May 2, 2021 is a day that will haunt me forever. On that date, one of the most talented and benevolent people that I have ever known, (let alone privileged to call my friend) Phil Naro was taken from us after a noble struggle with cancer. A much in demand musician, Phil was known as an outstanding talent, not to mention one of the greatest vocalists ever. As Craig Martin of Classic Albums Live once put it, “When Phil Naro sings the microphone is drinking fine wine” Nuff said!
Philip Sampognaro was born on March 13, 1958. Originally from Mount Morris, New York Phil and his family later moved to Rochester where he became addicted to music as a child through his Uncle Santo, who Phil greatly admired and credited for becoming his main inspiration in becoming a Musician. While a student at East Ridge High School in Irondequoit, Phil cut his teeth by fronting local bands Olias and Stormbringer.
His first major opportunity opportunity outside the United States was with Chain Reaction up in Canada whom he auditioned for upon seeing a classified ad in the Toronto Star Newspaper. 1980 marked the release of Phil’s very first album with Chain Reaction as their vocalist entitled “X-Rated Dream” which took the band to every major hot spot within the Canadian Hard Rock circuit in support of it.
Upon Chain Reaction’s demise, Phil returned to Western New York and was recruited in 1983 by legendary bassist Billy Sheehan to join Talas, and toured North America for three consecutive years while recording “Live Speed On Ice” during their travels. This album made the top ten charts simultaneously in both England and Japan. When Sheehan left in order to join David Lee Roth’s solo band, Phil continued fronting Talas for a spell until deciding that his time performing with them had also run its course.
Phil had become a much sought after and respected front man / songwriter by this point. He collaborated with Coney Hatch, not to mention Ex-Kiss drummer Peter Criss -whom he was strongly recommended to by none other than the great Eddie Kramer (whose production credits also include Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin) along with Gene Simmons himself. Phil also co-wrote three songs on Lee Aaron’s 1989 album “Body Rock” which went double platinum.
Although Phil’s work ethic was intensely dedicated, his possession of having a God given four octave vocal range is what consistently raised the bar for other singers to measure up. Winning a Daytime Emmy Award back in 2009 for the theme song of an animated comedy television series entitled “6teen” was another jewel in Phil’s studded crown.
2015 marked another milestone when Phil became a founding member of The Platinum Rock All Stars which also featured drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge / Rod Stewart), guitarists Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses) and Gene Cornish (The Rascals), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot / Whitesnake) along with keyboardist Geoff Downes (Yes / Asia). Combined, these six men have sold 150 million records worldwide.
Yet as much as music was an important and vital part of Phil’s life, it always came in second place behind his family which always remained the number one priority above anyone or anything else. He was a loving Father (John and James), Son (Maria), Brother (Joe), Uncle (Eric), and Companion (Cindy) first.
Despite his success and numerous credentials Phil was truly unique. I, like so many who were fortunate to know him will always remember his humility, kindness and making everyone in his presence know how much he valued their support and friendship.
To quote Billy Sheehan, “Phil was one of the finest human beings I have ever known ….a dear friend, spectacular singer and performer who inspired all who knew him to stay positive and keep going against all odds.”
Phil it’s good that people like us met in the struggle of life. Thank you for the music along with the endless great memories which accompanied them. Until we meet again dearest friend!