(Official disclaimer: neither All About Jazz nor this writer are associated with Tonic)
Correspondence with Joe Maneri was conducted via e-mail and fax during winter 2000-2001.
THE SERIAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOSEPH GABRIEL ESTHER MANERI (Part One)
1927 - 1937 "Early Memories"
I was born on February 9, 1927 in New York City. My parents, Toto and Nina, came to America from Sicily, Italy. I was an only child. We spoke Italian at home and I began to speak English in my first year of school.
We lived at 45 Melrose Street in Brooklyn, top floor, right. It was called a "cold water flat" type of apartment with railroad rooms.
Several times a month my parents would have a musical party at our "apartment". We had a typical quartet of clarinet, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. My dad played clarinet. I would sit as close as possible to the musicians. I became excited when I heard them tune-up; it took a long time. The first party that I remember was when I was three years old. These parties went on throughout most of my life there.
My father played the clarinet very well. My mother was a self-taught singer of opera and folk songs. She, as well as I, learned the operas and folk songs from the Italian radio station.
My mother and father were good storytellers. My father was exceptional as an improviser, creating comedy situations at social gatherings. He didn't tell jokes. He kept a "deadpan" look in his delivery. At times, my mother and father would spontaneously go into a duo presentation.
Whether we were shopping, at a funeral, a wedding, or involved in just our daily living, we were always "on stage".
Ethnic music exposure did not occur in my early years in Brooklyn. But I knew the kids on the block were a mixture of nationalities.
1938 - 1940 "The Teachers"
In 1938, at age eleven, a neighbor schoolteacher convinced my father to allow me to take music lessons.
I began by having a clarinet teacher (totaling three all together). All three became one great package.