24: Gene Santoro

We welcome noted author and journalist Gene Santoro for an extensive conversation about his long association with music both as a writer and performer. Gene is one of the lucky ones who roamed NYC’s music haunts in the 1960s and was able to see and hear first hand John Coltrane, The Blues Project, Dave Van Ronk, The Mothers of Invention, Tiny Tim and many others. Starting to write about music with Guitar World Magazine his articles have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Down Beat, Rolling Stone, The Nation and other periodicals. He is the author of “Myself When I Am Real” the definitive biography of Jazz Legend Charles Mingus and 2 collections of his music related articles “Dancing in Your Head” and “Highway 61 Revisited” for the Oxford University Press. The musicians he has interviewed are simply too numerous to mention. He doesn’t hold back in this podcast. It’s difficult to say what is more interesting, the people he has interviewed or his observations and opinions on American music and culture of the last 50 + years.


Gene wasn’t kidding when he talked about being at The Lone Star when Ronnie and Keith were there to see Irma Thomas. Here they are on another night after we had completed a photo and interview session with Lonnie Mack who was playing the Lone Star with Tim Drummond on bass. Who should join them but Ronnie and Keith?

Lonnie Mack and Keith
Lonnie Mack and Keith 2
Lonnie Mack-
Lonnie Mack c u

There are 2 books of collected articles that Gene has written. You will certainly enjoy both of them.



“Myself When I Am Real”,  Gene’s biography of Charles Mingus is considered definitive.


Gene interviewed and I photographed Keith Richards for the March 1986″Guitar World”. He could not have been more cooperative, a real pleasure to work with.

D-1740-Urns_Cast iron_-3

O K probably not their best LP but at least Gene got to Jam with them in the studio while they were recording it


Another great joint venture was the “Guitar World” interview with Buddy Guy. I always had an amp in the studio for these guys to plug into. Note lower right corner. He’s not faking it in this photo.

D-1740-Urns_Cast iron_-1

In this podcast Gene discusses a dream project we laid out “back in the day” of touring the classic Southern soul music recording studios and interviewing the musicians who worked in them. Unfortunately for us this trip never took place. To be honest we were both on fire having  just read Peter Guralnick’s amazing “Sweet Soul Music”.


Gene and I did attend a few shows in New York in the 80s to lay some ground work for our dream “Soul Guitar “project . Here are some shots for SOBs where Etta James was the headliner with support from Otis Clay backed by the fantastic Hi Rhythm Section.

Etta James SOBs 1986
Otis Clay NYC 1986

The Hi Rhythm Section L-R: Howard Grimes-drums, Charles Hodges Keys. Teenie Hodges Guitar and Leroy Hodges-Bass

Hi Rhythm Section NYC 1986

One thing for sure, Santoro’s got great taste. The other interview we did together was with the Meters great guitarist, Leo Nocentelli. This was at Tramps when it was on 21st St. Mr Nocentelli is the only guitarist who comes to mind that plays a Fender Starfire.

Leo Nocentelli NYC 1990

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