OUR ARTISTS

RUDY CIPOLLA
Rudy Cipolla had been listening to the mandolin since his childhood in Calabria, Italy. His family immigrated to Portland, Oregon when Rudy was just eight. His father was a barber and a tailor who played mandolin and guitar between customers. Rudy picked up the mandolin and taught himself to play by ear and by instinct as a child. By the time he was 12, he was accompanying his father at weddings and dances.

He worked in a machine shop, then briefly as an "office boy" for the Southern Pacific. By the time Rudy (and the century) reached their twenties, America had fallen in love with the mandolin. He joined "Rybkaís Orchestra," a semi-professional mandolin ensemble. After the groupís dissolution and Latin American music became the rage, he formed the "Argentine Trio," playing the mandocello.

Rudy moved to San Francisco in 1931 and began working at a North Beach speakeasy with the "Trio at the Bijou." Then in 1932, NBC radio hired Rudy as a band leader and arranger. The "Trio" disbanded by 1940, which left him "fed up" with the music business, so Rudy worked a number of odd jobs. When his brother moved to San Francisco in 1941, the Cipollas bought the "Book Nook" on Judah Street, in the cityís Sunset District, and moved into the rear apartment. It became Rudyís business, home, and music studio.

The "Book Nook" was a little-of-everything store. A dizzying cluster of candy, comics, girlie magazines and toys. Despite all this, business was less than brisk. The flip side of the slow business was that he had plenty of time for music, but Rudy was a late bloomer as a composer. Amazingly, Rudy came into his full creative powers at a time when most composers retire or slow down. In his later years, (from his sixties through his late eighties,) Rudy wrote a prodigious amount, often working until two or three in the morning.

Everything Rudy wrote was dedicated to a particular friend, an aspect of the composerís proverbial generosity. Many Bay Area musicians became great fans of his music. In 1956 he became the first mandolinist to perform Vivaldiís "Double Mandolin Concerto" with the San Francisco Symphony. In 1973, David Grisman befriended him and produced his first album, "The World of Rudy Cipolla" for Rounder Records. At the time of this ìfirst recording,î Rudy was a mere 83 years young! In 1985, with Rudy, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra performed his "LaChivetta" at San Franciscoís "Masonic Auditorium."

Rudy Cipolla passed away in January of 2000 at the age of 99. A tribute to him was held at Berkeleyís "Freight and Salvage," and featured a heartfelt gathering of his musical friends. David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Radim Zenkl, Bob Bruen, and a 14-piece ensemble performed his original music.