Tribute (1946-2005)

Canadian Guitarist Domenic Troiano Dies At 59
Canadian Hall of Famer's career spanned 40 years.

By Billboard Staff

Canadian guitarist Domenic Troiano died last night (May 25) at his home in Toronto after a long fight with cancer. He was 59.
Born in Mondugno, Italy, Troiano was a force in Canadian music for 40 years. He came to prominence with Toronto-based Robbie Lane and the Disciples which backed up Arkansas rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins in the early '60s.
He later performed as guitarist with the Five Rogues, the Mandala, Bush, the James Gang (replacing Joe Walsh) and the Guess Who, as well as his own Domenic Troiano Band. He also handled music supervision for films and TV in the past two decades, including the CBS series Night Heat, Diamonds and Hot Shots among many others.
In demand for session work in Toronto and Los Angeles in the '80s, Troiano appeared on recordings by Steely Dan, Diana Ross, Joe Cocker and David Clayton-Thomas. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

Donald Fagen, 2005:

"I was sad to hear that Domenic Troiano lost out to cancer the other day. Dom was a touring mate of ours in the mid '70s when he was with the James Gang. Walter and I used to stand in the wings after our set and watch as he played the long, psychedelic solos required of him. It was the sort of gig where he'd end up under a followspot on his knees sending these sustained, creamy lines heavenward, or at least out into the crowd of worshipful, wine and quaalude-addled young men. Nevertheless, Dom always added a very personal elegance to everything he played.

We'd met him before, in the late sixties in New York when we were doing session work for Gary Katz. He had just done a couple years with a popular "blue-eyed" soul unit, Mandala. We were both knocked out by his beautiful technique and the energy he brought to the session. He could do it all - startling licks, clear octave lines, driving rhythm parts - whatever the party called for. Everyone wanted to play with Dom. When we were starting up Steely Dan, he was one of the first guys we called. Dom said, thanks, but he was just too busy."

Bob Ezrin, 2005:

"Domenic's contribution to Canadian music is unmeasurable. He is one of the finest instrumentalists that Canada has ever produced. He has had an influence on every kid who picked up a guitar in Canada since he started playing."

Randy Bachman, 2005:

"I'm sure the heavenly jam sessions with Lenny Breau and Jimi Hendrix are taken to a new level, now that Dom has arrived."

Alex Lifeson, 2013:

"On June 30, 1967, I saw the Mandala at the North York Centennial Arena. At the side of the stage Donny gave me his autograph and his Mandala button. He told me how important it was to keep practicing and if I worked hard, I might get the chance to stand on stage and play for people some day. I was beaming. He was my first real inspiration and to this day I have a deep love and admiration for a man who truly knew the meaning of soul. I am proud to be a humble part of his enduring influence."

I discovered the music of Domenic Troiano around 1994 when I was in high school. I was always a fan of older rock from the '70s and '80s, and I got into the James Gang after my dad told me about how good James Gang Rides Again was. I bought the Walsh albums first, and a little bit later, I found out about all the other incarnations of the band. Passin' Thru by the James Gang was my first exposure to Troiano. I found the CD at a small independent shop in Toledo. When I brought the CD to the counter, the clerk hesitated for a moment and asked me, "Is this for you?" I said, "Yeah," thinking nothing of it.

I remember being drawn to the Kenner-Troiano "sound" but unsure why. Maybe because it was just so different than the Walsh sound. I thought songs like "Out of Control" and "Had Enough" were as good as pop-rock gets, and this excited me, considering I had never heard of this guitarist before. One of my favorite guitarists from Fleetwood Mac was Bob Welch, a musician who brought a jazzy, R&B influence to a rock context. Domenic did something similar with the James Gang. I can't remember whether or not Domenic was the link to my interest in the Guess Who, but I became interested in them not long after the James Gang. I thought that the Guess Who albums that Domenic played on were good, but I always thought more of the Troiano-era James Gang albums, partly they were my first exposure to this incredible musician.

