I’ve just learned that on Thanksgiving, November 24, 2016, Louis Mastracci Jr, “Lou Tracey” passed away. I approached Lou about doing this little project in May of 2015 and he was kind enough to let me into his home to talk about his life and make some photographs. We also collaborated on a short recap of his life, which I have provided further down the page. Here are some things that we left out of that recap.
Lou was a deeply religious man and additionally was devoted to his sister Yolanda with whom he lived with for most of his life. Yolanda suffered from Alzheimers and passed away several years ago.
Lou’s “work shop” (several pictures are found in this project) was previously the kitchen of his and Yolanda’s home (he would often smile and shake his head saying that she would never have allowed this). He then moved the kitchen to the basement level of his home and this is where he ate, slept and lived.
Lou was born and raised in the Hill District, not far from the many jazz clubs of the era. He taught himself to read music during his choral classes in high school. His first song, “It’s Raining”, was written in 1951 and he couldn’t afford the ASCAP publishing fee in those days, but instead notarized it for $2.00.
In case you don’t eventually guess it, his biggest inspiration was Frank Sinatra, “a nice Italian boy”. I learned that Lou and his friends from the Pittsburgh Jazz Society would have a yearly party on Frank’s birthday. In fact Judy and I were invited by Lou’s nephew Fiore to attend one of these parties years ago long before we even knew Lou. Champagne, Sinatra pictures everywhere and Frank blasting away on the Stereo. FUN !
He fondly referred to ALL of our local vocalists as the “new kids on the block” and took great joy in mentoring them and offering (sometimes brutal) heartfelt honest advice.
At home a pot of coffee was constantly brewing and the television was tuned to either the Classic Movie Channel or (gasp!) Fox News. LOU turn that sh** off ! We laughed.
About this project, Lou was always concerned that some of his friends names would be left out, he didn’t want anyone to feel slighted. So if your name isn’t mentioned, believe that Lou felt bad about it.
As you know Lou did not drive (he told me he got a job parking car’s in the Hill and wrecked the first one, and never drove after that). Nevertheless he was religious about going to see Jazz 3-4 times a week and other than PAT transit, he couldn’t have done this without his great friends especially Woody and Michele and Fiore and Mary Ann.
MUSIC IS MY BEST FRIEND
This work is about Lou Tracey. A man who as he says, “has been in, out and around the Pittsburgh show business scene since he was fourteen years old”.
Lou grew up in the “Hill” district of Pittsburgh. Nearby were famous Jazz clubs like the Crawford Grill and the Horizon. This part of town was home to Jazz greats Art Blakey, Erroll Garner, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Stanley Turrentine, Mary Lou Williams among others and literary great August Wilson. One of his first jobs was as a “candy-butcher” in a burlesque house. No doubt this neighborhood and environment contributed greatly to what has gone on to be Lou’s lifelong love affair with the entertainment and the arts and music in particular.
Years of experience on film row for Columbia, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and RKO; Managing stores for National Record Mart; Box offices at the Nixon Theatre, Heinz Hall, Benedum and the Bynham; Dance instructor; Backstage assistant for Dane Clark in the Broadway play “A thousand clowns”. Lou made sure entertainment and the music industry was never far away. But what was most important to him and that to which he has devoted his entire life, the Art of Songwriter/Lyricist, began and in the spring of 1951 when he penned and published his first song, “Listen to the Rain”.
Since then he has contributed lyrics or music and lyrics to close to one hundred songs (**Next page: songs which have been recorded). He has collaborated with such talented composers and musicians as Joe Negri, David Budway, Loonis McGlohon, Billy VerPlank, Daniel May, Eric Susoeff and Tony DePaolis to name a but a few. His songs have been sung or both sung and recorded by Marlene VerPlank, Sandy Staley, Maureen Budway, Phil Manning, Dane Vanatter, Opie Bellas, Tania Grubbs, Kathy Connor, Etta Cox, Charlie Sanders, Donna Bailey, Lisa Hindmarsh, among many others. Not long ago Lou was honored with induction into the Pittsburgh Jazz Society Hall of Fame, the only non musician in its history ever to be awarded this honor.
Now in 2015, Lou hasn’t slowed down and is continuing his passion, writing songs to contribute to the world of music and the rich Pittsburgh Jazz legacy. In the past few years he has compiled and produced 3 CD’s of various artists recordings of his songs and at the present time is working on CD number 4. Despite the fact that he has never had an automobile, Lou can be found several times a week (as has been the case most of his adult life) at one of the local music venues enjoying and supporting the local scene and offering valuable advice and guidance to the artists here in the growing Pittsburgh Jazz Community (he freely acknowledges that he owes tremendous gratitude to his friends and relatives for helping him in this way). This gives credence to how much music and the people around it mean to him. If you are attending a jazz performance in Pittsburgh, look around, you just might find a guy wearing a button that says
“MUSIC IS MY BEST FRIEND”. His name is Lou Tracey.
Following are a few of the photographs. At the end of this page is a link to a pdf file with additional photographs.
Not long ago Lou was honored with induction into the Pittsburgh Jazz Society Hall of Fame, the only non musician to be awarded this honor.
Self taught to read and write music, in the spring of 1951 he penned and published his first song, “It’s Raining”.
His “pawnshop” typewriter continues to serve him well.
Numerous vocalists have recorded Lou’s songs over the years.
Among the many vocalists to befriend Lou and record his songs is the renowned Marlene VerPlanck.
Joe Negri, David Budway and Loonis McGlohon are a few of the famous musicians Lou has collaborated with.
At home, Lou surrounds himself with inspiration.
Lou wraps up his performance at a benefit concert at Duquesne University with Mike Tomaro and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.
Music is important to Lou, but family and friends still come first.
Follow this link for a pdf version http://dennispappalard.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Lou-Tracey-2016-v2.pdf
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