Guitar Virtuoso Carmen Caramanica Passes Away at 77

Jazz guitar virtuoso, bandleader, composer, and teacher Carmen Caramanica died January 16, 2023; he was 77 years old. Carmen was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1945 and moved with his family to Utica, New York, at the age of seven. Carmen’s life took a dramatic turn when he was severely injured in a fall at the age of nine. His injuries kept him bedridden in Utica’s Children’s Hospital for several years. It was during that convalescence that he learned to play the ukulele and then the guitar while flat on his back. As luck would have it, one of the nurses on the ward was married to guitarist George Odell, leader of the Dell Trio. Odell stopped by to give Carmen lessons during his recovery. Carmen played at first in rock ’n’ roll combos with his high school classmates but soon evolved as a jazz musician, learning the chords and repertoire. His musicianship earned him a place as Lou Rawls’ music director, a position he held for four years. During that time he appeared on The Tonight Show and other television programs, and played the big rooms of Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. He also had to fire the brilliant, doomed bassist Jaco Pastorius for showboating during Rawls’ performances. Carmen spent another eight years as accompanist for Tony Orlando, who remained a lifelong friend. Finally, in 1985, he returned to Utica to be with his wife and daughter. There he built a ca
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