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Pete Clemente- Biography

There is not a person in Central Massachusetts who has had a greater impact on the guitar playing community than Pete Clemente.The second son of Italian immigrants Matteo Clemente and Raffaela (Tomaiolo) Clemente, Peter Clemente was born on November 22 1914 on Lyon Street in the Italian district in Worcester, MA. From an early age he had musical influences. Many of his relatives played instruments for ethnic or religious gatherings.

Pete's elder brother Paul began banjo and guitar lessons with another member of the Italian community, Joe Toscano. Everything Paul learned during these lessons he shared with his younger brother Pete.

Later, Pete began a serious course of study on the guitar with Cosmo Lomatieri (known as Ned Cosmo), a well known Central MA musician who played with a "society band" called Ed Murphy and his Bohemians in the 1920's. Pete's father, Matteo, owned a small Italian restaurant called The Vesuvio
on Shrewsbury Street, in the Italian district in Worcester, MA. The restaurant had a juke box which contained the latest recordings of Louis Armstrong, Joe Oliver, Jellyroll Morton, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Bix Beiderbecke as well as other Dixieland style ensembles. These were, of course, mixed in with the Italian vocal recordings. The owner of the juke box showed Pete the location of a special switch which allowed for a song
to be played without having to place a coin into the machine. Pete
transcribed and memorized many jazz solos by Django Reinhardt and Eddie Lang,
two of his earliest influences, by repeatedly playing these newly released
recordings. Both Paul and Pete would entertain customers in the
restaurant, giving the two aspiring young musicians an outlet for their
music with the blessing of their father.

While elder brother Paul performed and traveled throughout the U.S., it
was fortunate for guitarists in Central MA that Pete made a decision early
in his career to stay local, and refused several offers to travel with
national ensembles of varying size. He was, however, able to share his
music with a very broad national audience. At age 16, he did a weekly
"spotlight" radio broadcast which was syndicated nationally via radio
station WNEB. He also accompanied vocalist Bill Keddy on a weekly WORC
radio program. Additionally, while still in high school, Pete played the
guitar seat in the Dol Brisette Orchestra's daily coast-to-coast NBC radio
broadcast. Even at this young age, he had the distinction of being
featured as a soloist or "get off man" with this ensemble, rather a rarity
for guitarists of this period, as this spot was usually reserved for horn
players. Since it was before the advent of the electric guitar, the sound
engineer would move the microphone close to his guitar, and Pete would
stand up to play, placing his foot on a chair. In 1936, Pete acquired the
first electric guitar in Central MA, an original Gibson Charlie Christian
model. In the 1930's and 1940's he easily became the most active and
sought after guitarist performing in Central MA with trios, quartets, pit
orchestras, and big bands including Freddie Mack, Don Dudley (Dud Goldman)
and Dol Brissette. A quintet which appeared regularly at the former
Coronado Hotel included Pete, Billy Robbins, trumpet; Ernie Metcalf,
piano; Ray Havey, sax, Joe Shapiro, drums, and vocalist Elaine Stahl. This
band often accompanied traveling acts from New York City. Some of the
other local establishments that featured Pete and his ensembles included
the Atlas Club, an active club during Prohibition, the Lido, the
Ratskeller in the Mayfair Hotel, Putnam and Thurston's and Eden Gardens.
Blessed with perfect pitch and an incredible aural memory, Pete was
admired for being able to play any tune, in any key, from memory. He
developed his own unique style of interpretation on the guitar, combining
reharmonization, flourishes and technical virtuosity.

Pete married Leona Sawyer in 1950. A wonderfully talented and well
trained coloratura, Leona enjoyed a long performance career of her own.
The two sometimes performed together. They could be heard performing
advertising jingles composed by Pete for local businesses and broadcast
over local radio stations.
Through the years, Pete Clemente also began developing his teaching practice.
Due to his ubiquitous presence throughout New England and technical
virtuosity, it was easy for him to attract students of all levels. Pete's
teaching career began at the Guido Forchielli studio on Front Street in
Worcester, MA. However, The 1960's brought increased interest in guitar
but a reduction in the
number of Big Bands and performance venues featuring the "Great American
Songbook", music which Pete loved to perform. Fueled by his passion and
enthusiasm for the guitar, Pete eventually fulfilled his desire to open an
establishment that focused solely on teaching guitar of all styles. As a
life-long full time musician, Pete turned his attention to developing his
teaching methods and increasing his stable of fine guitar teachers while
performing on weekends. He opened"Clemente Music Studio" in 1965 on
Franklin Street in Worcester and hired additional teachers (usually his
understudies). The Studio has relocated three times, but always remained
in Worcester (43 Granite Street, being its present location), and attracts
guitarists from throughout New England. The long list of teachers who have
taught at the Studio includes Vito Dipinto, Marshall Bercume, Frank
O'Connor, Randy Price, Jack Pezanelli, Joe D'Angelo, Rich Falco, Peter A.
Clemente, Jay Tyer, Bob Simonelli, Rick Cain, Doug Moore, Dan Hunt, Robin
Steiger, Paul Courshene, among others. There has always been a fierce
loyalty amongst Clemente Music students,
often performing together or "networking" nationally. Such is the
reputation of this longstanding institution that a mere mention of the
name indicates a student with serious musical intent. Pete remained an
active performer through the 1980's with steady performance
work at the El Morocco and other fine restaurants. Pete Clemente's
legacy as a world class guitarist and musician and his impact on the
Central MA guitar community is recognized in each new generation touched
by his generous years of dedication to teaching and love for the guitar.