Local musician, Lenny Nicotri, has had a long career in music and a few ups and downs in his life. Now, he is happily retired from the demanding and hectic life he led for seventeen years. But he didn’t give up music entirely. Lenny plays guitar and sings with a local band called Alabama Rain that is made up of two other musicians – Michael Morelli on drums and Chris VonBartheld who plays keyboard and also sings.
Alabama Rain performs at area restaurants, country clubs and other venues. One of the band’s passions is raising money for various causes. Among the groups the three have been instrumental (pun intended) in helping are the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill with its Barney’s Ball, the Hernando Back Pack Program for Kids and hurricane victims in the Bahamas.
Lenny’s love for music started when he was just a kid growing up on Long Island. When he heard the music of the Beatles in 1964, he knew that was what he wanted to do. Lenny’s grandmother bought him his first guitar (an acoustic) for Christmas and in his words, “Somehow I figured out how to get sounds out of it and eventually play it.” Later he got his first electric guitar and amp.
“I learned to play so-so and ended up in a garage cover band,” Lenny says modestly.
He also started writing songs. Throughout his career he wrote more than forty tunes.
In 1970 at the age of eighteen, he decided to seek fame and fortune in Los Angeles. All he had was two guitars and $25 in his pocket.
“I traveled by freight train, hitch hiked, met the strangest and lowest of mankind you never want to meet. I ate maybe once every other day if it was a good week,” he relates.
After two years of chasing his dream in California, Lenny returned to New York. He was penniless with no guitars. They had been stolen.
“I felt I had no future musically. I ended up getting a job pumping gasoline making about 90 cents an hour.”
But he did not give up on his dream entirely. He spent hours at a local music store admiring the guitars. The owner, Mr. Bill Miller, offered to let him pick out any guitar that he wanted and said that Lenny could pay him when he was able to. Mr. Miller told Lenny he had faith in him. He ended up selecting a Gibson SG Deluxe with gold hardware.
“He must have been my Guardian Angel because my luck quickly changed. I started looking for work in the music field.”
He found a band called King Harvest that needed a replacement guitarist. He played with that band and later left to join another band called Ikabar Krane, the biggest and most popular band on Long Island in the 70’s. Lenny’s music career took off and he quickly paid Miller back the $328 for the guitar. During this time, he adopted the stage name Lenny Emmanuelli.
In the ensuing years, Nicotri played in eight different bands and performed at many well-known locations in New York City, such as The Waldorf Astoria and Tavern on the Green. He also toured in New England and the Midwest. Lenny even appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon in 1973. He played with a number of well-known performers and groups, including a young Billy Joel getting his start with a band called The Hassles as well as Little Anthony and the Imperials, Luther Vandross and the J. Geils Band.
Besides writing songs, Nicotri has written a musical entitled “Dreamin’ My Life Away” that was performed Off-Broadway. He is also the author of a series of cookbooks and a novel.
In 1985, Lenny retired from the music business and got a “day job.” He saw what the business was doing to some of his friends and he wanted to spend more time with his family. Then in 2014 Lenny retired again and he, along with his wife, moved to Spring Hill. Lenny’s love for music and helping people is evidenced by the active schedule of performances for Alabama Rain.
When asked what he found most enjoyable about performing, Lenny stated, “At first it was about how I felt when I was up on the stage, performing. Then it became the enjoyment of the audience. When I see the audience having a great time and enjoying themselves, it creates an adrenalin inside of me, an emotional high.”