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Al Caiola

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Al Caiola
Caiola in a 1961 DownBeat advertisement
Caiola in a 1961 DownBeat advertisement
Background information
Birth nameAlexander Emil Caiola
Born(1920-09-07)September 7, 1920
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedNovember 9, 2016(2016-11-09) (aged 96)
Allendale, New Jersey
GenresJazz, country, rock, pop
Occupation(s)Musician, conductor, arranger, songwriter
Years active
  • 1955–1969
  • 1980–2016
LabelsAtco, Chancellor, Coral, HMV, RCA, Roulette, Savoy, Time, United Artists, Durium
Formerly ofThe Living Trio, Roy Ross and the Ragamuffins with Dizzy Gillespie, The Village Stompers, The Ragtimers

Alexander Emil Caiola (September 7, 1920 – November 9, 2016) was an American guitarist, composer and arranger, who spanned a variety of music genres including jazz, country, rock, and pop.[1] He recorded over fifty albums and worked with some of the biggest names in music during the 20th century, including Elvis Presley, Ray Conniff, Ferrante & Teicher, Frank Sinatra, Percy Faith, Buddy Holly, Mitch Miller, and Tony Bennett.[2][3][4]

Early life


Alexander Emil Caiola was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to Emil Caiola and Genevieve Esposito. His father was employed as a barber.[4]

At a young age, Caiola first expressed an interest in a musical career solely as a vocalist. He was soon persuaded by his father to also pursue professional opportunities as an instrumentalist instead. This led Caiola to take up the banjo and subsequently the guitar.[5][4]

By the age of 11, he emerged as a child prodigy on the guitar and undertook formal studies with Anthony Antone in New York City and subsequently with the guitarist Peter Milano in Jersey City. As a young teenager, he was influenced by the performances of Eddie Lang and Bing Crosby and studied Lang's method book for guitarists closely. By the age of sixteen he appeared as both a vocalist and guitarist on the children's radio program Sally and Sam in collaboration with Tony Mottola. During this time Mottola encouraged Caiola to master new performance techniques.[5][4]

After returning from military service during World War II, Caiola pursued formal musical studies at the New Jersey College of Music. Over the years, he also completed studies with the guitarist Harry Volpe.[6][5]



During World War II Caiola played trumpet with the United States Marine Corps 5th Marine Division Band that also included Bob Crosby. Caiola served in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a stretcher bearer.[4]

After returning from the war, Caiola embarked upon an extended engagement as a staff musician on the CBS network from 1946 until 1956. As part of his audition, he was required to appear on shows with Gordon MacRae, Archie Bleyer and the vocalist Patty Clayton. After signing with CBS, Caiola also collaborated on several major network TV productions with Arthur Godfrey (Talent Scouts), Ed Sullivan (Toast of the Town) and Jackie Gleason (The Jackie Gleason Show) under the direction of the conductor Ray Bloch.[5]

Caiola was also a successful studio musician in the 1950s in New York City. He released some minor records under his own name in that decade. In addition, he performed under the musical direction of John Serry Sr. on an easy listening album for Dot Records in 1956, which received favorable critical reviews in The Billboard magazine and The Cash Box magazine.(Squeeze Play).[7][8][9][10] Later in the decade in 1959, his collaboration with Tony Mottola and Johnny Mathis on the smash album Open Fire, Two Guitars for Columbia Records also received favorable reviews.[11][12]

In 1960 he became a recording star on the United Artists label for over ten years. He had hits in 1961 with "The Magnificent Seven" (#35 in USA[13] and #27 in Canada.[14]) and "Bonanza" (#19 in USA[13] and #19 in Canada.[15]) The arrangements were typically by Don Costa, using a large orchestral backing.[5][4] [16][17][18]

Caiola released singles and albums throughout the 1960s and beyond, though no others appeared on the charts except for an entry in 1964 with "From Russia with Love". United Artists used him to make commercial recordings of many movie and TV themes: "Wagon Train (Wagons Ho)", "The Ballad of Paladin", "The Rebel", and "Gunslinger". His album Solid Gold Guitar contained arrangements of "Jezebel", "Two Guitars", "Big Guitar", "I Walk the Line", and "Guitar Boogie".[19]

