Perhaps best remembered for his 24-year stint with Rhode Island's internationally renowned jump blues band Roomful of Blues, Greg Piccolo has followed his muse since his teenage years.
He joined his first band, The Rejects, at age 13, singing and playing a little alto sax. It was while with this band, playing a date at the Westerly, Rhode Island YMCA, that he met Duke Robillard. It was one of the defining moments in his life. He joined Duke in The Variations, and Duke introduced him to the work of such musicians as Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. Greg was already familiar with their songs from the covers recorded by the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Animals, but until Duke played Greg the originals, he was unaware of the wellspring of the blues. Greg started to drink from the source.
After working with Duke in an early edition of Roomful of Blues, (a Roomful without horns – Greg played harp), he returned the following year with his tenor sax. He was nineteen, the year was 1970, and that was the time Greg notes, "I really started in on tenor sax. Duke made it happen; he was a strong musical leader."
Duke had heard Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson that summer at the Ann Arbor Blues festival, and had decided a horn band was the way to go. Rich Lataille (alto and tenor) joined Roomful the same time as Greg, and baritone player Doug James came on board the following year. The now legendary Roomful of Blues horn section was born.
From this point until his departure from Roomful in 1994, it is impossible to speak of Greg without mentioning Roomful and vice versa. During the seventies he took care of the band's booking and management, and when Duke left in 1979, he became bandleader, and for much of the time, the band's singer too.
Greg left Roomful in 1994 to follow his own particular musical vision. Greg Piccolo and Heavy Juice toured incessantly for the next five or six years, and cut two albums for Fantasy Records, "Acid Blue" (1995) and "Red Lights" (1997). The sound was more contemporary than his previous work and showed his willingness to experiment and to blaze new trails. Nevertheless, it was still music with a feeling. Both albums contained those Greg Piccolo staples that one had come to expect over the years. Finely crafted songs, tasty guitar, some raucous tenor, even a bit of alto, all heavily spiced throughout with soul and passion.
His tone, sound, and outlook are unchanged, although these days he finds himself playing more ballads than before. It is still the sound and the feeling that drive him. And when he says, "Swing is closest to my heart" one has to stand back and look at what this man has done over the last forty years. In company with his Roomful compatriots, Greg Piccolo is one of the guys that reintroduced swing to America in a popular sense. The swing revival of the nineties would never have happened without Roomful of Blues pointing the way during the seventies and eighties.
Over his long career, Greg has played with scores of the legendary heroes of American music, and although he will emphatically deny it, he now has his own place in that pantheon.