I play at being a local music writer here and there, writing about online music releases when the spirit strikes me.
Alas, the Lehigh Valley has lost someone who chronicled local bands for real, with the passing of local media veteran Len Righi.
WFMZ-TV, Righi’s most recent employer, reports he died Wednesday at age 63. Before joining the station, he’d worked for 30 years or so in the newsroom of Allentown’s daily paper, the Morning Call, most recently as a music and arts writer.
I worked with Len in the newsroom of the Morning Call for five of those years. I didn’t know him personally. But a lot of people whose judgement I trust did, and they all have positive things to say about him.
One former Morning Call writer, whose confidence I trust I am not betraying, sent me a social media message saying: “I got to do so many cool things … because of him.”
While I don’t remember Len on a deep personal basis, I remember his local music reviews.
He would go to shows in Philly, sure. But he would also trek to the Slovak Social Club in North Catasauqua to see a wise-ass British punk band called the Pork Dukes.
He might review the latest release by a nationally known indie-rock band; but he would also chronicle otherwise obscure local efforts by bands like the Russian Meat Squats.
I don’t know how much the Morning Call does that kind of local music coverage any more. I don’t get the sense it does, based solely on the headlines on its website, which mostly seem to be about national acts.
(Could be the local reviews run in the hard-copy paper but don’t get highlighted on the website. I don’t read the hard-copy paper, so I don’t know.)
Local music scenes need their chroniclers just as much as they need drummers and singers. It’s good to have an intelligent outside commenter around to provide encouragement, poke the occasional hole when it’s needed, and preserve the action for posterity as much as possible.
If I could build the From the Valley series into something approaching that, I’d be happy.
Len Righi did that for many years as part of his daily work.
Hopefully, all those local musicians he wrote about — those countless guys who passed through bands like the Russian Meat Squats — are thinking fondly of him tonight.