The Magnificent Seven album, other than the title track, consisted of a variety of pop songs with a jazzy bent. Guitars Guitars Guitars was similar. There was a wide variety to his albums — soft pop, Italian, Hawaiian, country, jazz. In the early 1970s he continued on the Avalanche Recordings label, producing similar work including the album Theme From the 'Magnificent 7 Ride' '73. Later, on other labels, came some ethnic-themed instrumental albums such as In a Spanish Mood in 1982, and Italian instrumentals. In 1976, Caiola accompanied Sergio Franchi, Dana Valery, and Wayne J. Kirby (Franchi's musical director) on a concert tour to Johannesburg, South Africa.[citation needed]

At the urging of the talent agency Ashley-Famous, Caiola appeared in concert in Las Vegas during the 1960s in addition to operating his own music publishing firm Alpane Music. He is credited with serving as both an arranger, conductor and soloist on many of his recordings.[20] In later years, Cailo continued to perform and even toured with Frank Sinatra in 1991.[21] During the course of his professional career, Caiola also performed under the musical direction of several leading conductors including: Percy Faith, Morton Gould and Andre Kostelanetz.[21]



Caiola died in Allendale, New Jersey, at the age of 96.[22]

Performance style


Al Caiola has been described as an artist who projected a "light" or "liquid" touch during his performances on the guitar. His pianist, Mo Wechsler observed that he was a versatile well rounded musician who was comfortable playing either jazz, rock and roll and even classical music.[21]


  • Serenade in Blue (Savoy, 1956)
  • Music for Space Squirrels (Atco, 1958)
  • Deep in a Dream (Savoy, 1958)
  • High Strung (RCA Victor, 1959)
  • Guitars Guitars Guitars (United Artists, 1960)
  • Percussion Espanol (Time, 1960)
  • Great Pickin' with Don Arnone (Chancellor, 1960)
  • Salute Italia! (Roulette, 1960)
  • Guitar of Plenty (Time, 1960)
  • Italian Guitars (Time, 1960)
  • Guitars Woodwinds and Bongos (United Artists, 1960)
  • Golden Hit Instrumentals (United Artists, 1961)
  • Hit Instrumentals from Western TV Themes (United Artists, 1961)
  • Cleopatra and All That Jazz (United Artists, 1962)
  • The Guitar Style of Al Caiola (RCA Camden, 1962)
  • Solid Gold Guitar (United Artists, 1962)
  • Golden Guitar (United Artists, 1962)
  • Spanish Guitars (Time, 1962)
  • City Guy Plays Country (United Artists, 1963)
  • 50 Fabulous Guitar Favorites (United Artists, 1964)
  • Guitar for Lovers (United Artists, 1964)
  • The Magic World of Italy (Roulette, 1964)
  • 50 Fabulous Italian Favorites (United Artists, 1964)
  • On the Trail (United Artists, 1964)
  • Tuff Guitar (United Artists, 1965)
  • Solid Gold Guitar Goes Hawaiian (United Artists, 1965)
  • Sounds for Spies and Private Eyes (United Artists, 1965)
  • Tuff Guitar English Style (United Artists, 1965)
  • Tuff Guitar Tijuana Style (United Artists, 1966)
  • Romantico (United Artists, 1966)
  • King Guitar (United Artists, 1967)
  • The Power of Brass (United Artists, 1968)
  • It Must Be Him (United Artists, 1968)
  • Let the Sunshine In (United Artists, 1969)
  • Soft Guitars (Bainbridge, 1980)
  • In a Spanish Mood (Accord, 1982)
  • Amigo & Other Songs (Aurora, 1993)
  • Encore! Oro Italiano (Alanna, 2001)
  • Guitar for Latin Lovers (Alanna, 2001)
  • The Manhattan Guitars (Alanna, 2002)
  • Classic Italian Love Songs (Alanna, 2005)

