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Felix Pappalardi

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Felix Pappalardi
Pappalardi playing a Mellotron in the '70s
Pappalardi playing a Mellotron in the '70s
Background information
Birth nameFelix A. Pappalardi Jr.
Born(1939-12-30)December 30, 1939
New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 17, 1983(1983-04-17) (aged 43)
New York City, U.S.
GenresRock, blues rock, hard rock
Occupation(s)Music producer, songwriter, musician
  • Bass
  • vocals
  • keyboards
  • guitar
Years active1960s-1983
Formerly ofMountain, Creation

Felix A. Pappalardi Jr. (December 30, 1939 – April 17, 1983)[1] was an American music producer, songwriter, vocalist, and bassist. He is best known as the bassist and co-lead vocalist of the band Mountain, whose song "Mississippi Queen" peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has become a classic rock radio staple. Originating in the eclectic music scene in New York's Greenwich Village, he became closely attached to the British power trio Cream, writing, arranging, and producing for their second album Disraeli Gears. As a producer for Atlantic Records, he worked on several projects with guitarist Leslie West; in 1969 their partnership evolved into the band Mountain. The band lasted less than five years, but their work influenced the first generation of heavy metal and hard rock music. Pappalardi continued to work as a producer, session musician, and songwriter until he was shot and killed by his wife Gail Collins in 1983.

Early life[edit]

Pappalardi was born in the Bronx, New York City.[1] from Italian family immigrated from Gravina in Puglia, A classically trained musician, he graduated from New York City's The High School of Music & Art and attended the University of Michigan.[2]


In 1964, Pappalardi was a member of Max Morath's Original Rag Quartet (ORQ) in their premier engagement at New York's Village Vanguard with several other musicians. Along with Pappalardi on guitarrón (Mexican acoustic bass) were pianist-singer Morath, who revived classic ragtime played in the Scott Joplin manner, Barry Kornfeld, a New York studio folk and jazz guitarist, and Jim Tyler, a Baroque and Renaissance lutenist, playing four-string banjo and mandolin. The ORQ then toured the college and concert circuit during the following year, and opened four engagements with the Dinah Shore show in Las Vegas and elsewhere. Pappalardi studied classical music at the University of Michigan. Upon completing his studies and returning to New York, he was unable to find work and so became part of the Greenwich Village folk-music scene where he made a name for himself as a skilled arranger; he also appeared on albums by Tom Paxton as well as Vince Martin and Fred Neil for Elektra Records. From there he moved into record production, initially concentrating on folk and folk-rock acts for artists such as The Youngbloods and Joan Baez.[3]

As a producer, Pappalardi is perhaps best known for his work with Cream, beginning with their second album, Disraeli Gears.[3] He contributed instrumentation for his studio arrangements and he and his wife, Gail Collins, wrote the Cream hit "Strange Brew" with Eric Clapton.[3] He also produced The Youngbloods' first album.[3]

As a musician, Pappalardi is widely recognized as a bassist, vocalist, and founding member of the American hard rock band (and heavy metal forerunner) Mountain,[3] a band born out of his working with future bandmate Leslie West's soul-inspired rock and roll band The Vagrants, and producing West's 1969 Mountain solo album. The band's original incarnation actively recorded and toured between 1969 and 1971.[3] Pappalardi produced the band's albums, and co-wrote and arranged a number of the band's songs with Collins and West.[3]

The band's signature song "Mississippi Queen" is still heard regularly on classic rock radio stations. They also had a hit with the song "Nantucket Sleighride" written by Pappalardi and Collins.

Pappalardi generally played Gibson basses on Mountain's live and studio recordings. He was most often seen with an EB-1 violin bass but there are also photographs of him playing an EB-0 live (likely because they had the same pickup configuration and scale length). Pappalardi obtained his sound by playing Gibson basses with a single Humbucker in the neck through a set of Sunn amplifiers that, he claimed, once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.[citation needed]

Later life and death[edit]

The grave of Felix Pappalardi in Woodlawn Cemetery

Pappalardi was forced to retire because of partial deafness, ostensibly from his high-volume shows with Mountain.[3] He continued producing throughout the 1970s, released a solo album (Don't Worry, Ma) and recorded with Kazuo Takeda's band Creation[3] (who had opened for a reunited Mountain during their 1973 tour of Japan).

