Memories of an Old Friend: Toots – Rob Paparozzi

Toots came to the USA in the 50’s to join the Benny Goodman band and later George Shearing. John Lennon saw this LP cover in a shop in Hamburg, with Toots playing guitar, and decided if the Rickenbacker 325 was good enough for Toots he wanted it and hit the pawn shop on the corner!

He moved to the NY area in the 50’s to Yonkers, Montauk and NYC, In the 70’s I found his number in the AF of M Musician’s Directory and called him. He told me he had no time to teach but would be glad to talk and advise me by telephone and he never refused my calls and we chatted many times.

He said, “we were phone buddies, and was happy to answer my questions and gave me some invaluable practice tips which I will always treasure. In the 70’s he would tell me he was ready to retire from the NY studio scene as he really wanted to be more known as a jazz artist with his own Quartet. I would go see him live in NJ/NY at Ramapo College, Gulliver’s, The Blue Note and Greene St. in NYC.

Years later I went to see Toots at Carnegie Hall called The Magic of Toots with my friend Chris DePino and teacher Robert Bonfiglio. At the end of the show with tears & a big smile in his eyes Toots came up to us backstage and said Guys, I can die now, I played with Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall – we all laughed.

I asked him many questions, he loved talking about his work with Quincy Jones and Jaco. He said he met Paul Simon when Paul was a kid. Paul’s dad was the bassist on the old Arthur Godfrey show in NYC in the 50s & 60s!
When the Beatles came to do the Sullivan show in NYC, Rickenbacker Guitars asked Toots to go and demo their Guitar for them in a NYC Penthouse – John loves Toots!

Then only 4 years after John was shot dead in NYC, Toots played on his son Julian’s hit LP Valotte. Three years later in 1987 Julian came up to me in a NYC club and asked me if he could sit in with my band….We did Johnny B Goode!

Toots told me that Quincy wanted to do a record someday with Stevie Wonder and Toots as the featured artists!…Quincy got too busy and that never reached fruition.

These are just a few of my Toots memories, I guess I need to write that book.

Goodbye Toots and thank you so much for everything.

This appeared in the October 2016 issue of Harmonica World as part of a special tribute to Toots.