It was New Year’s Eve 1974 when Beppe Gambetta and Silvio Ferretti first met, discovering a shared a passion for the guitar, Simon & Garfunkel, Jethro Tull, and all that, back then, was classed as ‘acoustic music’. In the intense work that followed, Beppe brought to the table an already remarkable technical skill and Silvio a love for the banjo and part of the American musical tradition (folk music, bluegrass music, protest songs, Doc Watson, Flatt & Scruggs, the Weavers) and, to a smaller extent, for the sounds of the Irish and Scottish traditions. So, when in 1978 the “Beppe e Silvio” duo was joined by guitarist Raimondo Oggiano and, soon after, by violinist Enzo Porella and bassist Ferruccio Rocca, the newly-formed (and still unnamed) band played a bit of all the different genres brought together by its individuals members. With the name Red Wine String Band, the band began to play first in the Genoa area and then throughout Northern Italy, showcasing an extremely diverse musical repertoire, which – back then – was bound to be a huge hit with the public.
In 1981, Red Wine acquired new member Martino Coppo and lost their non-bluegrass components, less keen than Beppe, Silvio and Ferruccio on playing only, or mostly, bluegrass music, and more interested – like Raimondo – in exploring a variety of musical genres. The band’s sound solidified through the study of historical bluegrass bands and when in 1982 Red Wine took part in the first Italian Bluegrass Festival (at the Ponderosa Ranch in Tradate, near Varese), the basis of the band’s sound had formed: Martino’s and Silvio’s voices, Beppe’s virtuoso guitar, Martino’s mandolin – playing between Bill Monroe and Sam Bush – and Silvio’s traditional banjo.
At the end of 1983, the band was joined by Marco “Baby” Curreri, who, with his rocky bass playing, powerful voice, and impressive vocal range, was able to give the Red Wine sound a new rock edge. Just six months later, the band took part in its first international festival, in Toulouse, obtaining considerable success, both with the audience and with the other European and American bands. After another couple of Italian festivals and one mare attendance at the Toulouse festival, Silvio and Martino were recruited – for a couple of months – by the band Freewheelin’, with whom they toured France, Germany and the US, making contacts that would prove to be useful for Red Wine too. Soon after, studio recordings began, and in 1989 “Full Taste” was released – Red Wine’s first and only LP, presented while the band was touring with Tony Trischka.
In 1990 Marco Curreri fell ill and the band suffered a heavy blow. Beppe decided to concentrate on his solo career (launched a few years before) and left the band, which right then was inactive. In the 3 years in which Baby fought against cancer, Martino and Silvio reformed the band, together with double-bassist Maria Grazia Branca and guitarist Luca Bartolini, and started touring Italy and Europe once again. Marco Curreri died at the end of 1993 and, in his honour, Red Wine began a series of concerts called “On a night like this”, held in Genoa every year before Christmas, until 2008, with the participation of Genoese artists and bands.
Guitarist Dino Di Giacomo joined the band at the end of 1993 and with him Red Wine began to expand their activity and finally made it across the Atlantic. The first US tour took place in 1995; from then on, the band began to perform at festivals and establishments across the US almost every year, from Pennsylvania to California, from Tennessee to Georgia, from Indiana to Kentucky, thanks to the excellent work of booking agents Mike and Susan Drudge, who quickly became part of the Red Wine family. From a recording point of view, these were fairly productive years: a tape and two CDs, showcasing the new Red Wine sound, some of the first original tracks, and the personal touch given by the band to some non-bluegrass tracks (an activity that had begun with Beppe and Marco and had been recorded on tape only in a small part). When family and work commitments forced Dino (who lived in Milan) to leave the band, Luca was back for a few years. For a brief spell, Red Wine were joined by double-bass player Lorenzo Sandi and even made it to perform in Ireland. In 2005, the band was joined by bassist Stefano Cavallo, an old friend of Martino’s and Silvio’s (with whom he was a member of the Green Cellar Society in the early 80s, together with Marco Curreri), and in summer 2008 the role of guitarist passed firmly into the hands of Marco Ferretti (Silvio’s son), the only young member of the band and the only one with a full head of hair. Consisting of Martino, Stefano, Marco and Silvio (and with the help of Dino), in 2008 Red Wine took part in the IBMA World of Bluegrass festival in Nashville and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, reminding the bluegrass community that, despite their various misadventures and line-up changes – typical of long-lived bands – Red Wine could still boast a strong style and musical offer, which, hopefully, they would continue delivering to their audience for yet another 30 years…
At the beginning of 2011, Stefano Cavallo left the band and recommended Lucas Bellotti as the new bassist. Despite his young age, Lucas already had a remarkable musical experience, including 5-year conservatory studies in double-bass and a career both in the recording studio and on stage in the jazz and fusion genres. Between December 2011 and January 2012, Red Wine recorded a new album, named simply as RED, which the band presented in February with a short US tour, including, among other dates, the Wintergrass festival in Bellevue, WA, and a performance at the Freight & Salvage, in Berkeley, CA.