In May 1973, the British music magazine NME reported that Pappalardi would be producing and playing bass on Queen of the Night, the debut album for Maggie Bell, former singer of Stone the Crows,[4] but this proved to be false.[5]

He also worked on the NBC show Hot Hero Sandwich in 1979.

Pappalardi was shot and killed by his wife, Gail Collins Pappalardi, on April 17, 1983,[3] in their apartment on the East Side of Manhattan, with a derringer he had given her as a gift a few months previously. She was subsequently charged with second-degree murder and was found guilty of the lesser criminally negligent homicide.[6]

He is interred next to his mother at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City.[6]

Selected discography[edit]

For his work with Mountain, see their page.

  • 1976: Creation/Felix Pappalardi – collaboration with Creation
  • 1979: Don't Worry, Ma[3]

As producer[edit]

Other appearances and contributions[edit]

  • 1963: Vince Martin and Fred NeilTear Down the Wallsguitarrón and backing vocals
  • 1964: Tom PaxtonRamblin' Boyguitarrón
  • 1965: Tom PaxtonAin't That News! guitarrón
  • 1966: Buffy Sainte-MarieLittle Wheel Spin and Spin – credited as "instrumental ensemble arranger and conductor" on "Timeless Love"
  • 1966: Ian and SylviaPlay One More – bass
  • 1966: Ian and SylviaThe French Girl – credited as "arr. and conducted"
  • 1966: Ian and SylviaWhen I Was A Cowboy – bass
  • 1966: Ian and SylviaShort Grass – bass
  • 1966: Ian and SylviaLonely Girls – bass
  • 1967: Devil's AnvilHard Rock From the Middle Eastbass, guitar, tambura, percussion and vocals, credited as "arranger and musical director"
  • 1967: Richie HavensMorning, Morning – credited as "arranger'
  • 1967: Jackie Washington [Landrón] – Morning Song – credited as "backup ensemble conductor'
  • 1968: Bo Grumpus – Before the War – keyboards, trumpet, bass, guitar, percussion, ocarina
  • 1968: Kensington MarketAvenue Road – vocals on "Aunt Violet's Knee"
  • 1969: Kensington Market – Aardvark – bass, piano, trumpet, organ
  • 1969: Jolliver Arkansaw – Home – keyboards, guitar, ocarina and bass on "Hatred Sun"
  • 1970: Ian and Sylvia – Greatest Hits – bass
  • 1970: Fred NeilLittle Bit of Rain – bass
  • 1971: John SebastianThe Four of Us – bass on "Apple Hill"
  • 1971: Richard & Mimi Fariña – The Best of Richard & Mimi Fariña – bass
  • 1973: Bedlam – Bedlamkeyboards, credited as songwriter on "Looking Through Love's Eyes (Busy Dreamin')"
  • 1973: Eddie MottauNo Turning Around – Mellotron, organ, ocarina and trumpet on "Circus Tent" and "Waitin' Out The Winter"
  • 1975: The FlockInside Out – backing vocals on "Straight Home"
  • 1977: Jesse Colin YoungLove on the Wing – backing vocals and string arrangements on "Drift Away" and "Fool", horn arrangements on "Louisiana Highway"
  • 1981: Kicks – "Kicks featuring Marge Raymond" – backing vocals on "Raceway" and "All Over Again" along with Steven Tyler


  1. ^ a b "Felix Pappalardi Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches, Jeremy Simmonds, 2012, Second edition, Chicago Review Press, ISBN 978-1613744789
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1900. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 250. CN 5585.
  5. ^ "Queen of the Night – Maggie Bell | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Black, Johnny (April 17, 2021). "Drugs, guns, and the tragic death of Mountain's Felix Pappalardi". Loudersound.com. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  7. ^ "Mylon – Holy Smoke (1971, Vinyl)". Discogs.com. 1971. Retrieved October 3, 2021.