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Richie Melito Top Gun

I was on standby to play a song with Irv at an open-jam. I had just written an article on him for this column and went down to check him out, so I was looking forward to jamming with him.

“You’re up, get your guitar,” the hostess told me. So I did, and walked onto the stage. Irv had evaporated, and I was standing there looking at this other guitar player. Never saw him before. Didn’t know him. We introduced ourselves, shook hands, and I searched my memory for the easiest song I could think of playing, because I wasn’t sure about what I had just gotten myself into. We played “Feeling Alright.”

Yikes!

My new friend, Richie, started kicking the crap out of the song, and I found myself thinking, “this is my new lead guitar player.” We became friends on that take, pretty much instantly. “Whaddya’wanna play next?” he said. Since that time we’ve played regularly in the Salt City Chill and in other smaller ensembles  together, along with plenty of social time which usually involves our ladies, dinner, and sipping fine spirits from a connoisseurs perspective. Not that we’re true connoisseurs or anything, but we have a lot of fun pretending.

RM: Pretty much everything I’ve ever played or written has always been rhythmical in nature. Its all about the groove. I also enjoy unpredictability. Sometimes the best twists and turns are the ones you never see coming.

Music is, however, something Richie Melito qualifies as a true connoisseur. Not only do I have the pleasure and privilege of playing songs and working together, but, I also have the privilege of learning from him. One of those guitar players where I enthusiastically choose to stand in his shadow. This guy has been around the block for real. You see him once and you realize you are in the company of a musician who dedicates most every part of his life and being into the art and science of music. I see him drop jaws most every Tuesday night at Limp Lizard in Liverpool just by messing around in a casual open jam (one of the best open-jams in the city by the way).  I see him drop jaws when I’m standing a foot away from him on stage.

And you should see him play, as well. A true bic-flicking player’s player. Right here, in your city. And not only that, he’s a modest, funny, very intelligent and interesting person. One of the hallmarks—I’ve learned over the years­—of a true time-tested musician, is that they get over the whole “look at me I’m a rockstar” thing. There’s no need to do that anymore when you’ve lived your whole life as the real deal, hard-working musician.

He took a little time with me to talk about his path in music.

Chuck Schiele: Hey Richie. Thanks for doing this.

Richie Melito: Thanks Chuck. This is kinda fun….

CS: How long have you been playing music? How did you become a musician?

RM: I hate to give away my age, but I’ve been playing in bands since 1967. I made $2.50 at my first “gig”. With regard to how I became a musician, I’d dreamt about it for as long as I remember and my parents were both incredibly supportive.

CS: What instruments do you play?

RM: Currently, I play guitar and bass. I started as a drummer in my teens and just wanted a more melodic outlet. I also dabbled on trumpet for quite a few years—the operative word being “dabble”.

CS: How would you characterize your music?

RM: Pretty much everything I’ve ever played or written has always been rhythmical in nature. Its all about the groove. I also enjoy unpredictability. Sometimes the best twists and turns are the ones you never see coming.

CS: What or who inspires you?

RM: I think my greatest inspirations have always come from the people I share the stage with.

CS: You’ve been out there  a long time. Tell us about it.

Richie Melito jammin out at Limp Lizard in Liverpool.

RM: When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, there’s no such thing as a brief history! I’ve been referred to as the “guitar whore of Syracuse”, a title I wear proudly. I’m a member of Salt City Chill. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. I’m a member of Brownskin Band. I’m part of the house band hosting Tuesday night open mic at Limp Lizard Liverpool. I play frequently with Irv Lyons Jr. and Greg Hoover, both of whom are truly gifted songwriters (much like yourself!) In the years prior to my arrival in Syracuse (2010), I did the road band thing, fifty weeks a year for ten years, starting in the mid-70s. I settled in Florida in the mid-80s, playing in a house band that became a 9-piece corporate convention band. I played with the house band at BB King`s Blues Club in Orlando for two and a half years. I was also musical director for a Michael Jackson tribute concert show which toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe.

CS: Now that you’ve been here in Syracuse for a while, what are your thoughts on the CNY music scene?

RM: It`s diverse and absolutely brimming with talent—both young and well-seasoned. I am honored to be a part of it.

CS: Please share a career highlight or two.

RM: Quite a few come to mind, Playing two shows at Red Rocks amphitheater; playing the Apollo in Harlem; performing AC/DC music with their lead singer, Brian Johnson; and jamming with Steve Cropper are some of my fondest memories.

CS: How about  a funny war story ?

RM: Does slipping on roast beef gravy left over from a happy hour buffet , and landing on my butt while performing a dance routine to Stevie Wonder`s “I Wish” in front of more than a hundred people in Ottawa, Canada count? If so, then that.

CS: What is your best advice to budding musicians?

RM: Play whatever makes you happy, and, even if it doesn’t, it just might make you better.

CS: What’s in the future for you and your music?

RM: I`m gonna play until the people I play with tell me to leave them alone.

CS: How do we stay in touch with you and your music?

The view at Red Rocks.

RM: I’m planning on trying a whole new avenue for spreading the word. I think it`s called Facebook. I hear good things about it. Will you be my friend?

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.