The Chief

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 10:30am

“Hey, Joe, check out my new guitar,” said Chief Vin Carlone as he came into the car shack one February day a few years back. It was freezing outside and it was quiet at the docks. He cracked open his case and pulled out a pristine out-of-the-box Taylor guitar. Then he ran some scales up and down the fretboard. “Try it,” he said. I took the guitar and put it in a drop D tuning, and then hit a solid and full D chord, and ran a few scales on this incredibly well-crafted instrument. 

The Chief then took the guitar and played and sang a slick bluesy song and shredded the fretboard. I took out my iPhone and made a video, and later sent it to a musician friend on Martha’s Vineyard with a note saying, “Kate, this is Block Island’s Chief of Police.” 

My friend sent back a note and thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have a Chief like this. “Wow, Joey! Great guitar picker. That is one talented guy,” she said.

Just recently, a bunch of people got a chance to see the Chief display his passion for music at The Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston, and it was a memorable night.

“The memory of the courthouse when I was a young policeman involved contentious trials and very unsettling, disturbing criminal cases. I’d get a stomachache thinking of the place and never wanted to go near there,” he said. “Now, it’s a place of music and peace and that’s why I want to see the place keep going.” The occasion for this gig was the 30th Anniversary Party for The Courthouse Center for the Arts, and the Chief and his music mate — Chris Rich, who is a corporal on the New Shoreham Police Department — would be opening for Rhode Island’s own John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. It was a memorable night of music and there was a full house. 

The two go by the name Fugitives from Justice, and opened with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” as a tribute to a recently fallen patrol officer named Sean Gannon. This was something to witness. They followed that song with “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash — compelling stuff.

These guys complement each other beautifully. Chris holds down the rhythm shots with some very assertive hands, while the Chief switches from rhythm to playing lead on many of their songs — both guys sing. And they’re good. Suddenly, the Chief’s wife Karin appeared on stage and sang “Crazy,” by Patsy Cline — she nailed the nuance and high notes of this very difficult song. Karin sang harmony on a few more songs and she was fantastic. She sang “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac and nailed that one, too. (My wife said, “She reminds me of Linda McCartney.”) Their set was a great collection of songs and the audience was clapping and hooting their approval. (Sadly, Karin lost her best horse Dave, a few days before the show — he died in her arms — but she made it to be with her husband.)

Before John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band came on for their set, a group of kids came out and sang and their music explained and demonstrated the importance of the Art’s Center. This is a place where kids can take music, theater, and dance classes. Educational arts programs many times lose funding during lean times. As a result, kids of all grades and capabilities have no place to explore their creativity. This is the place where they can do that. 

There are many good things going on in this building, and we need to support places like this. Just sayin.’

After a brief introduction, John Cafferty and his posse hit the stage and it was game on! Cafferty and I go way back to my days at Rhode Island College, and the band’s gigs at Schillers and the Bon Vue Inn in Narragansett. Moreover, I was a production assistant/talent in a video the band shot at the Point Judith ferry docks. Google “Song and Dance.” Everyone in attendance had great memories of this talented group, and the vibe in the room was wild as the guys went through their set. My wife was out of her chair in a second and was rousting people out of their seats to dance — I waited for a slow one because I’m a geezer. Cafferty, Gary Gramolini, Mike “Tunes” Antunes, and the rest of the band tore through their set and the crowd went nuts!

When I heard the opening melody of John’s hit song “Tender Years,” I grabbed the bride and we hit the floor — everybody was dancing and singing. After the song went through its verses, Mike Antunes gave a nod to John Cafferty. “This is a forever song that John wrote,” he said. He went on to say that it’s the music, the places and the people that make rock and roll what it is, and he nodded to the Courthouse Center for the Arts as a very important place for these gatherings to happen. Then, “Tunes” did what he does, and blew a lofting sax solo. Cafferty indeed wrote a “forever song.”

Block Islanders and associates in attendance at this gig were Lisa Sprague, Kate McConville, Jim Fiorato, Dorrie Napoleone, Jerry Zarrella, Karl and Marissa Reynolds, Ray and Jean Paparian, Ron Lepre, Johnny “Soda” Patenaude, Corey Patenaude, Ron Lepre, and Bob Gallant. As gigs go this one was memorable and is in the vault. I’ve known Chief Vin Carlone as a coworker for the Town of Narragansett, as a parent, a detail cop at the ferry, a detective, a guitar picker, songwriter, and a Chief; he’s one of the most objective and personable guys I’ve ever met — a cop’s cop, a man’s man. Finally, we wouldn’t have missed this anniversary party for the world and if you ever get a chance to see these guys play — go.

‘Nuff said.