"The song is very short because we understand so much." - Navajo
Farewell to Peter Kairo - July 29, 2003
I received word last night that my friend Peter passed away back in January. Our paths first converged in 1978 at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Peter was an extraordinary self-taught ragtime guitar player and had a new album out that included "Bottom Dollar", a lively rendition of John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and his trademark "Sweet Georgia Brown". I was a twenty year old aspiring folksinger and had been playing around New England for only about a year. Peter was generous of heart and spirit and left a lasting impression on me. In the fall of that year, Peter was in Marblehead, MA to perform at the Me & Thee Coffeehouse. He was kind enough to let me take the stage during his intermission. In January of 1979, I hit the road and we lost touch for twenty-four years!
As time passed, I always remembered this ragtime guitar-picker with the big smile. I was able to locate him in August of 2002 when I was in Massachusetts and we had lunch together over at Farnham's in Essex. Over plates fried clams and lobster we caught up with each other. During our long separation, my friend had continued to perform, often traveling to New York City, where he'd stay with folksinger Dave van Ronk, and play around the Village. Peter had a keen interest in matters of the spirit, be they related to Buddhism, Peruvian shamanism or what have you. And this is where our discussion turned. I spoke about Toltec and Native American ideas. Peter, forever the linguist, said he was now learning to speak Lakota Souix.
Peter was always the joker. I remember him singing this back in '78:
"Woke up this morning and pulled my socks on over my shoes
Woke up this morning and pulled my socks on over my shoes
I didn't do it 'cause I wanted to...I had the Pollock blues!"
Here is some of Peter's obit:
Peter F. Kairo, 54, of Woburn died suddenly on Tuesday evening, January 28th, at Somerville Hospital after having been stricken while at work. He was the husband of Joanne W. (Guilli) Kairo. Son of Ann (Baresse) Kairo of Chelsea and the late Peter F. Kairo, he grew up in Chelsea and graduated from Chelsea High School with the class of 1966. He continued his education at U. Mass-Amherst.
An auto mechanic, he was employed for over twenty-two years at Good News Garage in Cambridge. In recent months he had started up his own auto repair business. A gifted self-taught musician, he had played the guitar for over thirty years. He performed on a regular basis at Blanchard's Tavern in Avon and taught a workshop at the yearly New England Folk Festival. He also taught guitar lessons to students in his home.
At the age of eleven he began to teach himself Japanese, and was fluent in that language as well as several others. He worked part-time at a Japanese bookstore in Cambridge where he served as a translator. Over the course of the past several years, he and his wife had hosted Japanese exchange students in their home. Another of his varied interests was aikido (martial arts), which he had studied for many years and in which he was still active at the time of his death.
Click here for "My Memories of Pete" by George Mokray
on the New England Aikikai Website.