Say Uncle

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gino-uncleMy father had three brothers, the youngest of which was Saverio Vannelli. I don’t know how the pseudonym, Vic, came to be, but ever since I can remember, Saverio was ‘Uncle Vic’ to me.
There has never been a concert of mine in Montreal that Uncle Vic did not attend—going back to 1970, and all those speakeasy and underground club days. Uncle Vic was always there to offer a sliver of advice; never administering a slight knock without a little boost of confidence as balm for the wound.
Uncle Vic was usually the first to have the new Miles, or Coltrane or Sinatra or Stan Kenton album, red-hot off the shelf.
I could still see his smiles, winces and revelatory grimaces while listening. His facial reactions taught me much about what to listen for: vocal phrasing, taciturn licks, hidden grooves, great solos, poetic license that only the finely tuned ear could catch. And I did catch on after a while.
Now Uncle Vic, though a gentle soul he may be, was no pushover in his youth. When I was a boy my father once told me an interesting story that took place in 1960:
He and Uncle Vic had just left their barbershop on a dark winter’s night. They both carried a gunnysack full of money—pay for all the employee barbers, to be distributed the next day. My father noticed two tall shadows skulking not far behind and closing in fast on them. He worried about his younger brother. Dad was a Golden Gloves champ and knew how to use his fists very well, fearing practically no one or no thing, but trembled at the thought of his little brother getting hurt in the imminent fracas looming. My father whispered, “You take the smaller one, Vic.”
Suddenly, the two marauding thieves were upon the Vannelli brothers and the slugging began. My father easily dispatched one of them with a few swings; but where was Vic in the blackness of the night? My dad called out his name but only heard, “poof. . .paff. . .ahhh. . . tah. . .tah. . .huh. . .ahhhh, echoing in the deserted streets of downtown Montreal. He ran to Vic’s rescue, fearing the worst for his younger sibling who had been assaulted by the larger creep, only to see Vic, bloody-fisted, jaw still clenched, standing over his attacker like a victorious warrior, ready to strike one last blow if the assailant so much as twitched a finger.
So folks, if you ever see one of the sweetest men on the planet called, Uncle Vic, at one of my concerts, please approach with caution.
Thanks for everything, Uncle Vic; it was great to see you again in Montreal.
Your nephew,

11 Comments on “Say Uncle”

  1. He sounds really cool – The Straw that stirs the drink – Not many left but it is so nice to know they are out there sorry about the cliché

  2. Gino My wife Liane & I met you at a Meet & Greet at the Markham Theatre a couple of years ago & I told you that your Dad Russ cut my hair at the Roxy…I also had your uncles Vic & Michael cut my hair when your Dad wasn’t there.You also brought back memories about the Lanza Steak House..I also went out on the town and sometimes see/hear your Dad Ric
    Romano at the Top Hat…I did all the bars downtown and then end up at either Bens’,FDR for spaghetti or Lanza’s for a Rib Steak with a weiner on top…I don’t know why I didn’t end up with a heart attack…I also would go to Notre Dame Church at 3AM for the Taxi Drivers Mass..I was also confirmed there in my youth.but my Parish was St. Patricks’ where I was an alter boy right up to an usher in my teens…My first marriage was in their Chapel in 1966…Are there any of your Dad’s tracks on the Internet that I could hear. …I still keep in touch with Donald K Donald (Tarlton) but I haven’t seen him in a long time…His last e-mail to me said that he has backed off golf and is playing a lot of poker.I don’t know if he was joking or whatever.I didn’t follow it up…Good luck with your Toronto Show…Liane & I will be in Europe…& ” Thanks For The Memories ” as Bob Hope use to say…Regards to brother Ross..Mike & Liane…

  3. I have always considered Mr. V my uncle and we’re not even related. I grew up with both his sons G & S. Up till about a year ago I would drop in on Mr. V at his Jean Talon location. I was saddened to learn that the salon had closed. This I found out when showing up at the front door on one of my monthly visits. I really miss the great conversations we used to have about the “Good ‘Ol Days”. But, on most occasions the conversation would ultimately segway into his love and adoration for his nephew Gino. Now why wasn’t I blessed with an uncle like that. Oh, that’s right I did start off by saying that he always felt like Family to me. I suppose the only way that he and I are going to touch base again is to attend Gino’s next visit to Montreal. Uncle Vic is sure to be in attendance. A bientot mon oncle.

