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Al Caiola (1920–2016)

by Legacy Staff

Versatile session guitarist who played the “Bonanza” theme.

Al Caiola, a versatile session guitarist, died Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in a nursing home in Allendale, New Jersey, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 96.

Caiola’s guitar work on the theme songs from “Bonanza” and “The Magnificent Seven” found success on the charts during the early 1960s. He recorded over 50 albums with various artists, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Tony Bennett, and Simon & Garfunkel.


Although Caiola is not well-known to casual music fans, his guitar playing can be heard on some of the most famous recordings of the 20th century. A partial list of hits includes Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are,” Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” and Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl.”

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Born Sept. 7, 1920, in Jersey City, New Jersey, Caiola joined the Marines during World War II. He served in Bing Crosby’s band before shipping off to Iwo Jima, where he saw combat.

Following the war, he came to New York City, where he found a job with the CBS Orchestra. This house band worked on shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, and Steve Allen.

He then became a freelance guitarist, sitting in on numerous sessions with a multitude of different stars, playing various musical styles. He also recorded instrumentals under his own name, releasing several albums of his own.
Caiola is survived by his wife, Rosalie; a daughter, Sandra; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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