The Big Man of The Big Bands
Lew Picardi had just returned from his duties as a paratrooper in the Korean conflict and he started
to look into singing as a profession. He had entertained the enlisted men ever since that day they
told him, "You know what Sarge, you sing pretty good." So, he put together a band with six other
soldiers and they played from barracks to barracks, Picardi lead the band, sang and played a little
trumpet. A star was born.
Their group was pretty good. They were in constant demand at military posts and for a time they
were broadcast live over station WLAC in Nashville. One member, Sydney Kaufman went on to play
first violin with the Boston Philharmonic. As the war came to it's conclusion, the rhythms and
beats of the big band sound were now as firmly entrenched in his mind, as were the sounds of bombs
during combat action.
"I always sang as a kid in school and it was great that we had some special duty during the war
entertaining the boys," Picardi said, "The guys were always telling me how good I was and they
always wanted to play so much at one point I said to them, 'Boy,
you guys really don't want to jump, do you.' Those were the days."
Picardi returned to Maspeth after the war and started going into the city every night in search of
gigs. The city was the center for music especially big band music during this era, so Picardi found
a lot of work. his mellow, lilting voice led to recording for RCA Victor and Roulette Records. He
did the first recording of "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You." It wasn't a hit single for him
but later on a young fellow by the name of Dean Martin turned it into a big hit.
"I have built up quite a repertoire of songs from years of playing the clubs," Picardi said.
"Things are great now because seven years ago, I met Nat Morell and Lou Caputo and we decided to
start our own big band together and we've been playing ever since."
"Music is still my first love," Picardi said. "It gives me that wonderful feeling of knowing that
people are sitting there listening to you and enjoying this. The applause is still the climax."
The big band music suits his style perfectly but he is not against trying anything. Any kind of
music suits him just fine.
"I like any kind of music that is done well but I am a little partial to the big band music,"
Picardi said. "My voice just fits that sound and I love working with the guys. Teamwork and
momentum are the keys. You can never let your ego get in the way. You have to have self-confidence
to do this but more importantly, you have to be able to work with everyone."
Who knows, a few twists and turns and maybe Picardi could have wound up as a rock star. Years ago,
he played with a piano player named Victor Tylerico. Tylerico dragged him one night to see his son
play with his rock and roll band in some small bar. Picardi developed a friendship with the boy,
who taught his how to water-ski and sang him his unfinished compositions. That young man became
Steve Tyler, the lead singer and songwriter for Aerosmith.
"I knew Stevie when he was just a skinny kid," Picardi said. "He was a talented intelligent kid and
he's done alright, huh."
Posted October, 2005
©Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®