At the end of fifties, the R & R music landed in France. A Swiss musician flew to the USA and crossed the country in order to learn the new guitar techniques, which were to transform the electric guitar world. Up to that point this flat instrument, which produced a cold sound and had a very ordinary look, did not attract the guitarist who preferred the warmth of the wood and the wide body of the traditional guitar.
Pierre Cavalli was going to become strong link between this old and New World. Keen to learn new techniques, this musician came from la Chaux de Fonds, in the French speaking Switzerland. He was born in the early thirties. Pierre Cavalli’s attitude was to decline classifying musical inspiration because of the technique.
For him, every musical instrument was interesting in itself. In the United States of America he met Les Paul, the world famous guitarist, one of the fathers of modern guitar, and understood quickly that all the kinds of music could benefit of the electric guitar.
Pierre could have remained comfortably in Lausanne to manage his fathers music instruments’ shop, which was close to the Saint François place. But he preferred to leave the family nest when he was young, first to make strong studies of violin, while in the evening he played his favourite instrument in the bars. He became very quickly a master in guitar and was high in demand in a very broad audience.
He brought back from his American journey an amazing technique which gave him the opportunity to set up his own band which played popular music, but he could also support by his playing the jazz and the modern rock. For example he was the first musician in Europe to play a double neck Gibson, which was understood by the teenagers as he converted to R & R.
Pierre Cavalli went far away from that. His technique inspired many musicians eager to improve their guitar play. As he liked the modern things, you could often meet him in a jazz club trying new techniques with one or more guitars, with various amplifiers and reverb kits. In this field it is today quite obvious that he played a big role in teaching to the young people the art of electrical guitar. Like Jimi Hendrix he showed the way to get amazing sounds of their guitar.
Cavalli was a forerunner. He did not use his musical talent so much for himself. But he made big efforts to communicate his art.
When his father died, in the mid sixties, Pierre had to come back to Lausanne to help his mother in law to manage the shop. He was the first in Switzerland to sell the fender stratocaster, telecaster or Jaguar. Those famous guitars which made young teenager dream of. Pierre Cavalli was for these young guys a wise and always available advisor. Without being a professional salesman, he knew how to take time to teach beginners and make them discover new skills.
Then when the night, he was going in the jazz club and bars where he loved to play all night long with jazzmen coming from all part of the world. He did make some small hits since he cut a lot of records. In France he was one of the favourite musician for a man like Eddie Barclay, a jazzman who became the owner of one of the biggest French record label. Eddie considered Pierre Cavalli as a man with a bright future. For the Barclay label he recorded many Duane Eddy or Don Gibson tracks which he arranged in a very jazzy style; this underlined his amazing skills.
Fascinated also by insects, of which he made a huge collection and studied them. Pierre Cavalli never stopped playing guitar all around Europe up to his death in 1989 in Zürich, where he stayed a long time. There he used to play in the jazz clubs and as a session man in the recording studios. He then developed new techniques with African chord instruments.
Christian SCHLATTER, translated by Jean BACHELERIE.