By: Ashley Lucas
The Panini Brothers got their name from a random ordering of the same sandwich at dinner with their wives. The ladies “thought it was the dumbest possible name for a band, and that sealed it,” said Mike DeGiorgi, one of three guitarists for the Paninis. DeGiorgi, Larry Sakayama, and Chip Conway originally just got together at Larry’s Smith Mountain Lake (SML) home to jam on cover tunes, but considering that Larry and Mike are two of the most gifted local songwriters that I personally know, their ambitions exceeded the not-so-simple cover. Joined by keyboardist, Mark Earnhardt, and drummer, Scott Thomas, the Paninis started feeding the locals with their own special blend of blues, rock, folk and jazz.
Their debut CD, “Eyes on the Water”, is a tribute to the band’s self-admitted randomness: It “makes a certain kind of collective sense. Our tastes are very different. Each songwriter trusts that input from the other brothers will make a song better,” said DeGiorgi. It’s only fitting that this SML band recorded their first album at Blackwater Recording Studio with Harold Thompson.
One of the tunes off their first release, “Road Dog Blues” is a great introduction to the Panini Brothers. A song about DeGiorgi’s rescue coonhound, it highlights each member of the band through the development of separate instrumentation. That variety elevates the song from an acoustic blues number, to a song that incorporates both rock and gospel elements. Listen to “Road Dog Blues” while you read the story behind the song, especially if you’re an animal lover!
Mike DeGiorgi: “Olivia was supposedly a year old when we adopted her. She was born, immediately escaped from her pack, lived on the road, was picked up by the Bedford Animal Shelter, then farmed out to All-American Mutt Rescue. I saw her picture online and knew we needed to adopt her. They brought her over and she just sat in front of me and stared with those sad hound eyes. Problem was, every time a door opened, she wanted to run away. I had to watch her like a hawk and never let her roam freely. I started thinking about what it must have been like to be a young pup on the run. Where had she been? How did she survive? Did she seek out human contact? She took to my guitar pretty quickly and usually lays down by my feet when I’m playing. “Road Dog Blues” is my attempt at imagining the adventures and different living situations of rescue dogs. Probably, it also is a metaphor for stray people as well and how people reinvent themselves when they land in a new place in life.
There’s no way she’ll leave now.”