By Sandie Grassino, Contributing Writer
There is a saying among graduates of Lindbergh High School: “Once a Flyer, Always a Flyer.” It is not unlikely that other high schools would also use that maxim for their school, especially in the Saint Louis area. Here in “The Lou” people are extremely interested in everyone else’s alma mater. The first question asked usually after “What’s your name?” is “Where’d you go to high school?”
Lindbergh High School Flyers, though, seem to be incredibly loyal to both their alma mater and their Fellow Flyers.
A case in point is the story of Chris Casamento, Lindbergh High Class of 1978. Born on “The Hill,” Casamento always had an affinity to music. He knew, even at a young age, that it would someday become his career. His grandparents, and then his parents, owned a tailor shop on The Hill, eventually moving the shop and the family to the Sappington area. Casamento became a student in the Lindbergh School District, and availed himself to all the music and choir classes he could get.
Casamento did better than most of the starry-eyed singer-songwriters who started their dreams of a successful career early in life. He was a member of Nicolette Larson’s (1952-1997) band. The band was getting ready to re-form with Larson when she decided to tour again. Unfortunately, that never happened as Larson died on Dec. 16, 1997 of complications from cerebral edema triggered by liver failure.
Casamento remained in California after this, returning east about 2014.
“First, I moved to Kansas City, but I did not stay there long, and came home to St. Louis,” Casamento said. Still gigging places, forming bands, keeping on with the music career and writing songs.
Back in St. Louis, he reconnected with Michael Viviano, owner and operator of Viviano’s Festa Italiano in Fenton. Viviano and Casamento grew up as next-door neighbors on The Hill in Saint Louis. Two years ago, Viviano began adding live entertainment at his Fenton restaurant: singers and bands on Fridays and karaoke every other Saturday night.
One of his largest draws at the restaurant is Casamento. Why? Because “Once a Flyer, Always a Flyer.” Whether or not they were from the Class of ’78 like Casamento, the room fills with “Fellow Flyers” every time Casamento is booked. He is easy to listen to, sharing favorites such as “Brown-Eyed Girl” and covers of Jackson Browne and Jim Croce tunes. He also shares his own original songs, which are polished so well that if he doesn’t say “This is an original,” one spends the time listening trying to remember who sang it originally.
He has a new band now, called Tequila Mockingbird. They play gigs here and elsewhere. But when he is playing in a room filled with Fellow Flyers, you can tell it feels like home.
Tequila Mockingbird has a Facebook page that details their upcoming gigs. The band consists of Chris Casamento (guitar, keyboard, vocals); Dan Nienhaus (guitar, vocals); Robert Shea (bass, vocals): and Mark McHale (percussion, vocals).
Casamento will be returning to Viviano’s on April 14 from 6-9 p.m. for another solo performance.