Sunday, February 10, 2013

Johnny Frigo

Johnny Frigo (John Virgil Frigo) was an Italian jazz violinist, bass player, painter, and poet born (in Chicago, USA) on December 27, 1916.  He began his violin studies at age 7 and received only three years of formal instruction.  Out of necessity, he later learned to play bass - by 1942, he was playing bass and violin in Chico Marx’ orchestra.  He was 26 years old.  During the Second World War, he played in New York with Al Haig and Kai Winding.  He later went to Europe, too - it was part of his military service.  From 1945 until 1947, he toured with Jimmy Dorsey’s band.  Jimmy Dorsey was Tommy Dorsey’s brother.  Soon after, Frigo formed a trio which included Herb Ellis on guitar and Lou Carter on piano which performed and recorded in New York.  He later appeared in the film titled The Fabulous Dorseys.  In 1951, he worked as a studio musician and arranger in Chicago and led a band at a place called Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago’s Bohemia.  The trio (The Soft Winds Trio) broke up in 1952.  Between 1951 and 1974, he also played with The Sage Riders, a country band which broadcast nationwide from a radio station in Chicago – as did Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York in the classical music realm.  The show – at various times - included the likes of Gene Autry, Rex Allen, Bill Haley, and Andy Williams.  Here’s one of their videos.  During his career, he played with Mel Torme, Barbra Streisand, Charlie Byrd, Frank Sinatra, and Mahalia Jackson, among other big-name artists.  As did Eddie South after he died, Frigo did not receive much recognition until later in his career, after focusing once again on the violin and its jazz potential.  Frigo’s recordings can still be found on the internet.  His violin sound has been compared to Stephane Grappelli’s.  Frigo died on July 4, 2007, at age 90.  


  1. This is only the fifth post for a jazz violinist - the others are Stephane Grappelli, Eddie South, Regina Carter, and Rudi Berger. Joe Venuti will probably be next.

  2. This is violinist profile number 327.