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It Started with MAMMOTH.

A Tribute to the first artists I ever represented

Some people experience a seminal moment in which they realize what they are destined to do for the rest of their lives. For me, a confluence of forces and events gradually led to the decisions that informed what I would ultimately do. Either way, I believe there is value in examining how and when that happens. It helps create perspective on where we are today and how we got here. In my last post, “The Art of The RELATIONSHIP,” I note that at my first job in advertising, despite my goal of being an artist of some sort, I was guided to apply my talents to a career as an artists’ rep – it obviously worked. In looking back now, I see there was an earlier indicator and manifestation of a talent that was a harbinger for my chosen work.

As a freshman in high school I played keyboards in a band with my friends – for maybe two dances – I wasn’t very good. Though I found I was far better off focusing my musical expression on performing in HS choral groups and musical theatre productions, I did serve what was to be a prophetic role for the ultimate iteration of that band, Mammoth. The musicians of Mammoth trusted me to find gigs, make arrangements for practice facilities, negotiate fees, collect and distribute money.

I was Mammoth’s manager. This is my tribute to those friends, their artistry, our shared passion for music, and how that all inadvertently tapped into what was to be my professional calling.

Paul Santa-Donato reps artists

For four of my best friends from Harrison, NY, playing music was an ongoing creative endeavor dating back to their elementary school rock ‘n roll bands. Some also played in the school concert, marching, and dance bands.

“Danny” Colangelo played tenor sax in all three at Harrison High. He was self-taught on bass (his main instrument), guitar, and flute (see Ian Anderson). Danny was Mammoth’s leader, lead singer and guitarist (he played Rich’s Fender Mustang, which Rich still has, powered by the Kustom Amp the band owned collectively – go figure). Today, Dan plays bass with a group of friends in Manhattan regularly. He has also been my doctor for about 35 years.

Frank “Cookie” DiGregorio played Alto sax in the marching and concert bands, with a stint in dance band. Though Cookie played guitar since elementary school, he was Mammoth’s bass player (he played Dan’s Fender bass with Dan’s Ampeg bass amp – again, go figure). After Mammoth, “Cook” found his true musical groove singing to the accompaniment of his acoustic guitar. Inspired by James Taylor and Jackson Browne, he cultivated a mellifluous vocal style, and a light touch on the acoustic. During his years at Rider College, Cookie played coffee houses and small clubs around Trenton, NJ. Today, he is an Operations Supervisor for a national consumer products company, and still plays and sings just about every day.

Rich Cozzi played drums in the concert band until he dedicated his energies to athletics…and Mammoth. “Cozzi” was Mammoth’s drummer (his red fleck Ludwig kit was NOT borrowed). He also played guitar, and while at the University of Maryland on a full football scholarship, Rich started to develop some serious guitar chops. After graduating, Cozzi was accepted at Berklee School of Music in Boston where he studied jazz and charted a course for a life in music. Today Rich lives in California where he gives music lessons and gigs as a jazz guitarist.

As did the other guys in Mammoth, Steve Fratello played guitar since elementary school. When he bought a beautiful gold fleck Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Super Reverb amp around senior year, he became Mammoth’s missing link – “Fratello” was our rhythm guitarist. Steve’s a corporate accountant, and I’m not certain if he still plays (he sold the Les Paul years ago). I can say that whenever we’re in touch, we still talk music. It’s in his blood.

Like so many kids of our generation, we spent hours listening to and analyzing albums. We knew who the producers were, where albums were recorded, who the prominent studio musicians were and which musicians previously played with what seminal bands. Mammoth was an outgrowth of that common interest in and study of contemporary music. As I have since experienced with artists I work with professionally, we were all gaining knowledge about an art form, about new techniques and tools, and sharing it with each other. Despite all the instrument swapping, equipment failures, classic arguments, tantrums and the like, the overall vibe of Mammoth was great due to our mutual commitment to playing a wide range of good music – (EARLY) Chicago, Grand Funk, Mountain, Neil Young, Cream, Derek and the Dominos, Tull, and so on. Mammoth had a lot of fans and succeeded at getting them dancing.

In Mammoth World (hey, it was OUR world, fully replete with roadies, Puggy and Big Zach, and a bunch of groupies), I was the business arm of the band, so to speak. Just six years after the last Mammoth gig, I was working as a rep for an advertising art studio in New York. Five years after that, I opened Santa Donato Studios where I’ve since spent every day of my professional life representing artists.

I continue to grow in my appreciation and gratitude for all the talented artists who have trusted me to represent them. Danny, Cookie, Cozzi, and Fratello were the first – they were artists. I didn’t get it at the time, but I was there rep.

As for me and music, I listen to music every day (often on vinyl, again). I’m a happy hack on piano, and play blues harp.

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