New Canaan father musically inspires son
John Pagliano Jr. was told he should give up.
A musician since he was a child, Pagliano, now 53, has played in bands all over Fairfield County. About 12 years ago, he decided he wanted to have his music published. The problem was, no one really wanted to listen.
"No one will play your music unless you are published, and no one will publish you until they hear you," he said.
That all changed for him this past July, when a small music publisher, Tate Music Group in Oklahoma, gave him the break he has always wanted. His new release, "Gone Away to Yesterday," is a compilation of 15 songs that he composed over a five-year period. The songs, all love songs and ballads, have been described as a mix between Sting, Yanni and even a little Celine Dion.
"It was a happy point in my life to know I was being recognized," he said. "A lot of people say they want to be rich and famous. I want some rich and famous person to take my stuff and say this would be good in a movie and run with it."
A mechanic by trade, the Norwalk native has never aspired to be a singer or a frontman. But after years of playing keyboards in bands and just plain being interested in music, he said he wanted to write music that other singers would want to pick up and make their own.
Perhaps more important to him is the ability to carry on the love of music that his father instilled in him as a child, a love of his father's that was cut short due to a freak accident.
It was 1937, and his father, a New Canaan native by the same name, had just brought home a shiny new trumpet. The 14-year-old had always been a fan of Harry James and many other big band horn players. His new trumpet was his ticket into the New Canaan High School marching band.
His brother, a music fan as well and member of the New Canaan Drum Corps, had heard about the purchase and rushed to their Grove Street home from his job at the Western Union to see the new trumpet.
As the two brothers passed each other on the stairs, a pencil that was sticking out of his brother's pocket entered Pagliano's ear and punctured the young musician's eardrum. At first, the injury knocked his equilibrium off and made him nauseous but shortly after, he learned he lost 85 percent of his hearing. Within time, he completely lost his hearing in that ear, as well as his chance of getting into the marching band. It was an accident that neither could have prevented, and the two brothers have come to terms with what happened, but the senior Pagliano, who was forced to wear a hearing aid for life, always hoped that his son would follow his love for music.
"He loves the music like I do and more so," said Pagliano, 86. "Once he got his own organ and started playing I knew he was playing from the heart."
His father moved his family to Norwalk years later. John Jr. grew up listening to the same music that his father loved, immersing himself in big band, jazz and whatever other music he could get his hands on. Eventually he enrolled in piano lessons, and finally picked up a trumpet and played in the jazz band at Norwalk High School.
"I was always skipping class and getting caught in the music room," he recalls. "All my friends were out playing ball and I was inside practicing."
That obsession with music is something that followed him into this adult life. When he wasn't at work as a maintenance mechanic at Pepperidge Farm, he was fiddling around with music. He played disco with a band called "Cannery Row" throughout the '80s, and went on to play keyboards with a local Norwalk band known as Cold Cellar.
It was 1995, when his close friend and the singer of that band, Amadie "Junior" Rivera, was killed in a motorcycle accident that he started to really dabble in composing music.
"He always said I should write -- that I had a real talent for arrangements," Pagliano said.
The title track of "Gone Away to Yesterday" is dedicated to Junior's memory. Other tracks on the CD include "Dear Sweetheart," an eerie yet sweet song that is actually a love note between a young girl who died before birth and her mother, who survived. Pagliano was thinking of his own brother who died in vitro when he wrote it. "Denise's Dream" is a harp and organ instrumental that he thinks would make a good fit on an episode of "CSI." The song "Soul Mate" is a made-for-a-wedding piece that talks about meeting one's life match, and "Little Green Men" is an up-tempo diddy that could be used as a children's song.
"My daughter would walk by and ask my wife `Why is daddy crying?' and she would say, `Oh that's just daddy writing,'" he said. "People today when they listen to music don't really understand. A real musician is trying to reach out to someone with his music."
Pagliano lives in Milford with his wife, Chris, and their two daughters, Jennifer and Lori. Appropriately, he has named his studio company JenLor Studios, and it is where he spends a lot of his time writing and recording. Recently laid off from Pepperidge Farm, he has found a lot of time to catch up on his music.
Now that he's published, his next goal is to get his music on to the radio waves as much as possible and to send his music to managers to get artists interested. He said he sent his CD to the manager of Sissel, the Swedish female artist who did the backing vocals for the "Titanic" soundtrack. He said she liked the music, but was just coming off a project and wanted to take a break.
"I'm getting a lot of interest from people who like my music," he said. "Someday it will be on someone's CD with my name on it. It's about being recognized when you write from the heart."