Fred Benedetti: “I hit the flagpole with my guitar at the end and I didn’t know what to do so I saluted it!”
"Most people would know me as a classical guitarist who also plays flamenco and ethnic-flavored music,” says Fred Benedetti, who cites among his most inspirational predecessors “Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, John Williams, and then move towards Paco DeLucia, and then finally end up with Armik, Strunz and Farah, and Rodrigo y Gabriela. But, then again, I do love stepping out and playing jazz on my double-neck guitar and pulling out the Les Paul and Strat for shows with my daughters.”
Born Fred Masataka Benedetti in Sasebo, Japan (“I would love to use my middle name as a stage name, but I think it’s a little too late to do that now”), he was already an accomplished player when he won the chance to participate in a 1986 master class with Andrés Segovia at USC. “I have a distinct part of me that I consider Japanese, and another that is Italian. Some days I’m more Italian, other days I feel my Japanese side is dealing with the world.”
Now gigging around town regularly, Benedetti says his music career wasn’t exactly an overnight success. “We used to play for tips in Balboa Park when I was in high school, [and] I used to play for tips at the Prophet vegetarian restaurant when I was in college and had to ride to school on my bicycle with my guitar strapped to a backpack frame because I couldn’t pay for gasoline. I really never had it that bad, though, because my parents always gave me a roof over my head. I by no means grew up privileged, so I did learn how to manage my money and that helped me a lot later on in life. Whether playing or teaching, music is the only way I have ever made a living.”
Benedetti appears Thursday, October 29, in the lobby lounge of the Grand Del Mar and on Friday at Ki’s restaurant in Cardiff.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
- “Revolver, the Beatles. It’s been my favorite Beatles album since I bought the original vinyl in 1966. This has to be my fourth CD version, remastered.”
- “A four-CD set, the Andrés Segovia Collection. I never tire of listening to the maestro.”
- “Dr. Einstein’s Spin, by Peter Sprague. His music is a complete inspiration.”
Fred Benedetti talks about and plays a favorite Beatles classic
ANYTHING YOU WERE EMBARRASSED TO MENTION?
“More of the Monkees. What can I say, I loved these guys as a kid growing up in Hawaii in the ’60s, and this album brings me right back every time I listen to it.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING A MUSICALLY INCLINED KID?
“My teacher did notice that I could play guitar.... I accompanied the sixth-grade class at our final farewell concert for the PTA. I remember I hit the flagpole with my guitar at the end and I didn’t know what to do so I saluted it!”
YOUR WORST BAND NAME?
“I guess the trio with the shortest life span, the Tuberculites, [an] awful name that we came up with while playing a gig with all of us having respiratory difficulties and coughing through every song. It seemed clever at the time.”
- Friday, October 30, 2015, 8:30 p.m.
2591 S. Coast Highway 101,
Cardiff by the Sea
EVER COMMITTED A VIOLENT ACT?
“When I was young, I tried to hit my friend over the head with my dad’s guitar. Needless to say, the guitar broke and I got hell for it. But, I remember I really wanted to hurt my friend bad, even though he was like a brother to me. Maybe that’s why. I didn’t have any siblings, and I had a little of that only-child syndrome.”
WHAT REMAINS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
“Write a piece for guitar and orchestra and perform it everywhere.”
“My keys and wallet were stolen out of my truck when I was surfing.... They used my credit cards and I had a wad of cash because, the night before, I made amazing tips playing at the Four Seasons Resort. I had all the door locks changed at my house, and the next day I got a ticket for speeding and not having my license. The officer didn’t believe my story about my stolen driver’s license. It was a bad couple of days.”
SONG THAT BEST DESCRIBES YOUR LIFE?
“‘In My Life,’ the Beatles. ‘In My Life, I’ve loved them all!’”
SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
“I’m allergic to codeine. I had the most bizarre reaction to Vicks 44 when I was a kid that had my face welting up so bad that a doctor diagnosed me with an allergy to codeine. I’ve been afraid to try it since.”
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN?
“When I dream, and that’s every night for sure, I always go to a very separate place from my waking life, but an equally familiar environment. It’s just like it’s this other life I live. It’s the same house, people, city, same world. I’ve been doing that since I can remember.”