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John Adomono (Guitarist Fantastique)

When I was a rotten kid in the cassette era, I found this amazing album in my dad’s old record collection. I’d never heard of the guy, but wow, he was playing a really cool looking guitar. And that’s important.

adomono2

The man played some kind of tiki surf music. Hell, he may have invented it. It was amazingly fast, and he played with some kind of pedal that made the notes echo, the same strange effect that make people think they sing well in a bathroom and sign up for American Idol.

Every note was perfect, and I loved the fact that there were no other instruments involved. Just a Gypsy with a martini mustache that looked like a Mexican Clark Gable, and a guitar.

Here’s a sample of a song of his from a different album. It was the only song I was able to find online.  I don’t believe this song is a good representation of Adomono’s best music, but again, it’s all I could find.

I enjoyed every song on the record, and I played the hell out of it while goofing around on my dad’s acoustic guitar.

I’d love to say something about how I played until my fingers bled, but I was a really lazy kid and probably gave up way too easily. I have no idea where that record is now, I probably threw it at my sister or something.

As an adult, the fact that I couldn’t find the music from “Night at the Beachcomber” online drove me nuts.

I recently asked my dad about the album. He was in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and at one point was stationed in Honolulu, where he saw John Adomono in concert with his then-girlfriend at a venue called Don the Beachcomber, within the International Market Place.

He was astounded by the show, and some time later, his fiance (not my mother, the two never married), bought this album as a gift for him in Los Angeles. The album was recorded at Don the Beachcomber in Honolulu. Neat, right?

I jumped on Google and did some searching on this John Adomono fellow. No Wikipedia entry. I did come across posts on a few websites, including a really cool website called Waxidermy that explores lost vinyl, and a blog called Bowling Trophy from a person that collects really interesting objects from everywhere and had named this as their Record Cover of the Week. I also found mentions of this music on several surf-music connoisseur websites, but no audio clips.

Here’s something more interesting: Each of these posts had several comments from John Adomono’s sons, grandsons, and even great grandsons, reminiscing about the facts they knew about Mr. Adomono.

I emailed Kevin Adams, who I understood to be the eldest son, and basically told him what you just read.  Since John Adomono’s music can now only be found by obtaining old vinyl from E-Bay, I expressed concern and explained that unless this music was submitted to sites such as last.fm, lala.com, Pandora, YouTube, or playlist.com, John Adomono’s music may be lost in time.

He wrote me back immediately. Here is an excerpt from his email. Formatting has been preserved.

Today, I’m a National Singer / Impressionist , & have performed all over…
Look up Kevin Adams Singer Impressionist
or  Kevin Adams Revue of the Stars
on YOUTUBE….
Here’s where i mostly sing at:  yesterdaysevents.com
Here’s my web-site:

He also included the image below. Formatting has been preserved.

KevinsPromoPic

0I sincerely hope that if anyone reading this finds themselves in Athens, Alabama, they might consider viewing  Kevin Adam’s impressionist performances.

But on a more personal (albeit selfish) level, I really hope that someone with access to Adomono’s music knows how to convert this album to a modern format – before John Adomono’s strange Gypsy music is lost forever.

And please, someone send a graphic designer to Athens, Alabama.

21 Responses to “John Adomono (Guitarist Fantastique)”

  1. [...] This post was Twitted by apronless [...]

  2. John Arnold says:

    After reading all the things about Johnny Adomono; (which are little), I realized that there was one part of his life that is not mentioned. A sequence of time in the early 60′s.

    I had just returned from service and was playing aroung Memphis, TN and I ran into him. Although we definitely played different music, I was into my western/country ‘stuff’ and he was nto the “Gypsy” music. He would take my Gretsch 6120, and my EchoSonic amp; built by Ray Butts in Cairo, IL, he would just play the ‘crap’ out of it. He was amazing. He could get more out of a guitar that anyone that I had ever heard.

    This was his first playing with a portable echo chamber. He was so enamored with this thing doing echo and making him sound like more guitars. This is where he later got the idea to get the echo-phonic to use. I assume that he continued to use it. It was a lot cheeper than the EchoSonic that I had.

