POUGHKEEPSIE – Over the years, many have know him for his wide and bright smile, and many more knew him for his music but today, many mourn the passing of Michael Torsone who died Friday. He was a relentless performer, playing six nights a week right up to his untimely death.
This message was forwarded from Vito Petroccitto, Jr.
While setting up for a gig Friday night, our fill in keyboard player suffered a massive heart attack. Unfortunately, after the efforts of many that tried to help revive him, sadly, he succumbed to the attack. Mike was a gentle, fun loving guy…a phenomenal Hammond player and vocalist! The guys in The Rhythm and Brews Band were proud to have him join us on stage… and grateful that we enjoyed one of Mike’s last gigs…as we had played Thursday night… less than 24 hours before he left us. God Bless, and Rest Peacefully my friend.
Michael grew up in a family of talented performers. His grandfather came to America in 1909, with a cornet case and a dream for a brighter future. He taught music in Amsterdam, New York and in the New York City Schools, as well as forming concert bands in both places. He later opened a funeral business in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the former home of the Vassar Brothers. His father played the bass viol.
Michael learned to play keyboards, using an old 1890’s pump organ in that funeral home. While listening to Ray Charles records played by a woman who worked for them named Lottie May Bennett. He learned to playing all the instruments available to him including trombone, trumpet, accordion, bass viol and guitar. He would pluck the bass viol and then play the pump organ; trying to emulate the sounds of the Hammond B3, which was the dominant organ sound on the music scene at that time. While he was never able to convince his parents to buy him an organ, he focused his natural musical abilities on the bass viol, an instrument his father played.
In his early high school years, Michael played with many different groups; including: a folk group named “3 Square = Music”, “The Ken Baron Trio”, “The Last Chance Banjo Band” and “The Matt Jordan Band”. It was in the “The Matt Jordan Band” that Michael made his debut as a vocalist and he hasn’t stopped singing since.
By the end of his high school years Michael was devoting many hours to the “O’Leary Brothers Band”, where he was a piano player. Michael received his long awaited first Hammond organ as a high school graduation present in 1971. This was the catalyst to the future success this accomplished musician and vocalist. And from there Michael spread joy to so many through his musical abilities, working as much as humanly possible.
But Michael wasn’t just satisfied playing his beloved Hammond, his obsession to understand the mechanical artistry of the Hammond organ and the Leslie tone cabinet made him a master Hammond organ/Leslie tone cabinet technician himself. At last count, his collection of Hammond organs and Leslie speakers consists of fourteen organs and twenty Leslie cabinets
By age 30, Michael had shared his technical acumen with such well known organists as Felix Cavaliere, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes and others.
His early musical influences included artists such as: Ray Charles, Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals, Vanilla Fudge, B.B. King, Santana, Tower of Power, Lee Michaels, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Winwood, Keith Emerson, Yes, Deep Purple, Steppenwolf, Argent, The J. Geils Band, Brian Auger and Booker T. Jones.
We’re sure Michael is putting together a kick ass band with the likes of bassist John McCormick and guitarist Alex Cervone among other local musicians who died in recent years.