Sal Valentino
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Sal Valentino


Band Folk


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The best kept secret in music


"Come Out Tonight review"

In 1964, Sal Valentino, as frontman for the Beau
Brummels, became the first Yankto score a massive
hit after the Beatles broke, with the stunning
"laugh laugh," coincidentally (and accidentally)
launching folk/rock. For the past ten years, he's
kept a pretty low profile, mostly out of the music
biz except for a few reportedly fantastic occasional
appearances doing BBssongs. Years ago he met
and befriended Austin's Freddie Steady Krc (one
of Austin's busiest and most respected musicians).
Soa linle over a year ago, when Krcgot the
A&Rjob at Fat Pete Records, Valentino was the
first guy he called. This is the result, Valentino's
first new album in years (there's another new
one coming with Valentino's musical partner of
recent years, Johnny Blakeley),backed by an array
of Austin's best musicians. The album features
three new Valentino songs, two by Krc,two by
their late pal Jimmy Silva, and tunes by Keith
Sykes, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Webb, and a recent
Bill Lloyd/Peter Case song. Valentino's voice is
still in fine form, still one of the most distinctive
and evocativ.ein rock music. Myfave is the jangly
12-string coloured "Treasure of the Orient" (one
of Krc's contributions) - the song most reminiscent
of early Beau Brummels. Equally fine is
Lloyd/Case's "The longest Time" and Sykes' "The
.Devilin the Courtyard," while Valentino's "lookin'
for You" boasts the album's most rockin' vocal.
. The combination of Valentino's warm, wonderful
voice and some migtrtY fine songwritin' makes
fora memorablereturntoform. - Kent
- Pop Culture Press

"Decades in obscurity, Beau Brummels front man surfaces to remind us what the fuss was all about"

Sal Valentino was washed up. "No one called in a long time," he says. "No one knew where I was."
There were even reports of his death. "My mother laughs every time she hears that," the 63-year-old rock singer says. "I didn't call her, either."
As lead vocalist of the Beau Brummels, San Francisco's answer to the British Invasion, he sang the 1965 hit "Laugh Laugh." That record and the subsequent "Just a Little" were his high water marks on the charts, but the Brummels went on to record cult-classic albums such as "Triangle" and "Bradley's Barn," and Valentino's haunting vocals made him a famous talent in record industry circles. He sang the scratch vocals on the original recording of Randy Newman's self-titled premiere album in 1968, although Newman overdubbed his own vocals later.
More than just San Francisco's first rock star, Valentino could transform a song with the sound of his voice. That skill is evident on his new CD, the first solo album of his 45-year career. Valentino and his longtime collaborator John Blakeley struggled for nine years to release "Dreamin' Man," a masterpiece shot through with the sort of artistic confidence and depth of character that takes a lifetime to accumulate.
"He's like a Van Morrison," says Blakeley, a producer and arranger who played with Morrison in the '70s. Valentino's "got a personal musical style I've never heard anybody even come close to."
Blakeley lives in the San Francisco basement record studio where the album was recorded. When health problems led to a 1997 heart transplant, he rented out the upstairs and moved downstairs when he couldn't work. The studio control room window now looks into his living room, which is decorated in acoustic tile. The former vocal isolation booth now serves as his bedroom.
"We talked about it before the transplant," says Blakeley, who first worked with Valentino in 1969. Blakeley had been contributing to an album by singer-songwriter Ron Nagle on which Valentino sang some backup vocals. Blakeley and Valentino then found themselves playing side by side in a hippie troupe being filmed for a Warner Bros. movie called
"The Medicine Ball Caravan." Out of that dubious enterprise emerged a rock group called Stoneground with which Valentino and Blakeley made three albums before splitting to work local clubs in a band called Valentino. Blakeley quit that group to play guitar with Morrison.
Valentino moved back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco, finally resettling in town in the mid-'80s when his father grew ill with cancer. Valentino took over his father's job selling Racing Forms at Bay Meadows before moving south and taking a job as a parimutuel clerk for more than seven years. "I hated that job," he says. "You couldn't trust anybody on either side of the window or working alongside of you."
Born Salvatore Spampinato, Valentino grew up a prince of North Beach. His father, also raised in the neighborhood, played sandlot ball with the DiMaggio boys. Yellowed photos still hang in Gino and Carlo's on Green Street of the fighters Sal's father handled in the '50s. He gave Sal the Valentino name, in fact, from one of his favorite fighters.
As a young man he had matinee idol looks, and Valentino has managed to age gracefully. He carries himself with the stately elegance of an Italian count and still speaks with a soft, musical voice. He never had the warrior's zeal necessary to thrive in the music business and admits he lacked ambition. His big score after the Brummels was a $5,000 finder's fee for bringing Ricki Lee Jones to Warner Bros. Records.
When he met Catherine Kopinski almost 12 years ago, he was splitting his time between his mother's place in the Central Valley, staying in Reno with some musicians who formed a Beau Brummels tribute band and living in a tiny apartment in Sacramento above a restaurant. That's where he met the eighth-grade teacher from Detroit with two grown sons. They were married within months. Her medical insurance finally allowed him to replace his missing front teeth.
"I love her," he mutters happily to no one in particular, as he answers a cell phone call from his wife.
The material for "Dreamin' Man" goes back years. Valentino tried out some of the songs in Blakeley's studio almost 20 years ago. Valentino once offered the ebullient "Love Song" to Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers. "Phil loved it," Valentino says. "But I never could write a lyric for the chorus." On "Dreamin' Man," he simply hums where the chorus might go.
The record was pieced together in between hospital stays as Blakeley went through a nightmare recuperation from his transplant operation. He developed lymphoma so advanced his neck was swollen like a bullfrog.
The drugs that cleaned out that cancer also wiped out his immune system. Three days after returning home, he turned around and went back to the hospital, staying for 58 days. The slightest infection could ravage him. He spent months suffering from a biblical inf - Joel Selvin, Chronicle


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Currently at a loss for words...