HAVERHILL — A well-known musician in his day, Edolo "Ed" Lupi was in demand as a violinist and trumpet player, as well as a piano tuner. There was a time when you could consider Lupi a tuner to the stars.
At age 96, he said a glass of Chianti a day keeps him going. He still plays the violin from time to time, continues to tune pianos for friends, and has not lost his wry sense of humor or his talent for telling a good story.
"I asked a priest when I'm going to die and he said I won't tell you," Lupi said. "I told him I'm going to a synagogue and they'll tell me."
Lupi was introduced to music at an early age by his father, a trombone player. It wasn't long before his budding musical talents started earning him money.
While attending Haverhill High School in the late 1920s, Lupi made money playing with local bands and orchestras. During the 1930s, he played violin with an orchestra that performed at the Paradise Club in Lawrence.
"A fellow from Manchester (N.H.) called me over to his table and said he liked the way I played and would I be interested in playing on cruise ships," he said.
Lupi packed his bags, violin and trumpet, and was off to the Caribbean.
"Bing Crosby was staying at the same hotel and he bought our band a round of drinks," Lupi said. "I worked on the cruise lines until I got married in 1940."
He continued playing professionally and giving music lessons. Then in 1950, Lupi learned to tune pianos. He still has, and uses, his first tuning wrench, given to him by a local piano tuner who was retiring at the time.
"He said I had a good ear for tuning and that I did a good job," Lupi said.
Time has slowed him down a bit. He used to tune a piano in about an hour. Now it takes him twice as long. He only tunes pianos for friends, and only now and then.
"I'm not as fast as I used to be," Lupi said. "I used to charge $200, now I only charge $25."
Lupi recalls tuning pianos in the 1950s for entertainment giants like jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, country music legend Johnny Cash, and the flamboyant pianist Liberace, who requested Lupi's technical expertise when he performed at Frolics at Salisbury Beach.
"Liberace's conductor stood next to me to make sure I did it right," Lupi said. "Because of the constant changes in weather at the beach, you have to tune a piano there every day."
Back then Lupi's phone was always ringing off the hook with requests to have pianos tuned. It seemed like he was always on the road from one appointment to another.
"I tuned three Steinway pianos for Johnny Cash at the Lowell Auditorium," Lupi said. "I guess I had a good reputation."
Married 68 years, Lupi and his wife, Eda, live together at Mission Towers. They raised three daughters, one of whom is learning about piano tuning from the master, her father.
"I'm teaching my daughter Lorna to tune," Lupi said. "She's using a device called a chromatic tuner. I tuned by ear and I still do."
When he looks back on his life, he has few regrets, saying it was a good life filled with many good times. But he still wonders what would have happened had he accepted an offer to work at NBC.
"A man named Joe Lilly wrote music for Bing Crosby and he wanted me to join him," Lupi said. "I chickened out."
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