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Issue Date: Thursday, November 23, 2005

Tortured Brilliance

By Chet Williamson

I remember Lou Terricciano. He was my soul brother. Now he is gone.

Lou Terricciano
Good-bye, sweet Lou

I had been calling him all week. I had tickets for him to see Danilo Perez. He was excited about going to see one of the modern masters. The concert came and went. I still have his tickets. The next day, I received the call. There was a tragedy in the family. Louis died of a heart attack in New Haven on Monday, Nov. 14. He was 53.

The call somehow didn’t surprise me. B.L.T., or Bad Lou Terricciano, as he would often introduce himself, had been burning that little light of his for quite some time. To say he just didn’t take care of himself would only be stating the obvious. He’s been dancing with his demons for years. He suffered from Crohn’s disease. He also “smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish,” to quote a tune we wrote together.

I first met Lou at Tiano’s, his family’s restaurant, where he was the resident pianist for more than a decade. I had been hearing about this brilliant pianist who could not only play serene dinner music, but everything.

In my first feature about him, I said he was the best-kept secret in town. Here are a couple of highlights: Lou was originally from Wallingford, Conn. He started playing piano as a child and, after graduating from Lyman Hall High School, he attended Boston University. In his early 20s, he recorded with Bonnie Raitt. That’s him on her second album, Give it Up. After studying at The Manhattan School of Music, he appeared in jazz clubs all around New York City.

Soon after writing about him, he and I became fast friends. Besides being around the same age, we shared a love for soul music. He found out I was a player as well and, before long, we formed a duo called The Midnight Creeps. We played everywhere. For me it was the best, but it wasn’t easy. I’m a self-taught harp player who has to practice for hours, every day, in fear of public humiliation. He had perfect pitch and because he was blind from birth, he obviously played everything by ear.

We never rehearsed. What we did was hang out and listen to music. We had a regular ritual. On Saturday mornings I’d pick him up and we’d head over to The Owl Shop for some smokes. We’d then drive around town playing tapes of old soul shakers and sang along at the top of our lungs. Most recently, he had been stuck on “Every Little Bit Hurts” by Brenda Holloway.

Lou had been hurting a lot lately. On break at one of our last gigs, he told me about his hurt. He didn’t complain about his poor health, his blindness or his demons. He talked about the music. Lou was a full-time musician and, in the past couple of years, he hadn’t been working much. He said it was killing him. He said that he wanted out. That he was dying in Worcester. He said he needed a place to go where he could play.

About a month later, he moved to New Haven. He said they had a thriving little scene. He’d call me every couple of days to report on his progress. He said it was promising. But I’m his soul brother and not easily fooled. I could still hear the hurt in his voice.

When I received the call about his passing, I didn’t know whether to cry, hold my wife or call my mother. What I did was drive the streets of Worcester listening to Otis Redding. Lou, your death put some serious hurt on me. I can only find comfort in knowing that you have now joined the choir with all the greats, singing on the other side.

A tribute to the memory of Lou Terricciano will be held at TiNovo, 55 Pearl St., on Sunday, Dec. 4,
at 4 p.m. o

Chet Williamson may be reached at chetw@worcestermag.com.

The above appeared originally in Worcester Magazine Nov. 23 - 30, 2004 • Volume 31, Number 10

Reproduced here by permission of the writer.

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