    He finally talked me into letting him borrow my guitar and amp to use while in Memphis playing at the clubs. He had it for about two weeks and I needed it back as I had some gigs to do and then later, I found out that he had left Memphis.

    This is one segment of his life that I think that didn’t get covered. He DID the Memphis Sceene in the early 60′s.

  3. Jay says:

    John Arnold,

    Thanks so much for posting your comment. This is definitely one of the more interesting stories I’ve heard about John Adomono.

    Sorry about your guitar.

  4. karl says:

    There’s some two pages worth of Adomono in Michael Dregni’s excellent book ‘Gypsy Jazz. In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing’ (Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 257-259. It’s part of a chapter on American Gypsies and their music, and fits in a part about Danny Fender, who cites him as a primary influence. Aside from Kevin Adams, Dregni found another grandson, Robert Adams, a singer, who gives some insight.

    Adomono was bron in the 1930s in NY City, and was known to fellow Romani as Peeky. He busked the streets of New York, but at the age of around twenty, he headed West. He played mainly hotel bars and casinos, becoming a regular in the 1960s at the Las Vegas Thunderbird Hotel. He started experimenting with electric guitars and their effects, mainly some kind of reverb called the Ecco-Fonic – mixing spage-age exotica with gypsy violin vibrato on a single guitar.

    He played on the Ed Sullivan show and jammed with Duke Ellington, and performed for JFK at the White House. He was hired by tiki impresario Donn Beach to play his Don the Beachcomber restaurant chain, sharing the stage with Martin Denny. In 1974 he recorded some Spanish influenced songs for the Magnemedia label.
    He passed away in the 1990s.

  5. Ron Behee says:

    Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the record pictured above. I had a copy year ago, but somehow got lost. The guitar on the jacket was built by my grandfather Frank Behee and called a Lyric harp guitar.

  6. Jay says:

    Ron, I was able to find one on Ebay. Thanks for mentioning the guitar- I’m sure people would like to know where it came from.

  7. Doug says:

    Ron: Do you know Carl Behee? He and his father were friends of Jack McMillan in the early 60′s and were Indian motorcycle owners and enthusiasts. I saw one of the guitars at the Behee’s home and recall its’ unique sound. Sadly, I have not seen the record or another lyric harp guitar since.

  8. Hi there, just browsing for information for my Gretsch Guitars site. Can’t believe the amount of information out there. Wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but nice site. Take care.

  9. Nick Adomono says:

    Wow!
    Some interesting posts.
    I was interested in John Arnold’s mainly because I am working on a project about my dad’s life, (I am the OTHER son, Kevin is my brother, Robert is my nephew).
    John Arnold was talking about my father’s time in Memphis Tenn.
    I really would like some more insight on that, because the only thing I remember hearing about my dad’s time in Memphis, is when he met up with Elvis, at a car dealership…(no Elvis did not buy him a car, Elvis & my Father were looking at 2 identical cars, one red, one blue. Elvis asked my Dad “Which one do you prefer”? My Dad said “The blue one”, & Elivs bought the red.)
    Elvis then invited my Dad to Graceland for one of Elvis’ parties.
    For some stupid reason I cannot remember anymore of the story.
    So if my Dad went to party with Elvis, I forget.
    Anyway…if John Arnold would like to get in contact with me I would appreciate it.

