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Salvatore Massaro AKA Eddie Lang
Posted by: David Aragon Date: September 20, 2001 at 15:24:08
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I'm a jazz guitarist and my all time favorite guitarist and who most inspires me is Eddie Lang. Eddie Lang was born Salvatore Massaro, Oct. 25, 1902, in Philadelphia, the tenth and youngest child of Dominic and Carmela Massaro who had come to America from Italy some years earlier. Dominic Massaro was a guitarist and maker of mandolins and guitars in their home near Naples. He taught his children to play those instruments, and while Eddie was a small boy Mr. Massaro made a little guitar with frets that his small fingers could reach. Eddie adopted his name from a local basketball star. Eddie is (in my opinion and a few notable jazz guitar aficionados) the unsung hero of the jazz guitar. Before Eddie there was no jazz guitar, there was only banjo players in jazz orchestras. Eddie also played banjo and progressively began to showcase the guitar as a viable instrument in the sound of the jazz orchestra as opposed to the banjo thereby replacing the banjo with guitar as the main stringed rythym instrument. Every other guitar player at the time took their lead and inspiration from what Eddie was doing and this at a time when jazz was in its early beginnings, the mid 20's. His longtime duo partner was violinist Joe Venuti, also considered to be the 1st jazz violinist. The guitar/violin duo of Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti was an incredible display of creative geniuses. Their music was the direct inspiration for the french duo Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grapelli who actually didn't establish their musical identity until more than a decade later, all of which was just a similar sounding act. My personal opinion is (just my opinion now) that Django was trying to sound like Eddie and came the closest to it but was also able to capitalize on it because Eddie had died.
Throughout his short recording career, early 20's to March 1933 Eddie can be heard with almost all of the major recording stars and artist of the time. Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Bessie Smith to name just a few. Eddie became Bing Crosby's accompanist and sat beside him whenever he played. He is seen with Bing in the movie "The Big Broadcast, 1932". He was to do six more films with Bing and the next one coming up Bing was wanting Eddie to have a speaking part. Eddie's tonsils were in need of removal so it was decided to have it done well before the start of filming. Unfortunately something went wrong and due to complications after the tonsilectomy Eddie died. It is said he bled to death. At the time of his death he was the most in demand and highest paid studio musician in America. Eddie was not known to be a smoker, drinker or drug addict but to be a happily married man. He died on March 26,1933.
I went to the website www.findagrave.com and in their famous people category of musicians and composers Eddie nor his partner Joe Venuti are listed. Yet that other duo is. I've been searching and have been coming up empty for Eddie and Joe Venuti (Venuti's name is Giuseppe Venuti born Sept. 1, 1903 while parents were sailing en route to America). I don't know exactly where Eddie died and I don't know when and where Joe died. I've searched both names of Eddie Lang and Salvatore Massaro. Eddies wife is Kitty and I heard from someone that she lived in the Reno NV area. Also one of his brothers name is Thomas.
I'd like to pay respects to this wonderful and great musician that time and history seems to have forgotten. I'd like to know where he is buried, if he had any surviving children, if his widow remarried and had any children. I would also like to add him and his partner Joe Venuti to the Find A Grave website category of musicians. If anybody could give me any info I would greatly appreciate it.
To all of those with the Massaro name you are a proud family to know that you have among you a truly great musician where all who continue to follow in his footsteps will stand forever in his giant shadow.


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