Andy "Dio" DioTaiuto
Andy "Dio" Diotaiuto-New Haven Singer & Musician--Nov. 11 1940 Aug.9 2012
By Leo Boogie
"Come on kid, lets have a smoke, tell me what’s goin’ on, come on."
As a full time musician all my life I have met "all kinds," but Andy Dio was "one of a kind" as he backed up everything he said and was humble about it.
It’s the dream of all singers & musicians to perform and become well known. Most don't have the luck or talent, but in the case of Andy Dio, both were there at the right time.
I met Andy Dio in his gigs as a DJ at the popular Branford, Ct restaurant, La Luna. He was working there twice a month. I was playing torch songs in the dining room. He'd come next to the piano & make comments that were amusing & showed a sense of musical knowledge that most DJs don't have. It struck me as unusual.
As time went on over the course of 5 years, I would have a smoke with him on break and we'd talk about, what else, music & the music business. I told him my experiences & he seemed a bit reluctant to discuss himself. After many "smokes" I learned what I am about to share with you, the reader.
The year was 1961. Artists like Dion, The Shirelles, Del Shannon, Ike & Tina Turner, The Marcels, etc. were on the charts, and a local New Haven kid had a "#1 song in New Haven." Yes, in those distant days, if you were a young guy and had ambition, "knew someone" and had a good sounding product, you could actually go to your local station and they would give you a shot.
Andy Dios' song, "Rough & Bold," was well received in his home town, but, as he told me, "I couldn't crack New York. I got a little in Hartford." Andy recorded his local hit in NYC with studio musicians. It was a Rockabilly / R&B song with bawling sax & tough guitar. Many more songs would emerge; "Satellite," "Bonnie Jean," "Sorrento," "Daisy Belle," et al.
But, as great as the music was, he was young and the competition was huge, just like today for a young artist.
Andy Dio was not only a writer and a singer, but an accomplished trumpet player, who read music and played with the fat juicy tone that is still popular in modern music from Mexico and Cuba. When his try in the NY studios ran out, he decided to go to University of Miami as a music major. After he finished his degree, he "hooked up with Wayne Cochran", also known as the " White James Brown." Cochran led a wild club band / show that was booked heavily up and down the east coast from Miami to Boston. He also appeared on Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas Shows. In a time period when there were few shows and only 3 networks, according to Andy, "They could never break Cochran on radio. He was an explosive live act that was too hard to transpose into recordings."
This was a pretty good life for a young musician but there was more to come.
One evening when Andy was "off the road with Wayne and playing in a smoky dive in Miami," he was approached by, his quote, " that guy you hear about with the big cigar." He told Andy he liked his tone and playing and asked him only if he was "interested in working with some important people in NYC." Of course, after some investigating, Andy took the offer.
The man was an aid to Bob Crewe, one of the top music producers of the time. Among other acts, Crewe produced many hits for the 4 Seasons (Crewe is portrayed in the Show "Jersey Boys"). Crewe had just signed a new girl group called "The Toys," and had a song in the can for them called "A Lovers Concerto." At the recording session where it was recorded, the trumpet solo on the #2 Billboard hit was played by Andy Dio. Heard nationwide, Andy then went on the road with The Toys with all the excitement that came with it. That was in 1965.
I once emailed Barbara Harris, the lead singer of The Toys, when Andy was relating his career to me, to see if he was real, as I have met all types of people who "embellish" their lives. Not only did she reply to me, she asked me to please have Andy contact her. She stated in her email, "Andy was a beautiful man, wonderful, everyone liked him, a real sweet heart!" I did relay the message to Andy but did not ask him about any more, as I considered that private.
To play on a #2 billboard hit and tour with the group would be a dream for any local musician, but there was more to come for Andy Dio.
In 1967 Bob Crewe released "Music to Watch Girls By," a #15 charting hit on Billboard, and, yes, that’s right, Andy Dio was the on the trumpet and the charts again.
But there was more to come…
Bob Crewe signed a new group and renamed it "Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels." They became a huge hit nationwide and, once more, Andy Dio was recording and touring with a huge national act in their heyday.
"I met them all! James Brown, Ike & Tina, The Buckinghams! They all came to see Mitch. We had one of the hottest shows in the nation!"
Talking music with Andy was very intimate and respectful. There was never a trace of overbearing or superiority.
"I was a side man, not the signed artist, but I made great $$ for those days and saw the world from great places. I was so lucky."
One day, before his DJ shift at La Luna, he said, "Come on kid, I got something for you." He showed me dozens of great B&W shots of him playing with all the greats he toured with, and more. In those days the horn section was usually standing on small podiums or cones, and they showed Andy in his prime, dressed to the nines and at the top of his game.
I would ask him if he missed the "life." He would look into himself and say, "yes, but the past is the past, you can't go back." I asked him if he would ever play the trumpet again and he said "no, I'm happy where I am." I asked him about being a DJ in Ct Clubs as opposed to what he had done. He said, "It gives me the chance to get out at night and be a part of it again, even though it’s far from those days."
Andy did not own a computer. After many conversations, I googled him to check him out. Lots of interesting things came back. His song, "Rough & Bold," was now a collector song in many international Rock & Rock-a-billy circles, being sold in its original 45 rpm vinyl and also on CD, even on International CD compilations! When I told Andy this, he said, "Ha! I'm not making a dime, but I don't care." He smiled and had a far-away look in his eyes and said, "they're keeping the music alive, thats all I care about."
One day Andy told me as we took a break, "Some of the old guys from the Wayne Cochran days called me. They want to put something together." After a couple of weeks, I asked him about it. He said, "What are a bunch of old guys gonna do?? Relive our past?? What will we sound like? Rusty?? Who would come see us?? How much $$ will it make? Nah, the past is best left in the past."
One day I was on the beach and "Rough & Bold" came over my radio from WLNG 92.1 FM, Sag Harbor, LI.
I called Andy and told him. He just said, "That’s great kid." I thought I heard a twinge of emotion in his voice.
There have been many musicians and singers from New Haven who are remembered in press and music. In the music business, yesterday is mostly forgotten, but young singers and musicians still have the same spirit as Andy Dio did back in 1961, before The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Brit Invasion, and all that came after.
Andy Dio is now musical history, but his music lives on, online and on oldies radio as Andy would say to me, "You can't kill a good song the people like."
Sometimes, after my shift in the lounge, when Andy would come on as a DJ, I'd request "Music to Watch Girls By." As the lush tones of the horns and strings would envelope the lounge, I'd look at Andy and imagine 1967 and hear Andy in my mind saying, "I'm glad I was there when there were strings-horns arrangements. It was all real."
"Come on, let’s have a smoke. Tell me what’s goin’ on with you kid."
There is a small tribute to Andy Dio on youtube.
Leo Boogie can be seen & heard on youtube.com with his group The Romeo Kings.
He also performs each wed @ Luigis Restaurant in Old Saybrook, Ct. and each Fri and Sat @ La Luna Rest. in Branford, Ct
Contact Leo Boogie @ Kingleoromeo4@aol.com