  10. Ron Behe says:

    Sorry so slow to answer, I just looked at this site again today. Carl was my cousin. Franklin Behee who made the guitars had two sons, Harold (my dad) and Russel. Russel had two son’s, Carl and Russel Junior. Carl actually made one or maybe two of the guitars under my grandfathers guidance. Russel Junior may have helped and ended up with a guitar that I was told he sold or pawned while in the Navy and this was the one Adomono’s Beachcomber’s cover. I also say on another web site that he just borrowed the guitar for the picture and was not playing it – I’m not sure this is true. I have the record but no way to play it so will need to listen for the unique sound of this instrument to see if he was playing it. It was used for Jerry Wallace’s Primrose Lane (gold record) and is pictured on the sheet music and record jacket. Also pictured on a album by Wayne Shanklin. I have all 3 plus the sheet music. I also have Jerry Wallaces first guiter. He traded it in on one with I think a little shorter fingerboard. It has his name on the case. I’m considering donating the guitar and a matching mandolin to the new Musical Instrument Muesum in Scottsdate ($240M world class place).
    If anyone has any info on these guitars please let me know.
    Ron Behee
    ron.behee@yahoo.com

  11. Lance says:

    I have this record!!! I took possession of it years ago when my parents no longer had a record player. My father was in the service in the early 60′s and stationed in Honolulu. He and my mother were newlyweds at the time and attended that Beachcomber show where they bought the album. When I was a little kid my dad had copied the album to a reel to reel tape player and I would listen to it over and over. 40 some years later I still have the original album and am looking into putting it on cd so I can give mom and dad a copy they can listen to again!

  12. Echosonic27 says:

    I own Ray Butts’s EchoSonic #27. It has never been modified and works well. After a bit of internet research, it may have been possible that Ray had kept a card file with details on each amp he made. Does anyone have any information on the year of this amp, who bought it, date of purchase, etc? I was told that this may have been Ricky Nelson’s amp but that is as of yet unconfirmed. This amp has some issues – is there a schematic and/or parts list available for reference? I can be reached at: “echosonic27 at gmail dot com”. Any information on this historical amplifier would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  13. Theron Macie says:

    Why didn’t you make all the other sites live links?

  14. Jay says:

    If you know how to do it, let me know!

  15. Bowen Glover says:

    Three of my brother have this album and has met this man back in the early 60s when it was recorded. He was a one man show and was playing an 12 string accustic guitar. He used whats called then a side man for his accompt. drums, vibes ext. The reason he bought it was so he could learn how to play Rhapisody in Blue and Malaguana off of it. I have never heard anyone to this day play it on guitar like him other than my brother and he is dead now.This was back in the show club days of the 60s-70s.I want to see if I can order it but do not see that info here.I do have an turntable with my stereo. If any one can give me an heads up ordering this again I would be much greatful.Send response to this to bowenh.glover@gmail.com
    Eddie Van Halen wants to learn Guitar this is who he should listen to.John Adomono grew playing on the streets of New york City.Someone should try and get the big Record Companies to rerecord it again and put it out. Pass this along will ya!!
    Thanks Bowen Glover
    Seattle Wa.

  16. Luke Womack says:

    jesliphius@yahoo.com

    My grandmother was with Juan Adomono for many years. They were partners/lovers/friends etc. She can set the record straight on many topics regarding Juan as she spent half a lifetime with him.

    I have 2 copies of his Gypsy Record and I also have his favorite gold necklace made of a 50cent peso piece. I have the Gypsy Record tracks as MP3s. Contact me if you want them.

    If anyone wants any information from the horse’s mouth (as they say)…. they should get in contact with my grandmother before she is no longer here. Her mind is still sharp and she is in her late 80s.

    jesliphius@yahoo.com

  17. Ole Rocker says:

    Wow! Really cool! I picked up this album (Decca DL 74097) in excellent condition just three days ago at a thrift store. Played it and man! He cooks.
    I’m going to transfer it to digital and put it up for sale on Discogs if anyone wants it. I found this reference to John Adomono because I was curious about the man and I am looking for comps on the value of the record.
    Steve @ RightPriceRecords

  18. Ulf de Wolf says:

    This truly blew me away. I so much want to hear more.

  19. D. Cooper says:

    Saw him play in early 60′s in Hawaii at Don the Beachcomber. I got goosebumps listening to him play Malaguena. I bought this album and since have passed it to my daughter.

  20. Matthew says:

    picked up this album for $1 today

    http://thumbs2.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mQkFEolZj-jqWxGjmgufvwQ.jpg

    same guy? amazing guitarist.

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