Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
A down-to-earth guy with lifelong wanderlust and more than a few stories to tell, Gary Allegretto’s resume reads like a men's adventure wish-list: back-country forest ranger, forest firefighter on a "Hotshot" crew, LA city firefighter, "bouncer” in a couple rough honky-tonks and a Blues bar, cowboy and ranch hand, beach lifeguard, white-water rafting guide… and traveling Bluesman. He's a summa cum laude college graduate whose university recognizes him as an "Alumni of Distinction". He’s also the founding director of Harmonikids, an organization that gives music therapy with harmonicas to special needs kids worldwide. Through it all, Gary can barely remember a time when Blues weren't a powerful part of his life, and playing harmonica wasn't as natural as his own voice. He started playing upon receiving his first harp at age 5 from his woodsman grandfather. Soon after, while attending a cultural festival he carelessly wandered away from his family following an irresistible sound ... a Big Walter Horton performance. As the loudspeakers blared something about a lost child, he knew he’d found his calling… and he followed.
Down the road, Allegretto's performances have captivated audiences from the stages of venues and festivals worldwide and his recordings have received multiple Grammy Award nomination considerations. His music has topped the Blues and Roots radio charts internationally. He is the 2011 recipient of the Blues Foundation's prestigious "Keeping the Blues Alive" award. He's been praised in the pages of prominent Blues press including Blues Revue, Blueswax, Living Blues, Big City Blues, Blues Matters, and more. Critics have called his musicianship "world class", "masterful", 'jaw-dropping", and "exemplary". His songs can be found on film and television productions including the soundtracks of Johnny Depp's film "Rum Diary" and the national PBS television program "Roadtrip Nation". Gary is prominently featured in the KBA award winning harmonica documentary film "Pocket Full Of Soul". He has performed nationally & internationally both backed by his all-star electric band and/or acoustically. His performances never fail to catch the intrigue of his audiences, often including prominent musicians and occasional celebrities. For over 15 years Hohner, the world’s top harmonica manufacturer, has enthusiastically endorsed Allegretto.
Allegretto is also a renowned Blues educator and recipient of the Blues Foundation's prestigious 2011 KBA Award in education. Acclaimed for his versatile technique, he has taught harmonica in many celebrated workshops including the Augusta Heritage Center's Blues Week, Telluride Blues Camp, Riverfront Blues Festival, California Traditional Music Society's Folk Festival, & John Gindick's Harmonica Jam Camp, the Folk Alliance Conference and Stax Music Academy in Memphis. He is supported as a Blues educator by the Blues Foundation's "Blues in The Schools" program, and was invited to teach students in Memphis area schools as part of the 2008 International Blues Challenge. In addition to his captivating performances, Allegretto offers concert promoters the unique option and opportunity to provide entertaining harmonica workshops at their venues. Gary's workshops include new harmonicas & lessons for folks of all ages and ability levels ~ a rare opportunity to learn from a professional.
Of special note, Gary is the founder and director of Harmonikids (see www.harmonikids.org) which is a 501(c)3 non profit charitable organization that provides music therapy with harmonicas and lessons to special needs children internationally. His work has earned him the aforementioned 2011 KBA award and 2010 Artists for a Better World award. Allegretto has provided aid to special needs children from the earthquake devastated Port Au Prince, Haiti, to the tsunami refugee camps of North Sumatra, Indonesia to the Katrina evacuee trailer villages of Louisiana and many points in between. Harmonikids has received widespread acclaim in the media including The Today Show, Blues Revue, and Living Blues Magazines. For more information about his unique humanitarian work please visit www.harmonikids.org.
Gary's recordings have received rave reviews, topped the Living Blues and Roots Music radio charts and received multiple Grammy Award nomination considerations including Best Contemporary Blues album. His song "Four Day's Late" recently won first place in Alternate Root Magazine's "Songs for Social Change" contest by a landslide. On his CD "Many Shades of Blue", Gary was enthusiastically joined on the CD by friends and prominent artists including Ivan Neville, Janiva Magness, and Doug Macleod. On a personal note, the CD also proudly features duets of Gary with his dear friend; the great National Heritage Award winning Bluesman, John Cephas. Sadly, they are among John's last recordings.
Allegretto has also recorded with others, notably 2005 Grammy Life-time Achievement Award winner and Blues legend Pinetop Perkins on Rich Del Grosso's Blues Music Award nominated CD release. At the conclusion of their CD release gig performance Pinetop gave Gary the ultimate personal endorsement exclaiming that he "can really blow that harp!” and then as he left the stage he turned and deliberately pointed directly to Gary saying "You keep the business going." In Gary's words, "This was from an idol of mine, a legendary man who played with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and many other ultimate legends of the Blues. My heart stopped and I just said...'yes sir', realizing that this was not just another reason to keep playing the music I love and continue the work of "Keeping the Blues Alive" ~ this was direct orders from the last of the great Mississippi Bluesmen.