The following stories from the Uniontown Herald Standard recount the life and work of Jazztet drummer Guy Remonko.
Remonko still playing drums after 50 years
By Ron Paglia, For the Herald-Standard
April 28, 2008
It’s been more than 50 years since Guy Remonko played his first professional gig as a drummer.
And his passion for music shows no signs of waning.
“I love (music), it’s that plain and simple,” said Remonko, a 1959 graduate of South Union High School who now lives in Athens, Ohio. “Music has been my life; I doubt that will ever change. As long as I can hold the sticks and keep groovin’, I’ll be playing.”
That attitude has directed Remonko, who began his play-for-pay career as a rock ‘n’ roll drummer in the 1950s, through myriad genres of music over the years. He has carved a special niche as a musician, clinician and teacher.
His talents are featured with the Athens-based group Los Viejos Blanquitos on a self-titled compact disc on Brick City Records. It offers the infectious rhythms of Afro-Cuban (Latin) jazz with such songs as “Living La Vida Viejo” (written by Gribou), Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia, ” and the classic “Take Five” by Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck.
In addition to his work with Los Viejos Blanquitos, he also performs with numerous other groups, including the The Jazztet in Athens and the Dwight Lenox Orchestra. CD recordings by both groups feature him.
And if that’s not enough to keep him busy, Remonko, 66, also is an emeritus professor of percussion at Ohio University, where he taught for 28 years before retiring in 2000. He also is an affiliated studio instructor of percussion of Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and offers private lessons. As a drumset artist, he has performed with such well-known artists as Pearl Bailey, Diane Schuur, Eddie Daniels, Marvin Stamm, Gene Burtoncini and Bucky Pizzarelli. He also has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic and Montreal Symphony Orchestra and has appeared on National Public Radio and TV broadcasts.
In addition to serving on the faculty of the Summer Drumset Workshop at Ohio University since 1980, Remonko also has written articles for Modern Drummer, Percussive Notes and The Instrumental magazines.
He also serves as an artist/clinician for Yamaha Drums and the Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Co.
“It keeps me off the streets,” Remonko said, laughingly, of his agenda.
Guy and his wife, Janice Marilyn, have been married 43 years, and are the parents of two children, Paul A. Remonko of Columbus, Ohio, and Sara Remonko Reeves of Granville, Ohio. Remonko’s parents, Guy “Pete” Remonko and Julia Cappellini Remonko, are deceased. His aunt, Anne Eberly, is formerly of Hopwood and his uncle, Jerry Cappellini, lives in Masontown.
Guy and Marilyn, a native of Princeton, W.Va., met at West Virginia University, where she also was a music major. Remonko completed his master of music degree in percussion performance in 1966.
“(Marilyn) has always been very supportive of my work, of everything I do,” Remonko said. “She has encouraged me to pursue my dreams.”
Remonko doesn’t get back to the area as often as he would like to and he regrets he didn’t learn about former bandmate Tom George’s death until several months after the fact.
“John’s (Gallice) wife, Anna Mae, sent an e-mail telling me that Tom had passed away,” Remonko said. “I felt very bad about missing the funeral. I had heard (Tom) was back in the Uniontown area working as a single, playing piano and doing his comedy routines. He was a very talented entertainer and truly was the heart and soul of our group. I miss him and will always be grateful to have worked with him and, more important, call him a friend.”
Remonko did enjoy a reunion with another guy named Tom George, a musician and photograpaher in Uniontown who was a cousin of the late entertainer, in August 2005.
“Carl Micarelli, who owned a music store in Uniontown for many years and who was a mentor to so many musicians, died just before Christmas 2004,” Remonko recalled. “He was my first jazz idol and I, with permission from Carl’s family, thought it would be fitting to do something in his honor. Bob Thompson and his trio came in from Charleston, W.Va., and helped organize a memorial concert for Carl at the winery in Farmington. So many of the musicians who were influenced by Carl were there. It was a very moving experience.”
Remonko taught at Micarelli’s Modern Music store from 1960-67. He also recalled the men who taught him – Tobby Lyons, “my first teacher … took lessons from him at the Turntable Music store;” Phil Fainini and Dr. Frank Lorince.
Much of what Remonko took with him from those early years in Uniontown, the times with George, Micarelli and “so many others” remains in his heart and soul. It is evident in his intense affection for and commitment to music.
