Louis Gallo Biography
By the Editor of BMG, April 1960
Some personalities in the fretted instrument world have gained fame by their playing; others from their published compositions and arrangements. Others become famous as teachers. A guitarist whose name is known all over the world by his published works is Louis Gallo (this month's cover portrait) - but he is equally famous as a teacher.
Louis was born of Italian parents in North London on December 16th, 1907, and although his father and mother had no particular musical talent their inborn love of music made itself felt when their children expressed their desire to play instruments. The eight children of the Gallo's were all encouraged to learn music. Louis's elder brother, Salvatore, played the guitar as an accompaniment to the singing of Neapolitan songs and two other brothers played violin and mandolin respectively. The four girls all studied the pianoforte - although one of them became a good performer on the harmonica!
Often friends of the Gallo household would gather for a musical evening and the instruments they brought along included the guitar, mandolin and accordion. Everyone took part - but the young Louis Gallo, who was studying the pianoforte, could only contribute a solo or two. When everyone joined n for community playing, he had to content to listen, for one of his sisters monopolised the piano stool.
Through hearing his brothers and friends playing the mandolin, Louis expressed the desire to play one instead of the more sedate piano. Eventually an instrument was purchased for him (good class instuments did not cost a lot in those days!) and his brother showed him the fingerings of scales. Devoting all his spare time to practising on the fretted instrument, he was soon able to take part in the family orchestral evenings.
At the age of twelve, Louis was taken to Italy by his parents - to the small village of Torello situated among the mountains about an hour's car ride from Sorrento. His mandolin played an important part in his life in the mountains and often the local lads, who werre thrilled by his playing of the instrument, would call at his house and say: "Come on, Luigi. Bring your mandolin and we'll go serenade the young signorine in the next villiage."
While living in Torello, Louis Gallo was introduced to the guitar by a relation and although he was given some basic instruction in the playing of the larger instrument (and he did manage to play a few simple melodies on it before he left) the mandolin remained his first love.
After two years residence in Italy, Louis returned to England. Within a year his services were sought after by North London bandleaders and he started his long career of "fee-lancing" - appearing at all the local dance halls where he was often featured as a soloist on the banjolin.
Although dance-band work had slowly caused him to give up playing of the mandolin, he used to play the guitar as a hobby and would often spend hours with it as a means of relaxation. At first, he played the finger-style Spanish guitar but when the first Eddie Lang records were issued in this country the playing of Lang so inspired him Louis purchased a plectrum guitar and taught himself to play by listening for hours to every Lang record he could find. (There were no teachers of the plectrum-played guitar in those days!)
Guitar Frowned Upon
Soon Louis Gallo was taking his plectrum guitar along with him to dance engagements and although some of the band leaders frowned upon his enthusiasm for the plectrum played guitar, he was so popular with patrons for his featured plectrum and tenor banjo solos, they allowed him to use it occasionally in a waltz or a tango. However, when the vellum instrument was ousted from the dance band in favour of the plectrum guitar, these same band leaders remembered Louis''s guitar and his engagement book was always filled.
During this period of activity Louis was repeatedly asked to give lessons, but his busy dance band life gave him no spare time to acceed to the many requests. However, he was playing an important seasons'' engagement at the famous Criterion restaurant, Piccadilly Circus, when engagement of the band was suddenly terminated. During the time the leader was "fixing" another engagement, Louis took on a number of pupils who, when the band started playing again would travel to the hotel or restaurant before the evenings work commenced. Often a hotel engagement meant an afternoon and evening session and pupils were given lessons at the hotel between performances!
Still busy playing, Louis tried to discourage new pupils but as a result of recommendations, more and more came along. Soon it became apparent to Mr. Gallo that teaching was something more than an occupation that could be "fitted in" between engagements.
About this time Louis was offered an engagement with a dance orchestra to go to Madrid for 12 months. While negotiations were in progress he decided to marry and he settled down instead!
Years of playing out night after night - often arriving home in the early hours of the morning - eventually palls and now that he was married began to refuse more dance band gigs than he accepted. As a consequence he was able to devote more time to teaching. And amongst the many hundreds of his pupils were Dennis Newey, who was featured soloist with the BBC Northern Dance Orchestra; Jerry Hart , who was with Nat Gonella , a touring Jazz band. (Ray Fernandes another Louis Gallo pupil was Bandleader at The Savoy and RitzHotels in London.)
Louis occasionaly would accept an engagement at a private party and he performed many solo broadcasts on BBC Guitar Club. (1960''s)
Hear Louis Gallo playing his own compositions dedicated to Eddy Lang on products page.