Revolution Evolution: The local music scene remains vibrant even as it evolves

BobKrambelas Rhode Island has a rich and varied musical tradition that dates from the 19th century. For proof, all you have to do is take a stroll through the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame’s gallery in the Hope Artiste Village and see the local musicians it celebrates. You’ll see everything from opera to country, rock, be-bop and hip-hop; Rhode Island has had it all.

Robert (Bob) Petteruti is one of those celebrated by the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, and during his 70-year career, he has played with musical icons Duke Ellington, Mose Allison and Zoot Sims, among others. He played his first gig in 1943 and his last in 2015, which was a concert for Cranston school children. He said of his career, “I had the very best.” And indeed he did. In the ’50s and ’60s he gigged seven nights a week everywhere from the iconic Celebrity Club to the Kings and Queens. Then he played through the 1970s at Allary’s in downtown Providence. Today, Petteruti is an historian and retired instructor, so he helps ensure that the musical traditions he was part of carries on.  BobPetteruti

In the early ’70s, when blues came out of South County and bands were forming in pockets around the state, the music scene was vibrant. Rich Lupo’s love for the music and the lure of the dive bar called him to open Lupo’s doors in 1975. And where would we be if he hadn’t? He brought us magical mystical figures such as Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, Willie Dixon and BB King. He provided local bands and local music lovers a place to play and hear live music. He said of those days, “I was kind of a lost soul, but I soon discovered that I was good at business.” 

Since the ’70s, the scene has evolved. Lupo says that although “the musicians have not changed, the business has.” There are more fees and expenses and crowd sizes have diminished. Despite these challenges, however, Lupo said, “I have had the time of my life and it has been my greatest joy.”

In the ’90s and 00s, Davey Moore played locally in punk rock and metal bands before opening PVD’s Alchemy in 2016. He echoes Lupo’s sentiments on crowd size and said that while the “days of lines out the door are gone,” his goal is to be as eclectic as possible in order to attract a varied clientele. “People faithfully follow a certain genre, keeping it alive,” he said. “What people do for entertainment has changed, but live music is never going to go away.”

The good news is that he doesn’t think crowd size is going to get any smaller. “This is where it will level off.  There is no better experience than seeing a live band, and music is an art form that people want to support.”

The Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame is about to announce a new class of inductees and we are announcing our annual group of nominees in these pages. Although these events honor only a special few, they really pay tribute to and celebrate all the local musicians, singers and club owners who contribute to the rich stew that is the Rhode Island music scene.

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