“I think of them often when I’m on stage, in the studio or teaching,” Remonko said. “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with outstanding musicians throughout my career. I’ll never forget any of them.”
Those who have benefitted from Guy Remonko’s presence will tell you the same thing about him.
Additional information about Guy Remonko is available by doing a Google search and also on these Web site: www.athensjazz-tet.com, www.dwightlenox.com, www.brickcity.records.com, and www.losviejosblanquitos.com.
Musician got start in local bands
By Ron Paglia, For the Herald-Standard
April 28, 2008
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Guy Remonko fondly remembers the beginning of his career as a rock ‘n’ roll musician.
“We had a group called the Meteors,” Remonko said. “Joe (Sangston) played guitar, I was on drums and the other guys were Marion Rozzo on piano and Mike Dorobish, who was our singer. Mike became a barber (Shear Designs). We entered a talent revue contest at the Uniontown High School auditorium for entertainers from Fayette County and won first place. We did the Buddy Holly tune, ‘Peggy Sue.’”
That was in 1957, and the experience led to a chance meeting with the late Thomas Charles George, who Remonko recalls as “an excellent pianist with a great voice.”
George, Remonko and Sang-ston eventually recruited John Gallice, a young saxophone player from Brownsville, to the fold to form the Tommy Charles Quartet. It also was known at times as the Tomme Charles Quartet. Remonko, Sangston, who lives in Cooksburg, and Gallice, a resident of Rockville, Md., have often given credit to Jerry Rehanek and Rich Cravotta as also being “instrumental, directly or indirectly,” in the formation of the quartet.
Remonko said George’s talents and leadership were the main reasons for the name of the group.
“We came to realize Tom’s expertise on vocals and the piano would enhance our opportunities to work,” he recalled. “And he was a great leader, so we changed our name and became the Tommy/Tomme Charles Quartet.”
Remonko’s professional music career began with an ethnic/polka band that also included Sangston, a clarinetist.
“I was only 14, and my father always drove me to our performances,” Remonko said. “We would listen to the (car) radio everywhere we went. One day, as I was turning the dial to hear what other stations were playing besides polkas, I came across something new, unusual music and a unique disc jockey. It was WAMO and Porky Chedwick. What an incredible experience. It opened my eyes and ears to rhythm and blues, something I still enjoy today.”
The Tommy Charles Quartet focused on more standard rock ‘n’ roll, however, and were successful throughout the area. They worked such venues as the Twin Coaches supper club, variety shows, post prom parties and record hops.
“We worked a lot with Leon Sykes in the Uniontown and Connellsville areas,” Remonko said. “Leon was a great guy, very supportive of local entertainers.”
They also performed at dances featuring such disc jockeys as Chedwick, Jay Michael, Barry Kaye, Rich Richards, Sheb Abi-Nader and Johnny McFadden, and were virtual regulars at the longstanding record hops at the Stockdale fire hall.
The quartet’s reputation as solid performers finally sent them on the road, with many of experiences still rooted firmly in Remonko’s memory bank.
“We were playing a motel lounge job in Flint, Mich., one Saturday night and were scheduled to perform in La Crosse, Wis., the next night,” he said. “The towns are not that far apart, at least not when you can get from one to the other by a ferry that crossed Lake Michigan between them. We were all set to go that way, but the booking agent failed to tell us you had to make reservations to use the ferry and it didn’t run on Sundays. We had to drive about 200 miles out of our way and just got to La Crosse in time for our show. We were lucky we didn’t get stopped for speeding.”
The group also played numerous dates at seashore venues in New Jersey and worked elsewhere with such artists as the DeJohn Sisters, the Platters, Buddy Knox, the Jay Price Revue, Neil Sedaka, the Crests, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Big Bopper, the Skyliners, Kenny Ambrose and Johnny October. Another memorable gig came at the Plaza Theater in Brownsville with Xavier Cugat and Abbe Lane in a benefit for youth baseball programs in Brownsville.
Remonko later was the percussionist with the Twin Coaches house band (1964-66) and the house drummer (1967-69).
Holding forth on the stage of the popular Rostraver Township supper club, he performed with such national stars as The Supremes, Jack Jones, Tony Randall, Pearl Bailey and Phyllis Diller.