Partial studio recordings list

External audio
audio icon You may hear Al Caiola performing the songs Granada and Secret Love from the album Squeeze Play with John Serry Sr. as released on Chicago Musette: John Serry et son Accordéon in 1958 Here on Gallica.BnF [23]
audio icon You may hear Al Caiola performing with John Serry on the album Squeeze Play in 1956 Here on archive.org [8]




  1. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 214/5. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Carlton, Jim (2012). "Al Ciola (A Career At The Top)". Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists. Mel Bay Publications. pp. 5–18. ISBN 978-1-61911-052-6.
  3. ^ Sullivan, Steve (2017). "The Magnificent Seven (1960)—Al Caiola and His Orchestra". Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 334–335. ISBN 978-1-4422-5449-7.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, Sam (24 November 2016). "Al Caiola, Guitarist With Top 40 Instrumental Hits, Dies at 96". The New York Times. ProQuest 1842929920.
  5. ^ a b c d e Carlton, Jim (2009). "Al Caiola". Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists. Mel Bay Publications. pp. 5–18. ISBN 978-0786651238.
  6. ^ Bay, William (2010-10-07). Masters of the Plectrum Guitar. Mel Bay Publications. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-60974-029-0.
  7. ^ The Billboard Magazine. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1956-12-01. p. 22.
  8. ^ a b "John Serry – Squeeze Play Featuring The Dynamic Accordion Of John Serry (1956, Vinyl) - Discogs".
  9. ^ Review of the album "Squeeze Play" in "The Cash Box" magazine - See Album Reviews column on December 8, 1956 p. 38 on americanradiohistory.com
  10. ^ "Finding Aids – Sibley Music Library - Eastman School of Music". Esm.rochester.edu.
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings. Sullivan, Steve. Scarecrow Press. 2017. p. 335 Al Caiola biography on Google Books
  12. ^ Moon, Tom (2008-08-28). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company. p. 482. ISBN 978-0-7611-5385-6.
  13. ^ a b Whitburn 1992, p. 76.
  14. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade - February 6, 1961". Chumtribute.com.
  15. ^ "CHUM Hit Parade - June 5, 1961". chumtribute.com.
  16. ^ The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition. WHiteburn, Joel. 2012 p. 104 Al Caiola and His Orchestra on Google Books
  17. ^ Movie/TV Soundtracks and Original Cast Recordings. Osborne, Jerry. 2002 p. 263 Al Caiola Guitar and United Artists on Google Books
  18. ^ Monush, Barry (2015-02-01). The Sound of Music FAQ. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4950-2595-2.
  19. ^ "Solid Gold Guitar". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 November 2023.
  20. ^ "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. May 21, 1966. p. 50 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (November 11, 2016). "Al Caiola, Guitarist on Themes for 'Bonanza' and 'The Magnificent Seven,' Dies at 96". The Hollywood Reporter.
  22. ^ Barnes, Mike (11 November 2016). "Al Caiola, Guitarist on Themes for 'Bonanza' and 'The Magnificent Seven,' Dies at 96". The Hollywood Reporter. ISSN 0018-3660.
  23. ^ "John Serry - Squeeze Play Featuring The Dynamic Accordion Of John Serry". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  24. ^ "Atlantic Records Discography: 1957". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  25. ^ "Atlantic Records Discography: 1959". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  26. ^ Selvin, Joel, Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues, Counterpoint, Berkeley, California, 2014 p. 372
  27. ^ "Atlantic Records Discography: 1958". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  28. ^ "John Serry - Squeeze Play Featuring The Dynamic Accordion Of John Serry". Discogs.com. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  29. ^ "Squeeze Play Featuring The Dynamic Accordion Of John Serry". May 13, 1956 – via Internet Archive.
  30. ^ Willis, Chuck, The Complete Chuck Willis: 1951-1957, JSP Records, London, England, 2009, Discs 1, 2 & 3, liner notes

Cited sources

  • Whitburn, Joel (1992). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. New York: Billboard Books.