Much-loved guitarist, now unable to play, is getting a little help from his friends"
Monday, December 10, 2001
By John Sinkevics
The Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press
...Multiple sclerosis has waged a slow war against (Frank's) body the past six years, leaving him weak, often in pain.
...Still, he's as upbeat and witty as when he reigned as one of Grand Rapids' most talented and influential acoustic guitarists, a local folk and blues legend.
He's been unable to play a single chord on his beloved Gibson guitar for nearly 15 years.
"I just woke up one day and my left hand was swollen and it was blue and I didn't feel anything but pain," he said of that morning in 1987. "Six weeks and pretty much the whole thing was done."
That "whole thing" included a promising musical career that made Salamone a crowd-pleaser at local coffeehouses and clubs in the 1970s and 1980s, opening for British blues artist John Mayall at Fountain Street Church, rubbing elbows with John Prine, Booker White and Otis Rush, performing in the popular duo, Suitcase, with longtime chum Jim Steigmeyer, aka Jimmie Stagger.
..."This guy almost single-handedly created the market for this kind of music. He was really the first guy to go out with an acoustic guitar and do this around here," said radio announcer and local music authority Steve Aldrich. "It was really amazing. For the people who are fans of this thing now, there's a definite debt of gratitude to Frank."
Stagger, who visits Salamone regularly, described the guitarist as an "introspective performer" with dry humor who could "rip off these great guitar licks."
"He was very inventive and very experimental in going for things on guitar that I wouldn't have thought of," he said. "Frank was the guy you wanted to go see, just to see him play and to see how it's done."
...After three years of painstaking work by Salamone, his friends, other musicians and recording engineers, 20 of the guitarist's memorable live performances have been resurrected from old tapes and compiled on an engaging new CD, "I Remember Me," filled with stunning acoustic finger-picking, classic blues covers of songs by Mose Allison and Papa Charlie Jackson, and haunting folk-tinged originals.
...Salamone's head tells him that he may never play ... guitar again; his heart tells him something else.
"It's been 15 years and it's probably never going to happen, but I still cling to a miracle," he said. "I could never bring myself to say, 'No, that's it.'
"I miss it so much, I can't put it into words."