdown,” adds Lavallee, whose relationship with Ricciuti began with sharing bills with Riccuti’s band Childhood and evolved over two decades as Lavallee became the central engineer/producer of the vast majority of Ricciuti’s body of work. Inadvertently, Ricciuti became one of Lavalle’s closest friends.

Lavalle’s sentiments echoed a veritable deluge of outpourings on Facebook and through articles in a host of area publications, as the local scene attempted to grasp the reality that “the glue” of the local scene was gone.

“The area – not just the local scene – just lost the most prolific, talented songwriter they will ever see so close,” asserts a reeling Paul Dagnello, 13-year bassist for Ricciuti’s most enduring band, Huck. Dagnello expresses an overwhelming consensus about Riccutti, who was universally lauded as a poetic, smart, tireless, and, above all, thrillingly energetic musician.

Ricciuti’s close acquaintances were quick to clarify, however, that his true gift expanded far beyond music. Hours of interviews revealed reverent tones about a guy whose art was his life force, and a personality of complete “inclusiveness.” Local musicians Annie Eggleston and Michael Thibodeau— Ricciuti was the best man at Thibodeau’s wedding—both told stories of being warmly pulled into Ricciuti’s spotlight, fostered and nurtured.

“He took the attention on him and put it on others,” recalls Thibodeau. “I’ve known him for a decade, but it felt like a lifetime. He was my best friend. He was the person I was most intimate with musically, and who I talked to about everything.”

“The first time I met him, he was a funny looking kid with a funny haircut who could play a little bit of saxophone,” remembers Ken Ebell. “I was in fourth grade, and he was in fifth.” The two would go on to form a band as a couple of music-class geeks, informs Ebell, and would eventually conceive Childhood in the 1980s and enjoy significant local success, even winning the prestigious WBCN Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble in 1986. The two played for years before parting ways in 1990, though the friendship endured—Ricciuti stood up as best man for Ebell a month later. Recently, Ebell joined Ricciuti for several engagements, including a Childhood reunion and a set on piano at a Ralph’s Pistol Whipped show.

“Who’s closer than a brother,” asks Ebell. “We spoke the same language. We didn’t even have to talk about stuff. We’d finish each other’s sentences.”

“I don’t think there’s been a better person ever born,” he affirms.

Local drummer, Duncan Arsenault’s, relationship with Ricciuti blossomed exponentially in recent years as the musician became a regular feature of Arsenaults’s Thursday night series at The Dive Bar in Worcester, where, along with bassist Jeff Burch, Pistol Whipped germinated when Ricciuti introduced the pair to his original songs.

“You can’t have this wonderful musical community and expect when something bad happens for it to be easy,” Arsenault laments. “[Ricciuti] had true love for other musicians. He was really inspired by everything. He was so fired up and inspired by music. I think he’s the greatest songwriter. He didn’t need to do any more work, but he was still working at it really hard.”

“He was incredibly willing to participate musically in anything. He had endless energy for gigging. He was down to play. There were times when he would leave a gig he was already playing and come over to The Dive and do that one as well,” he remembers.

Arsenault takes heart in the phenomenal response to the online stream of his extensive collection of MP3 recordings of Ricciuti’s music, and downloads of Ricciuti’s and Pistol Whipped’s “Like the Red Haunts the Wine” on Bandcamp, while others too have taken solace in hearing his music being piped at Oxford’s Casual Dining in Oxford and at TT the Bear’s Place in Cambridge; hearing Ricciuti’s lilting country ballad “Saddest Side of Monday” in a local diner; and in the Rumble set dedicated to Ricciuti by Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck.

“The most heartwarming thing that has happened is the outpouring of respect for him,” Arsenault adds.

“I can’t even begin to untangle what effect Scott’s loss will have on the local music scene,” grieves Lavallee. “It has already had profound effects on me and my closest friends, from wanting to make music in his honor to feeling really lost and wondering how do we go on without him. Among the many things that I am so heartbroken that I will miss: knowing that I no longer have the next song to record with him to look forward to, is really making me think about the shape of my future as a producer.”

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