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Remembering Ralph Ameduri

Friends recall a dedicated musician who helped shape the local scene; plus Lou Barlow on the role of bass guitar in music

Photo: Photos by Full Sail Staff, License: N/A

Photos by Full Sail Staff

Photo: , License: N/A

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7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, through Sunday, Feb. 9 | various venues | ralphameduri.com | $10 Friday, $15 Saturday, free Sunday

The room was packed. It pretty much always is when Thomas Wynn and the Believers play Jessie’s Lounge in Winter Haven. The band was booked to play two sets that night, with a break in the middle. A few days before the show, Wynn had called local musician Ralph Ameduri to see if he could fill in for then-Believers bass player, Matt Lapham, who had a conflicting out-of-town gig. “Yes, I’d love to,” Ameduri told him.

“He had filled in maybe 10 times before that,” Wynn says. “It was always a wonderful time, and everybody in the band really loved playing with him and really felt like he was a sixth member or something. He was the go-to guy if someone couldn’t do it.”

Wynn picked Ameduri up at his Orlando home at 4:30 p.m., and the band headed to the venue. They played their first set at 10:30 that night. Ameduri played the bass in his subdued way, rocking in time on his heels, his eyes closed and eyebrows slightly raised. He liked to tell his friends, “The best place to play music is where your feet are.” That night, his feet were at Jessie’s Lounge, and by all accounts, everybody there was having a good time.

At the break, the band went out back. It was around 11:30 p.m., Wynn says, and they needed a smoke break. That’s when an armed man approached the group and ordered them to the ground in an attempt to rob them. They did as he asked, but he let out a single shot anyway. It hit and killed Ameduri, injuring no one else.

Police were called. The band was stunned. It was difficult to accept that the man whose staunch opinions straightened the wheels on more than 20 Orlando bands that drove the local scene for more than two decades played his last show on Sept. 9, 2011.

‘I met him originally in the Seminole Community College jazz band,” Jack Sterling recalls. At the time, Seminole Community College’s reputed jazz program attracted a number of talented musicians like Sterling, Ameduri and Anthony Cole, and the band room was a meeting place where young musicians could experiment – or goof off, as they did on what was deemed “Bad Classical Night,” when students would raid the library for old sheet music and perform it haphazardly, not even bothering to pair the right instrument to the matching sheets. That was in 1988, and Sterling later went on to join Ameduri in six local bands, including the Legendary JC’s (soul), Riverbottom Nightmare Band (bluegrass), the Hamiltons (punk), Jazz X (jazz) and a curious project indicative of Ameduri’s experimental nature. Longtime friend and former business partner Jeff Sweat (who also created the cover art for this story) says the project sprung from a habit Ameduri had when they were working at Metropolis Graphics. Ameduri would bring in a turntable and skip Charles Ives records over and over, which tormented Sweat but fascinated Ameduri.

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