I had mentioned earlier on some thread in the
forum that John was some sort self visualized " wise
guy ". But all in all, he and I got along alright for
the greater part of the duration that we would deal with one
When I bought Merlino out of Ernstrat, he received a certain
amount of cash and a promissory note that I would make
monthly payments to him until the debt was satisfied.
I don't remember what the monthly payment was, but it wasn't
In mid 1969 things were in drastic decline regarding the
once healthy music business in the city. I was beginning to
feel it financially, and the dwindling income was becoming
noticeable. I was concerned but hopeful that things would
In the meantime I was beginning to fall
behind on payments to the loans I had taken out to build
Studio B. I was also behind with my payments to John Merlino.
It was a late Friday afternoon. Sessions were completed
earlier that day, and the only people left in the studio was
my brother, part time engineer, Alex Placido, Neica Lee and
My brother was all excited about the present
sessions he was involved with and called us up to the
control room to listen to some of the things.
We had the speakers cranked up pretty good and while
we were listening to the tapes, John Merlino appeared at the
doorway to the control room and then walked the two steps up
to the control room platform. I acknowledged him with a nod
as we continued to listen to the tape.
The master power switch for the control room was at the foot
of the two steps to the platform. It startled all of us when
Merlino tripped the off switch.
The room was immediately uncomfortably quiet.
I must have said somthing to John about this but I don't
remember. He walked a few steps towards me until he was
about six feet from me and pulled a gun.
I saw him pull it from it's clam shell
holster, raise it and point it at my head. And I thought the
room was quiet just after the music stopped. It got deadly
I'm looking down the barrel of a 45, and in the eerie quiet
I hear the ominous click as John pulls back the hammer. I'm
thinking " This motherfu---r is going to kill me
". We faced each other like this for what seemed like
the better part of August, but I suppose was a few seconds.
He then raised the 45 a bit and fired a round into the
ceiling above my head. The noise of the shot was deafening.
Neica Lee, who was sitting left of to where I
put her hands to her face and leaned over and moaned softly.
My brother and Alex were slightly behind Merlino. Again,
another eternity but then John begins to leave rather
Just as he is going through the control room
door heading for the stairs, I freak. I'm going to kill this
motherf---er with my bare hands, and I leap for the doorway,
after him, out of my mind with rage.
My brother and Alex jump on me and my brother is screaming
at me "Ralph!!! DON'T!!! "
From here everything is a blank to me. I don't remember
going home. All of Saturday I brooded. I didn't talk to my
wife. I didn't talk to anyone. I was raging inside.
I have always had a quick Italian temper and
was known for it with some people, but this was something
had transformed into an entirely new ( or unexpected )
person. I brooded into Sunday and then I knew what I was
going to do. I was going to kill John Merlino. I would call
a meeting with just him and me. " Meet me at
the studio John. I'll be up in the control room " And
then when I hear his footsteps coming up I will suddenly
appear at the top of the steps and do him. I figured I'd use
a shotgun, so I couldn't miss.
Believe me. I've thought about this over the years. Would I
REALLY have been able to kill John Merlino. I like to think
not. I was under a tremendous amount of pressure at the
time. As I said, business was slow but I still had a large
payroll and operating expenses to deal with. I'm sure
I wasn't in the best frame of mind for something like this
Early Sunday afternoon, Johns wife called me.
She said " Ralph...this has got to STOP! " I have
to wonder at this phone call. Was Merlino over there
planning to kill me? What a comedy! At any rate, the power
of a sensible woman cooled things down and the "
showdown " was off.
What has bothered me the most over the years over this small
incident, was the person I saw I was capable of becoming. I
have never seen that person again, but I try to maintain my
reputation as having a quick temper at times.
It suits me well and I usually tell people that I
don't suffer fools very well. I do like to yell in the
studio a lot, but that comes from a creative place rather
than a place of anger, or rage, so it's all in fun. The
people that work with me just generally ignore it anyway.
Notes thanks to