Long Island rock legend Peppi Marchello, who for decades fronted The Good Rats, lovingly dubbed “the world’s most famous unknown band,” died on Wednesday of an apparent cardiac arrest. He was 68.
The news of his death was first announced on the band’s Facebook page, which until yesterday had been flooded with well-wishes for Marchello, who underwent heart surgery in June. It appeared he was on the mend, and the Good Rats were even slated to perform Sunday in Commack, NY.
“This has come as a shock to his family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them at this very sad time,” wrote friend Melanie Kerwin.
“Peppi’s life was about his family and his music,” said Meth. “His love for songwriting and performing never diminished and he continued playing as many as 100 times each year until the very end. He was adored by his legion of fans who regarded Peppi himself as an event they wanted to be part of. He will be dearly missed.”
Formed in 1964 as the U-Men, the band changed their name to the Good Rats by the release of a self-titled debut album in 1969. The Rats’ protopunk sound and Marchello’s gritty, flexible growl can be heard on standout track, “Joey Ferrari.” (Marchello’s screams at 1:03 and 1:50 are equally terrifying and triumphant.) Listen:
Warner Bros. picked up the band for 1974’s “Tasty,” which proved to be their most popular release. It featured a more classic blues-rock sound on songs like “Injun Joe” and the tongue-in-cheek title track, a jazz-tinged ditty written by Marchello about band members he’d fired.
“We had a man named crazy Ott / He overplayed his bass a lot / We had to kick him in the pants / His finger moved like bodies dance / He couldn’t play tasty!”
A series of albums followed, including “Ratcity in Blue” in 1976 and “Tasty Seconds” in 1996. Band members throughout the years have included Marchello’s brother Mickey and son Stefan, as well as guitarist Bruce Kulick of Kiss and drummer Joey Franco, who later joined fellow Long Islanders, Twisted Sister.
“We mourn the passing of Peppi Marchello of The Good Rats, an old friend and legendary frontman for one of Long Island’s greatest bands,” the Dee Snider-led band said in a statement. “His genius will live on through the incredible music he helped create. Peppi’s vocal styling was a special gift that his fans will always cherish. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his bandmates.”
Best known for their rousing live shows, Marchello and company have opened up for Styx, Meat Loaf, Aerosmith, Rush and Bruce Springsteen, among others. Marchello often sang while playing air guitar on an aluminum baseball bat.
They were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Marchello is survived by his mother, his wife, four children, eight grandchildren, and two siblings.