Eventually, I did some research and found that Domenic had released several solo albums in the '70s. In small-town northwest Ohio in the mid '90s, these albums were very hard to find. Finding albums online was not yet easily accomplished, and none of the local record shops had any of the solo albums. I'd been to a few record shows but had never come across a Troiano album. At that point, I thought I might never track any of them down. I wasn't even aware of Mandala or Bush at this stage in the game. Despite this dire hopelessness, I experienced Domenic's work in a different way, through a TV show called "Juvenile Justice" that I regularly watched. After paying attention to the end credits, I discovered that Domenic had composed the music for the show. Walsh never did TV music. This Troiano guy was different, and I liked that.

A couple years later, during my first college semester, I was introduced to BGSU's music library, home to a huge collection of recordings and resources. This was like heaven. I quickly found out that they had 3 Troiano LPs catalogued in the collection: Domenic Troiano, Tricky, and Burnin' at the Stake. Since records didn't circulate, I listened to them there. This rekindled my quest to track down all of Troiano's albums. Over the next year, with the help of record shop owners listing their sale items online, I tracked down all of Domenic's albums, one by one. The Joke's on Me quickly became my favorite.

During a trip to Canada in 1998, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a copy of Bush on CD. Finding items like this always re-sparked my interest in finding some more Troiano recordings. The internet helped a great deal in learning about Domenic and finding other people who enjoyed his music. In late '98, I must have done a search on "Domenic Troiano" and found the personal site of a fellow who claimed to have been a roadie for Domenic in the old days. I e-mailed him and told him what a big Troiano fan I was. He said that he would pass my message onto Domenic. I thought: sure. A year passes, and in my e-mail appeared a message from Domenic saying thank you for the note. I was in awe!

Around this time, I learned how to put a simple web site together. I thought I'd put something together dedicated to Domenic and his music. It had an ugly green background and featured poorly scanned images of album covers. I wrote some reviews and conveyed my interest and enthusiasm for Troiano's work, despite the fact that it had very little in common with the punk rock music I was into at the time. Although I discovered many new artists and went through a variety of music phases, my love for Domenic's music never disappeared.

Domenic and I spoke on the phone and e-mailed back and forth occasionally for a couple years. He was always amazed at the stuff I would dig up about his career. In the fall semester of 2001, I wrote a lengthy biography on him for a class. He was very impressed when I sent him a copy. He'd say, "How do you find this stuff? You know more about me than I do!" In January 2002, I took a trip to Toronto to meet up with some friends, and I arranged to meet with Domenic. It was the first time I met him. He was very appreciative of the web site, which had grown a great deal by this point. We chatted about the music industry, what I was doing in school, his music, and so on. I couldn't help but ask him about his days in the James Gang, The Joke's on Me, and other highlights of his career. Sitting across from him in this restaurant, I couldn't believe that I was talking with a guy that I had so much respect for and whose music I'd loved for so long. It was surreal.

In October 2003, I attended the Soul in the City show in Toronto, which featured Domenic and George Olliver of Mandala, among others. I was aware of Soul Crusade, but this was when I started getting into Mandala more heavily. This was the one and only time I got to see Domenic play live. The next day, he was nice enough to meet with my Toronto friends and me and chat about the old days and the music business. He was very humble. I could tell he wasn't terribly comfortable talking about himself, but he loved to talk about the industry. He had a passion for music.

In early summer of 2004, when I was living in Columbus, I went to a great record shop close to the OSU campus and found 2 Troiano-related goodies: Shakespeare Stole My Baby by Eye to Eye and the self-titled LP by Instructions, for a buck apiece. This provided the catalyst for wanting to find all of the recordings that Domenic played on as a session guitarist. Everytime I unexpectedly stumbled upon something that Domenic played on, I knew that more was out there, waiting to be discovered. Being a fan of Troiano's is never dull. To this day, I'm still discovering records that he played on. That's one of the appeals of Domenic Troiano for me. Because he played on so many records, it's like a scavenger hunt to try to track them all down. Ten years after I became a fan, I'm still a fan, because there's more music to be heard. Being a Troiano fan means constant surprises. What more can a music enthusiast ask for?

May 26, 2005: I find out that Domenic passed away the previous evening. And what's on the Lifetime Network? "All American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story," a movie with incidental music composed by Troiano. Although he's gone, his phenomenal body of work - as a producer, writer, guitarist, and singer - remains. What he did will continue to have an impact on countless people, even if they've never heard the name "Domenic Troiano."

Jeremy Frey, May 28, 2005

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