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By Jake Palmateer
ONEONTA _ A local music legend whose career spanned more than eight decades died Saturday.
Al Gallodoro was 95.
The musician, who was a master of the clarinet and saxophone, was suffering from several ailments and had recently fallen ill, said his manager and keyboardist JoAnn Chmielowski on Sunday night.
“His greatest pride was having done every angle of the music business,” Chmielowski said.
Gallodoro was active in the local and regional music scene up until only a few weeks ago. His last performance was Sept. 20 at the Jazz Harvest Festival in Corning.
Gallodoro was scheduled to play at Justin’s in Albany on Oct. 18.
“His saying was, ‘Born with the horns. Die with the horns,’” Chmielowski said. “He did it right to the end.”
Gallodoro, who was driving around Oneonta until only a few months ago, was born in Chicago in 1913, the son of an immigrant Sicilian steel worker. At age 5, he picked up his father’s clarinet.
By the time he was 14, Gallodoro was on a path that took him to New Orleans and then to New York City, where he spent much of his career.
Along the way, he made a name for himself on the stage, in radio and in teaching music.
He joined the Paul Whiteman Band at the age of 23; played for the “Chesterfield Cigarette Hour” with Bing Crosby; performed the clarinet soundtrack for the movie “Rhapsody in Blue”; and was a member of the NBC Symphony under the leadership of Arturo Toscanini and Leopold Stowkowski; among many other accomplishments.
In 1981, after his wife died and after the music industry had greatly changed from the Big Band-era, Gallodoro moved to Franklin Mountain in Oneonta.
But he continued to play.
“It seemed the older he was getting, the more popular he was getting,” Chmielowski said.
Gallodoro played a unique blend of jazz and classical, Chmielowski said.
“Much of his fame was not as a commercial artist,” Chmielowski said. “He was a musician’s musician.
Gallodoro thrived in an era when music was performed live on stage or broadcast live into homes over the radio.
“His distinction is he did so many live performances and did everything to perfection,” Chmielowski said.
His last album, a 1969 live performance titled “A Moment in Time,” was released last spring and is now his swan song.
“I think he got out everything that he really wanted to in terms of his older recordings,” Chmielowski said.
In his later years, Gallodoro enjoyed playing live for audiences locally.
“He was able to keep going so long because he always had something to look forward to,” Chmielowski said. “He built himself up in this area.”
But his fans weren’t all locals.
National and international media have featured Gallodoro, and his music is popular with fans who live as far away as Uzbekistan, Japan, South Africa and Australia, Chmielowski said.
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