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Tribute to an Extraordinary Guitarist, Lou Pallo



Frank Vignola pays tribute to an extraordinary guitarist, musician, and good friend, Lou Pallo.

Lou Pallo was with Les Paul for 40 years. Lou was responsible for this particular Les Paul group, 2000-2005. Lou Pallo, Nicki Parrott, Les Pauland Frank Vignola – photo courtesy Christopher Lentz, circa 2000.

I first met Lou Pallo in 1985, the year after I graduated high school. I was invited by the legendary Disc Jockey for WFUV, Rich Conaty, to sit in and meet the great Les Paul at Fat Tuesday’s. Les had just emerged from retirement and starting playing in public again in this small downtown New York jazz club. Lou Pallo was Les’s rhythm guitarist and wow, I was just as impressed with Lou as I was with Les. His rhythm playing was near perfect and he blended his sound so well with Les. In my humble opinion, Les’s greatest period of playing was from the mid-’80s onward. This was due in large part to the music and spirit of Lou Pallo.

Not only was Lou an extraordinary guitarist and musician, but from the minute I met him, I knew I made a friend for life. He was such a nice, friendly, positive man. In the year 2000, when Les fell ill, Lou asked me to sub for Les at the Iridium for three weeks. There is nothing more humbling than to be sitting on stage and hear the MC tell everyone, “Les Paul will not be appearing due to illness but Frank Vignola is taking his place”. Half the place got up and wanted their money back. I learned quickly, this is the way you cut your teeth in the business. Lou was very encouraging though and we had a great time playing the sets together. He was so encouraging that he recorded the sets, played them for Les and this is what led to Les’ decision in asking me to join his trio with Lou and Nicki Parrott on bass. This started some of the greatest years of my musical life, thanks to Lou Pallo. 

One of my favorite projects was the “Jersey Guitar Mafia” which was led by Lou. It included Bucky Pizzarelli, Al Caiola, Gary Mazzaroppi and myself. Although I am from NY, they made a very unique exception letting me into the “Jersey Guitar Mafia”. I would always bring a fresh supply of tomatoes and garlic to each rehearsal as a way of saying thank you. The record we made holds such a special place in my heart. Being with three guitar masters, each sight reading piano music like they were reading a newspaper. The musicianship Lou, Al, and Bucky brought to the table was just unmatched. First takes, no mistakes, and then ravioli and meatballs. You gotta love it! I feel blessed for the gift of Lou’s friendship and music.

May you rest in peace my friend.

Frank Vignola

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