This is the grave of Felix Pappalardi.
Born in The Bronx in 1939, Pappalardi went to The High School of Music & Art in New York and then on to the University of Michigan to study music. He was interested in jazz and old-time music and by 1964 was part of Max Morath’s Original Rag Quartet, playing the guitarrón, which is the giant bass in a mariachi band. This was a ragtime band and they played around the college circuit during the folk era and even played Dinah Shore’s Las Vegas show.
Pappalardi moved to New York after graduation and got involved in production, including for Joan Baez. But then he started producing rock albums, including Cream albums starting with Disraeli Gears. He also co-wrote “Strange Brew,” one of Cream’s biggest hits. That moved him into playing hard rock himself. He was a cofounder, bassist, and co-lead vocalist of Mountain. Definitely not my favorite rock band, but one that was a huge hit at the moment of its inception, it had a huge hit with “Mississippi Queen. That song reached #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970, but it’s impact was far greater than such a ranking would suggest, as it became one of the iconic early hard-rock (butt-rock if you will) songs and which has been covered by everyone from Sam Kinison to Ozzy Osbourne. Mountain followed this with “Nantucket Sleighride.”
But Pappalardi didn’t stick around long. That’s because Mountain shows were very loud and he did not wear earplugs. So he was partially deaf by 1971. He did continue producing, though not a lot of major albums; released a solo album, and briefly played with Mountain again later in the 1970s.
Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins had an open marriage. Not surprisingly, this led to jealousy (you mean open marriages won’t set you free, who knew…). Pappalardi had given Collins a gun for a present (another great idea). In 1983, he returned home from sleeping with his girlfriend. She was jealous and shot him in the neck. She claimed it was an accident. It was not, though it might have been one of those “accidental” shootings when you have guns and people get angry. She ended up serving a couple of years in prison. He was 43 years old.
Felix Pappalardi is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York.
I guess we can listen to some Mountain…..
If you would like this series to visit other purveyors of butt rock, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Ronnie Van Zant is in Jacksonville, Florida and former KISS drummer Eric Carr is in Newburgh, New York. Previous posts in this series are archived here.