Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 29
way Danny Cedrone played the guitar - the
solo drove me crazy! Later, when I came to
America, a friend turned me on to an album
by Freddie King which I listened to until it was
worn out. It really gave me a big inspiration to
start playing different kinds of chords, to put
some soul into my playing and try to capture
the feel of the American artists.
How did you come up with the famous
riff for "Dirty Water?"
The song had originally been presented
to us by our manager, Ed Cobb, as a regular
three-chord blues thing. I had some lyrics, and
then (lead singer) Dick Dodd started making
up some... "I want to tell you a story. Tell you
'bout my town..." So, I started messing around
on my guitar and the guys said, "Yeah, that's
great!" When the record came out, we weren't
credited as co-songwriters. Being from Italy, I
didn't know about things like writing credits.
It took us a lot of years, but the courts finally
awarded us our 50 percent of the song.
What kind of equipment were you using
on the recording?
It was a white Telecaster that I had bought in
Hawaii. I used it with a Vox AC30, and when I
changed the electricity reduction and turned
down the knob on top, the sound became
fuzzy, like using a fuzzbox. The sound was
75, Still Rockin'
Tony Valentino: Dan Markell.
ost fans of classic-rock radio know The
Standells garage-punk classic "Dirty
Water," which was listed in Rolling Stone's
"Top 500 Songs That Shaped Rock Music."
The guitarist who created that recording's
iconic riff is still very active in music. Having
just released a new single, "Late Night Radio,"
with singer/songwriter Dan Markell, Tony Valentino is also currently producing new artists,
recording with ex-Ramones drummer Richie
Ramone, working on his first solo album, and
planning a punk-rock musical. His playing is
also featured on a new CD, The Standells Live
On Tour - 1966.
He's been called "The Godfather Of Punk
Guitar," and Conan O'Brien refers to him as
with a pick and using your thumb. Has that
always been your style?
On the video for "Late Night Radio,"
you're seen alternating between playing
Back in Italy, I heard Bill Haley's "Rock
Around The Clock." I was flipped out by the
It depends on the mood I'm in at a particular
moment. When I do play lead, I like to use really
hard picks. Playing rhythm is a different story.
How did you start out playing guitar?
The first guitar I got, when I was about 12,
was made by my uncle back in Sicily. It became
the joy of my life, having my own guitar and
learning major and Italian chords. I also ordered one of those pickups from a magazine
and hooked it up to a radio.
After you came to America, what was
your first proper electric guitar?
It was a Sears Silvertone, and my brother
tells me my first amp was ironically a Standel.
Who were the first artists to really make
an impression on you?
After "Dirty Water," the band made great
follow-ups like "Sometimes Good Guys
Don't Wear White" and "Why Pick On Me,"
but didn't have the same success.
Our label, Tower, was a subsidiary of Capitol,
which was the Beatles' label. We got caught in
the whole Beatlemania thing. So, our records
weren't promoted that much, because they
were totally devoted to The Beatles.
The Standells once kicked Lowell George
out of the band.
He was much more musically advanced than
any of us, but Larry Tamlyn hated him. "He's
like a hippie, he's got no shoes!" (laughs.) He
was great, but we let him go.
You're not with The Standells any more.
Me and Larry own the name, but I don't want
to be involved with the new lineup, which isn't
the real band (Ed. Note: Dodd passed in 2013).
From your long musical career, what are
you the most proud of?
That someone coming from a little town
in the mountains of Sicily got to work with
so many great stars, and came up with a riff
that kids all over the world still play. Steve
Lukather (from Toto) once came up to me,
bowed, and said, "If it wasn't for you, I would
have never learned to play the guitar." When I
hear things like that I say, "Oh, my God. I did
that?" - Elliot Stephen Cohen