Saturday, August 6, 2011

MYSTERY RECORD: "He Was a Guitar Player and Now Plays Machine Gun"

Despite the apparent frivolity of this image, "He Was a Guitar Player" is a somber, haunting song.
Oh, the things you can find on YouTube. Specifically I'm referring to a song called "He Was a Guitar Player and Now Plays Machine Gun," credited to Pompeo Stillo and the Companions. From the picture above, you might guess that this is some kind of cute Chipmunks-type novelty record, but it is actually a haunting folk ballad about the Vietnam War. Information about Pompeo Stillo is not easy to come by on the internet, and what's there is confusing. Although "He Was a Guitar Player" is in English, Pompeo himself seems to mainly perform in Italian. As recently as 2009, he released an album of Italian-language folk music on the Elca Sound label. That same year, he contributed to this album on the same label. I'm not sure when Pompeo recorded "Guitar Player," but it seems to be an earlier recording dating back to the late 1960s or early 1970s. Here's the one picture of that record I can find:
A 45 of Pompeo's song.

This photo actually shows the flip side, a song called "A Letter to My Mother from Vietnam." The label reads "Centaur Records," but I'm not sure if it's the Louisiana-based classical music label founded in 1976 or not. The label's current catalog features some world music, but nothing by Pompeo Stillo.

Pompeo does seem to have a home page, but it is in Italian. The Google translation reads as follows:
Welcome to the Home Page of Pompeo Stillo
Versatile artist, living in America for over thirty years where she operated a music store, records, CDs, videos and books exclusively Italian. It is of Calabrian origin and before emigrating was part of a famous Quintet Calabrese. For ten years he has also presented, for ten years directed the choir of St. Anthony, with whom he also recorded an album in the "Midnight Mass on Christmas" ('71). He composed much sacred music, including a "Mass for four voices" in Latin, two "Masses for three voices" in Italian, several of his successes in Calabrian dialect and language of which he wrote lyrics and music, interpreted by him, remember "Tenderness and distance" (presented at 1 Italian Song Festival in Boston), "wrote my mother," "The love of a mother", "Storm of the soul." Chosen by the "Folk Life of America", led for eleven years, the Italian folklore in the schools of Illinois. Lately, due to popular demand, several of his songs have been reworked and presented on the CD "The colors of my Calabria". Other CDs with his songs: "Pompeo Stillo - Nostalgia of the past" twenty-one songs in Italian, "The dance of Pompeo Stillo" (instrumental), "My songs Calabria" (in Calabrian dialect), and engraved on MC, "We vonnu lassi "(in Calabrian dialect) and" A strina Calabria "(Calabrian traditions). As a poet and writer, has published short stories and poems in the vernacular with the publisher Rubettino Calabria, while the Publisher Pellegrini has published his humorous tale in verse Calabrian "Jugal mparadisu". He has worked for various magazines and newspapers in Italian. He was assistant editor of the "Maroons Newsletter," sports newspaper in Chicago, '98 he published under the new name "Italy 2000" with 75% of the content in Italian (stories, poems, articles and various sports news).
Pompeo Stillo in December 2005 he published Montedit "The art of lying" - Lilies Collection (poetry) - 14x20, 5 - pp. 92 - Euro 8.50 - ISBN 88-6037-008-6
Pompeo Stillo on his home page (left) and 2009 album cover (right)
Interestingly, the home page includes a picture of Pompeo Stillo looking much older than he does on the cover of his 2009 album. So far, I have not been able to determine where Pompeo is actually from, how old he is, or when he might have recorded the "Guitar Player" song. "Guitar Player" does not seem to be available anywhere but this YouTube clip. The song was included on a 1999 Swedish compilation, but this seems to be long out of print. As for the fate of the Companions, I do not care to speculate.

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