Remembering Paul Galestro, The Unknown Bluesman, Part 1

For my father-in-law.

Hello friends,

Before we dive in, here is a quick reminder of who The Pluck is for:

The Pluck is a newsletter for guitar enthusiasts.

From beginners to experts, enthusiasts include performers, teachers, producers, arrangers, and composers. I will send a free newsletter every Saturday focused on three verbs:

Listen, Learn, and Create.

Most often, every newsletter will be thematic. The first edition is about remembering my father-in-law, Paul Galestro, The Unknown Bluesman.

Paul passed in his sleep on Monday, February 8, 2021. It was sudden and unexpected. No one could play the blues, slide guitar, or electric guitar like he could. Unfortunately, many of his records were never published online. You can hear a glimpse of his artistry in the album, Guitar Fool, by The Rastus Kain Band on Apple Music or Spotify.

Paul, I will miss you, the spirit of your music, and storytelling. I pray that you are at peace wherever your soul might be.

Now, here are 3 pieces, 2 ideas, and 1 inspiration to consider this week.


Listen

I. Blues Guitar

One of Paul’s guitar idols was Johnny Winter. Pre-Derek Trucks, Johnny was no doubt a master at slide guitar playing. But, Paul was no less of a virtuoso as you can see here. It mesmerized my senses every time I heard and watched him play slide guitar. Check out Paul’s favorite Johnny Winter song, Highway 61 Revisited, on Apple Music or Spotify.

II. Songs

Paul was a fantastic songwriter besides being a stellar guitarist. Although he played many of his songs live, several of them were never recorded. (Check out this raw, fan-made video of Tough Year for Living.) His daughter and my wife, Angela Galestro, may bring them to life one day. “Choices,” by George Jones was one of Paul’s favorites and it still resonates with our family in our home. Listen on Apple Music or Spotify.

III. Lyrics

Anyone who’s been through a tough time knows what the blues feels like. As Paul once said, “you have to live the blues to play the blues.” We have all experienced our times of high and lows. During one of the lowest times in my life, Paul said I needed to hear this song and pay attention to the words. Listen to his message in “The Blues Man” by Hank Williams Jr. on Apple Music of Spotify.


Learn

I. A Gift

From what Angela has told me, her dad was a self-taught musician. His parents bought him lessons at a young age but he flew beyond the teacher’s ability. They also encouraged him to go to school for music, but it was not for him. A person must have a natural ability, talent, and gift to travel this unchartered path. It is obvious, he had such a gift.

Moreover, generational studies are fascinating. Angela has a gift, too, which may have passed down from her father by genetics (or osmosis). She may not like me bragging about her so much, but here is her SoundCloud. (A website for her songs and compositions is in the works.)

Related: What Do Great Musicians Have in Common? DNA

II. On Songwriting

Paul Galestro’s advice to his daughter on songwriting [paraphrased]:

“If you want your music to get noticed in a commercial world, it’s gotta relate to everyone, somehow.”

Related: Paul Simon On Songwriting: I Know What I Know


Create

I. Slide Technique

Slide technique is an unforgettable sound on the guitar. Electric guitarists like Duane Allman, Johnny Winter, and Derek Trucks are icons for tone and style.

To explore the field in the quickest way, retune your guitar from lowest to highest:

D, A, D, F♯, A, D

Play the open strings and move the slide on your finger of the fretting hand to positions V, VII, and XII. With these chords, you have a basic blues progression.

It’s not exactly how Paul does it, but it’s a start.

Related: Slide Guitar Technique: The Five Essentials


Next week: Remembering Paul Galestro, The Unknown Bluesman, Part 2


Thanks for joining me today. I’ll close us out with the lyrics from Tough Year for Living written by Paul Galestro.

Sometimes the brightest stars just shoot across the sky

Sometimes the clearest eyes get cloudy when they cry

Sometimes the smartest minds can find a reason why

And sometimes friends can’t always say goodbye.

So don’t try and sell me heaven

When heaven takes the ones I love away

You can try and sell me heaven

If you promise that I’ll see them, if I pray.

It’s been a tough year for living

This I can’t deny

​Until next week,

Dr. Jonathan L. Smith

Music Producer, Composer, and Guitarist

Guitarist for award-winning flute and guitar ensemble, GS Duo

Producer and Co-founder of Glaize Avenue Studios

P.S. If you’d like to help out our family through this difficult time, click here to learn more.