Monthly Archives: July 2015

In Memory of “Low Note Lou” DeMartino

Bassist for Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan and Jungle Gym Jam

Lou DeMartino, Bassist for Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan, Jungle Gym Jam

Photo by Bob Didner

“I have a confession to make,” said this high tenor voice on the other end of the phone. “When you posted that bassist wanted flyer in Sam Ash, I took it off the bulletin board and took it home so no one else would get the gig.” That told me everything I needed to know about Lou’s desire to spread joy through music making. This total pro who made a career playing with Asbury Park scene mainstay Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan was now driven to share his gift with kids and families. He wanted to jam with me and explore joining our very own Jungle Gym Jam. And he didn’t want to take any chances with a competitor getting the gig.

I had heard Joe D’Urso and band on a “Light of Day” tribute album to Bruce Springsteen and by extension, Lou, doing a very cool ska version of the Boss’ classic “Badlands.” And I had always liked that track. I dug further into Joe’s catalog and kept liking what I was hearing. So it was an easy decision on my part to invite him to my house for a practice session with Ross, Casey and me. We had a big outdoor gig coming up in 3 short weeks; there was no time to lose getting our new guy up to speed, and Lou was totally up to the challenge, no matter what was going on in his main band.

Every text, every e-mail and even every voicemail was concluded with “LLU” which he explained stands for “Lou Loves You.” Lou smiled with his whole face, including parts of the face I didn’t even think were possible. And he got a tremendous kick out of my daughter Holly for the little things – like when he’d arrive at our house close to Holly’s bedtime, we’d have her favorite TV series on – the classic Batman series with Adam West – you know – POW! BAM! ZOWIE! It tickled him that this campy crimefighter adventure was what soothed our little girl before lights out.

Lou’s sweet, easygoing nature was infectious in our band. He took the stress out of the grueling parts of the gig – load-ins and load-outs with his blend of confidence, humor and love of craft. And in the recording studio when you’re under a microscope to turn in the perfect performance, Lou exuded that same pleasant and confidence-inspiring vibe.

We hadn’t been playing together long enough to really come 100% into each other’s worlds. I knew nothing of his home/family life or backstory and didn’t want to pry. Lou hadn’t been in the children’s music game very long – less than 4 months. I came to like his tracks with Joe D’Urso but hadn’t gotten to one of their live performances or seen Lou’s trademark sense of humor on full display to that legendary degree I hear about when Lou would get in front of an Asbury Park bar crowd. He hadn’t really tapped into that side of himself performing for kids & families in the three gigs we played. I’ll always wonder how his persona would have emerged on the kindie stage once he really got totally comfortable with all those bass parts I threw at him in such a short time span. I do know that he joked that he would have liked to carry his “Mr. Lou” nickname from the adult music world to the kindie world but that New Jersey’s popular kindie entertainer “Mr. Ray” beat him to that particular naming convention. Of course I proudly nicknamed him “Low-note Lou” in keeping with our scheme of alliterative names for all our band members.

Speaking of the gigs we played, Lou was an absolute trooper playing at the Turtle Back Zoo’s annual fundraiser on a relentlessly rainy day. Since it was my first gig back after transplant surgery, not quite 4 weeks post-operation I was forbidden to lift heavy objects (which is half the job description of most rock musicians), so Lou offered to load my equipment from my house up our awkward stairway into the minivan on the way to the show and then unload everything back downstairs after the event. He hung around all day in that cold needle rain waiting patiently for the all-clear to hit the wet, drippy stage, playing to a small, scattered gathering of those families that were hardy enough to weather the rain. And his voice coming through the PA to sing harmonies was tremendous, really catching Amy’s and my attention that day.

Just last night we got in what I didn’t know would be one last-ever jam session together. Lou was particularly focused on building tight, powerful rhythms with our drummer Ross in this practice. It was hard, repetitive work and he did appear tired (and made mention of it) after having been up early for his day job. We parted company looking forward to a few more rehearsals to further tighten up and then playing a great run of gigs. So instead of playing these gigs with Lou, I will instead dedicate them to him.

The outpouring of love and adoration on Lou’s Facebook timeline speaks volumes about what he meant to so many as a source of merriment and irreplaceable rock-n-roll memories. Lou and I were only at the beginning of a pleasant friendship and working relationship. I feel blessed for the time we had together and will miss that reflection of unbridled joy I used to watch him tap into. I’ll take the importance of seeking that joy with me into every moment of music-making that I can and I’ll think of Lou.

JLUL (Jason loves you, Lou!)