  4. I wanted to add something to my original post. Little things are coming back to me now.
    Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Uncle Vic will be able to relate. In fact, anyone who has had the pleasure (or not) of shaking Uncle Vic’s hand will certainly go away remembering that Incredible Grip and how sore your hand will be for the next 15 minutes or so. The man is so strong. When he takes your hand in his, you can feel the connection straight from his heart down thru your fingers. Such a powerful feeling. Have a great weekend all…

  5. Gino,
    I attended the April 18th,2015 show at the Rialto and it was great, as always. Fourth time in about 10 years I was seeing you live in concert !
    You’ve always been part of my life. I bought the « Love of my life » 45 RPM when it was released, more than 40 years ago, and I still have it.
    I had my hair cut at Roxy’s, from the mid-seventies to early eighties, where I would ask your uncles, including Vic, news about you !
    I bought the « Best of » vynil, after seeing the poster on the wall at Roxy’s.
    In the eighties and early nineties, I bought « Black Cars », « Big Dreamers Never Sleep », «Inconsolable Man » and « Live in Montreal » on 4 tracks cassettes. The later was and remains, arguably, one of the best ever live rock album of all time !!!
    In the nineties, I worked hard and raised a family, and lost track of you, until I found out later that you had been releasing two great jazz album. As a matter of fact, the touch of jazz in your music probably explains why I always enjoyed your music so much; and the jazzy keyboard solo in « Powerful People » remains one of the instrumental part in music I like the most ! Moreover, for one reason or another, « Powerful People » has always been part of those 5 or 6 songs I would listen to, when feeling down, to put a smile on my face.
    In the 2000s, I bought your Cds « These are the days » and « The Best And Beyond », in addition to buying on Itunes 4 or 5 of the tracks I like the most from « the Good Thing ».
    I’m 55 years old now. All that to say (and I could go on with more details), I’m wishing you will still be part of at least the next ten years of my life.
    Keep on singing, rocking, jazzing, PLEASE !

  6. Wow, now I see a clear resemblance to your Uncle Vic! Uncle Vic, a true Vannelli, just goes to show how the DNA trickles down.
    Saw you last year in Clearwater and look forward to your concert in Naples (Ft. Myers) in December!!

  7. Gino,
    Hope you, wingman brother Ross and the West Coast Band are all doing well. We had the pleasure of meeting your Uncle Vic at one of the shows in the Bears Den @ the Seneca Casino in Buffalo NY a few years ago. We spent some time talking just before the show. He is a very nice man, very engaging and warm. He made us feel like were old friends and asked us to look him up at the salon if we ever made it out to Montreal. Great story about your Dad and Uncle Vic. Our parents were from the same era as your family. Growing up for us in the 70’s and 80’s was a different time to experience life’s journeys than with some of the tuff times they endured. As you know it is a blessing in life to have a great family and TY for sharing some of your stories on your blog. Safe travels to You, Ross, and the band on your up and coming shows.
    Sam & Carole Tumminelli

  8. My wife and I were eating in the Vegas casino restaurant before one of the several shows we’ve had the pleasure of attending over the years, and we noticed the table attended by Gino’s family.
    We were leaving at the same time (cool), when Uncle Vic asked if we were going to the show. Long story short, we walked and talked with the family all the way to the concert venue. We got pictures with Gino’s Mom, Uncle Vic, and Ross. Uncle Vic was very sweet and talkative. What a Pleasure! I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Ross on a couple of occations and even talk security into letting me sneak into a sound check before a show. Ross is the best sound engineer I’ve ever seen(I’ve been in the business 42 yrs).
    P.S. Gino has been my favorite since the late 70’s!

  9. Gino, saw you at Valley Forge Casino on the 25th, probably for the 8th time. My wife couldn’t make it. She’s battling cancer. I have to tell you. You are her favorite beside Elvis. I am 68 and have been singing most of my life. I have to tell you your vocals are incredible. Your vocal gymnastics and superb tone are some of the best I have ever heard. You my friend should be a mega-star. Keep it going-follow your bliss. Check you out again when your back near Philly. bill

  10. This is one hell of a good looking man. Not surprised he whooped the hoodlums.
    Im so pleased he was such a part in teaching you musical decernment.
    Hey, could I get a gorgeous younger photo of him?
    To lust after?

  11. I had the pleasure to meet your Uncle Vic and he was such a sweet man and Your Biggest Fan..He was a true Gentleman like they don’t make them anymore …He will be missed at all your future but I am sure his Spirit will be Present because we all Loved and Admired his unwavering Pride that Gino Vannelli was his nephew ..He Loved and Admired you so much ….I Know he’s in Heaven with his Dear Brother and they are Both Watching over you with Your Mom at their side ……See You next time Gino!!!

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