Louis Cioci, 78, of Williamstown, a jazz trumpeter and barber who bonded with everyone whose hair he cut, died Thursday, Jan. 7, of prostate cancer at his home.
A lifelong friend and boyhood South Philadelphia neighbor of singer Bobby Rydell and other local doo-wop musicians of the 1950s, and a new friend to anyone who spent time in one of his three shops, Mr. Cioci turned to barbering in the 1970s when disco got hot and the jazz band circuit faded.
But after 25 years of only sporadic gigs, he returned more often to the spotlight in 1997, and played until his health failed for good in July.
“He was my goomba,” said fellow trumpeter and South Philadelphia native Buddy Cifone. “We were always talking trumpets, mouthpieces, and sound. He had a great sound, much hipper than mine.”
Born in May 1942, the only child of a family steeped in Philadelphia’s Italian traditions, Mr. Cioci lived next door to Rydell at 11th Street and West Moyamensing Avenue. A natural musician, he played brass in bands throughout high school and graduated from South Philadelphia High in the late 1950s. He joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, playing in its band with other neighborhood musicians, and got side gigs with small jazz and Latin bands around the region.
He met Josephine DiMaggio in the neighborhood, and they married in 1968. Their daughter, Monique, was born in 1971, and she remembers Mr. Cioci gently winding his horn in the living room, working his scales, as she listened upstairs.
Jazz gigs got scarce when disco hit the scene in the 1970s, and his family was growing. So Mr. Cioci followed his uncle and became a barber. He went on to own three shops in Philadelphia over the next 50 years and cut the hair — and cultivated the affinity — of hundreds of people.
Mr. Cioci ran shops, handling up to 12 heads a day, on North Broad Street, then at 17th and Race, and finally on 19th Street near Rittenhouse Square. His wife started out selling candy in the front of the shop and wound up managing the business. His clients included Cardinals Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali, and dozens of local men and women who chatted and laughed as Mr. Cioci attended to their look.
“He knew a little about everything because people in his chair always talked to him,” his daughter said. “He was intellectual, so he could talk to people, and they would tell him all kinds of things. They found common ground.”
All the while, his music lurked in the background. He became part of the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz in the 1980s, designed and funded mentorship programs for young musicians, and formed his own Clef Club Community Big Band.
His favorite gig — the one that revitalized his dedication to music — came in 1997 when Mr. Cioci surprised the crowd at his daughter’s wedding by joining the house band and blowing them away. He went on to play with other local jazz stars at more regular concerts, with Rydell for a special show in 2008, and toured Philadelphia schools, where thousands of students tapped toes to his band’s music.
Mr. Cioci preached the value of education. He liked to talk mostly about his family to those in his barber chair. He and his daughter shared a love of the beach, and they called each other to rub it in when one of them was there and the other was stuck at work.
“The Clef Club is the House that Jazz built. Lou Cioci was certainly one of the architects,” wrote Lovett Hines, the artistic director and founder of the Clef Club’s Music Education Program. “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Cioci is survived by three grandsons and other relatives.
A Funeral Mass will be said Friday, Jan. 15, at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, 1723 Race St., Philadelphia.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Mr. Cioci’s name can be made to the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, 736 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19146.