“Got a job in a steel mill, truckin’ steel like a slave. Five long years, every Friday…come home with all my pay.” —FIVE LONG YEARS, Eddie Boyd
Many a bluesman paid backbreaking dues chopping cotton in the flat Delta fields of Mississippi and Arkansas to line the pockets of rich plantation owners. There was no cotton crop to tend to in the grimy rust belt town of Youngstown, Ohio in the 1960’s, but there was grinding, dirty work for some, as human grist in the mills of U.S. and Republic Steels. Where thirty years labor earned you meager wages, and for the lucky, a few years of retirement spent with an aching back and a hacking cough in the dreary shadow of belching smokestacks. Nick Vigarino, like 10,000 other Bohemian Hungarians, Italians, Irish, and Blacks, was born to this dismal blue-collar legacy.
“This ole life, just can’t stand to live it no mo’” — THIS OLD LIFE, Sonny Boy Williamson
Nick had his way out of this planned human obsolescence before he even knew it. In his early teens, Nick fell into possession of a battered guitar, feebly equipped with one string. As fate would have it, he learned to play the guitar in the exact same way as a hundred seminal blues musicians had two generations before him, on a homemade one-string diddley bo. Without the pious influences of Peter Green or Eric Clapton, Nick flailed at his one-string and peered deep within himself for the foundations of intensely personal music to come. With a poet’s fierce commitment to birthing his own music, he continued to play on ever-improving instruments the angry and mournful melodies in his head.
The mean town survivor eventually formed Meantown Blues, carrying his music into the bars and roadhouses of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Payin’ dues in the thousand-night march from stage to stage, burying his highly original and volatile blues in boozy sets mostly comprised of the radio dictated honky-tonk of the time.
Impressed with the Northwest’s clear air and mountain vistas unspoiled by the strip mine wounds inflicted by Peabody Coal, Nick drifted to Seattle, where he quickly won respect for his slashing bottleneck guitar and refreshingly original songs. Encouraged by the interest in his incendiary approach to the blues, Nick added a rhythm section and became the NICK VIGARINO TRIO and later revitalized NICK VIGARINO’S MEANTOWN BLUES. These days, Nick finds himself working in many countries as well as rushing back and forth across the Northwest serving up solo and ensemble music on the stages of bar rooms, concert halls, festivals and regional television.
Vigarino radiates an unpredictable fervor with slashing slide guitar, powerful vocals, funky licks, modern lyrics and his slop jar delta funk blues. His style elevates the blues to a place where the roots are respected, yet nudged towards the future. He consistently captures, then rivets listeners with precise, passionate performances.
—Ray Varner; Blues Historian, Ethno-musicologist, and critic, contributes his writings to many music publications, including Living Blues Magazine, Jefferson (Sweden) and Caledonia.