Rudolph “Chip” Damiani, pictured, passed up a chance to tour with the Beatles—then kept the beat going for more than four more decades in the New Haven area. The drummer died last week at the age of 68; a fellow local musician, Steve Mednick, penned the following tribute.
I go back a long way with Chip. In fact, I never realized how far.
We were a couple of Waterbury boys who fell in love with women from New Haven. Both of them had the bad judgment to ask us to stay. We did.
Over the years our relationship grew, through my political activities with Maria; and Westville baseball, where Chip coached my son, Alex, and his son, Michael (with the able assist of his older son, Chris). My daughter Lauren talks about how gentle and considerate he was on his many visits to the house; particularly, when she was stranded during the blizzard of 2013. To my wife, Marlene, he has been a brother confessor and confidante during her bouts with health issues. He never rang the door bell at the Mednick household ... His distinctive knock was the percussive rhythmic tap of his fingers on the door. On his frequent visits he grumbled and warned us of the dangers of the trees on our lot or the exotic configuration of our roofing system (he was a roofer); needled me about the Red Sox (he was a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee fan). Oor we would vent about the broken political system in our country; smoke a good cigar; and, gossip about everyone we knew, like two yentas on the boardwalk. He oozed with love for his sons, daughter, Robin, and grandchildren. He was exuberant without bluster, vibrant but not outlandish and intense, very intense. There was no light talk. He was a force of nature.
In the end our lasting bond was music. I knew that Chip was in The Remains, the band that opened the Beatles’ 1966 tour, had a recording contract with Epic records and performed on Ed Sullivan, Hullabaloo and Shindig. Curiously, Chip left the band prior to the Beatles tour, believing that it was not a good business move. He was afraid of getting caught up in the screaming and frenzy, leaving the band out in the cold during their own summer of opportunity.
Well, he didn’t tour, and The Remains broke up after the tour. He was right. Nonetheless, Chip was one of the few musicians who actually touched the gold ring.
As I started to play and write music ten years ago our paths crossed when Chip (and bassist Mike Daugherty) joined Tony Casagrande and me in the first performance of our band, Hard Road, at Bunker Hill Park in our hometown. It was the start of a great ride. For the next five years Chip, Tony and I were the nucleus of the band. While there have been personnel changes over the years, he was our steady heartbeat and soul. He was the king of cool and a poet on the skins who kept a steady rhythm and held us in check.
Chip taught me to listen to the cadence, inflection and pulse of a song. He was a relentless drummer who constantly pushed us and never failed to tell us when our harmonies were off or when a song didn’t work. He played on my CD Immigrants…and Other Americans, and I will always listen to those tracks with enormous pleasure and gratitude. He was a great audience for any new song I was writing. He taught by force of personality and all of us in Hard Road learned from him.
Tony, Joey Sciortino, Arthur Bargar, Annie Wilson, Rose Lion, Virginia Griffen and I will miss our Wednesday night exercises and gigs with Chip. Chip Damiani will be part of my spirit forever…