Remembering Pino Daniele

By Mario Nocerino

The 1970s coincided with the period when I enjoyed my city, Naples, most intensely, and it began with the adventure of my high school years, in a different neighborhood from where I grew up.     

I remember the great excitement of meeting my new classmates, breathing in that "cultural and political" air and a hotbed of ideas that characterized many high schools in those years. 

One of my first encounters was with Lino, a boy who had a very special stereo system, with Technics turntables and Bose speakers, which was a real treat for those of us who, like me, didn't even have music equipment paid for in installments through Reader's Digest magazine!

Lino introduced me to Italian and foreign progressive rock and the sounds of the West Coast. Since then, over many years, I have never missed an issue of the weekly magazine Ciao 2001 or a radio episode of the series Per voi giovani.


During those years, in Naples, there was a lot of musical activity. Mario Musella's Showmen had already made it clear that something was changing when, in 1967, they released Un'ora sola ti vorrei, a blues-sounding piece enriched by the singer's "half black" voice. Then came Osanna with their progressive rock, Edoardo Bennato with a cross between rock&roll and blues, Napoli Centrale, a group that included the best performers of Neapolitan origin (Enzo Avitabile, Tullio De Piscopo, James Senese, Tony Esposito, etc.), but with a musical sound that crossed borders to connect with the "good vibes" from overseas.

It was there that a young man began to take his first steps, a young man whose guitar and blues had put strange ideas into his head, convincing him that he could invent a new musical language by fusing the tradition of his homeland with the music of black Americans, with traces of the Saracens' passage through southern Italy. And he succeeded, thanks to the use of the Neapolitan dialect with a completely new meter and timbre; the "tarumbò", as he had called it.

In this context the star of Pino Daniele (March 19, 1955 - January 4, 2015) began to shine with the joy of the song Che calore, which the notes of his Gibson Hummingbird acoustic made so pleasant. I left ‘my city’ for good in 1979, and I remember the last night we spent with friends on the Mergellina pier singing the songs of our young compatriot (Je so' pazzo which was, by now, our anthem!). After some time spent traveling around the world, at the beginning of the 80's I settled in Milan where, infected by the dynamism and international vision of the city, with a group of friends, I founded a club that, with the atmosphere and cuisine it offered, evoked a Tex-Mex type of ambience. A place where, over the years, numerous personalities from the world of music, fashion, sports and entertainment connected. It was probable, therefore, that sooner or later the Neapolitan boy would arrive who, armed with his talent and his guitars, had travelled a long way collecting numerous collaborations from the great names of music, both Italian and foreign.


That moment was at the end of 1993. By then Pino had already released many albums, gradually moving on from the expressive form of Neapolitan music to immerse himself in other sounds. 

His artistic collaborations in 1982 with Wayne Shorter and Alphonso Johnson for the album Bella 'Mbriana, in 1983 with Richie Havens for Common Ground and with Gato Barbieri for Apasionado, in 1984 with Nana Vasconcelos and Mel Collins (former King Crimson member), in 1988 with
Night of Guitar, across Europe with Randy California, Pete Haycock, Phil Manzanera and many more, had given him the status of a musician now firmly established in the international Gotha.

He came into my club in the company of Nicola, an old Sicilian masseur friend of mine. Pino had a very reserved, almost grumpy attitude towards those he didn't know well. He suffered a lot from the pressure of the media and the curiosity of people, he needed to know who you were to decide whether to trust you and be himself, or to keep you at a distance. Yet he was there, without staff or bodyguards, in absolute simplicity, and had come to eat a hamburger with a friend.  


When I hugged Nicola to greet him, he stayed one step behind, almost as if he didn't want to be indiscreet, then he held my friend's arm and came to the table (I discovered then that he had serious vision problems). It didn't take long for us to break the ice, and Nicola, with a big smile, put his hand on my shoulder and, turning to Pino, said: "Mario is a true friend, I've never heard him speak ill of anyone, and besides, he's from Naples, like you”. “So, if you're Nicola's friend, you're from Naples and you don't talk much, sit down with us...", he said.

That was the first of a series of meetings that took place in my restaurant and the beginning of a relationship that, I want to say it immediately, never became a deep friendship, but that gave, I think to both, moments of carefree joy. I remember telling him that, with his Gibsons, the black Les Paul Custom and the ES-175CC, he had written the soundtrack of a whole generation of Italians and that, with his vast and varied international collaborations, he made us all feel like citizens of the world.  


Pino listened with a smile, as he knew there was no false flattery in those words. Pino Daniele was like that, if you connected with him, he made you feel like you were talking to one of your friends. Once he told me that he had recommended that his son go to the Institute of Catering, because it was a school capable of teaching specific knowledge and skills, and then he asked me: "What do you say, Mariolino, did I do well? Maybe you can hire him, so I know he's in good hands!". I interpreted his words as those of any parent who cares about their child's future, as a simple person with his feet on the ground.

The same simplicity with which, one night, he came to visit me with Lorenzo Jovanotti when they were preparing a tour together with Eros Ramazzotti, and he took out his acoustic guitar, a Morgan Monroe, from its case and played Quando, for me alone. On another occasion we met by chance in a shop. I got very close to him because I thought he wouldn't recognise me otherwise, but he smiled and said: "Don't worry, I recognise you by your voice and, to top it all, by the perfume you always wear! Sooner or later you will have to give me a bottle of this Patchouly.”


We saw each other less and less over the years, to the point where we lost touch with each other completely. The last time we met was in a club that had just opened in the late 90s. He came with all his staff, and as he left, he hugged me saying: "...Mariolino, this place will be lucky because I bring good luck!"

I've been following him remotely ever since, from his concerts with Eric Clapton, the guitar dialogues with Joe Bonamassa at the Crossroads Festival with his Suhr Pro Series S1 Olympic White, to his reunion with his musician friends in the Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples.

Goodbye Pino, everybody misses you, especially those of us who were lucky enough to know you a little more, as I did. Maybe now you are up there doing arpeggios with your Framework, or Avalon-Paradis, or playing riffs with a Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody. After all, like you used to sing, “when someone leaves, there's love left around..."