Jack DeSalvo began guitar lessons at age eight. By his early teens he was rehearsing and performing with local rock groups. The first transformation from interest in pop music to other forms occurred when he bought an LP based on its cover when he was 11. The record, already a classic by that time, was Fresh Cream. Hearing the track Sleepy Time Time inspired his early research into the Blues, including BB King’s Live at the Regal and recordings by Albert King and others. By 15 DeSalvo had picked up harmonica and mandolin and started to use a bottle-neck slide after seeing Johnny Winter and Duane Allman perform.
While trying to commandeer his teen-aged garage band’s repertoire to more blues oriented material, his friend Steve Aprahamian (now an eminent composer) played him Birds of Fire by the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This changed everything. Exposure followed to the music of Coltrane, Miles and early jazz. DeSalvo’s sketching and painting, which were the center of his activities from early childhood began taking a back seat to music, though he always felt they emanated from the same impulse.
Jack began studying classical guitar with his jazz teacher Al Faraldi. Al sent Jack to NYC to his teacher, Leonid Bolotine. A violinist with Toscanini’s NBC Orchestra, Bolotine had initiated the guitar department at Mannes College of Music and established the American Institute of the Guitar. At Bolotine’s urging, DeSalvo began to study theory and harmony and eventually composition with Ariada Mikéshina, who was formerly a student of Richard Strauss.