Gene Fresco – The Passing Of A Music Industry Titan

It was around 1990 or 1991 when I first met Gene Fresco. I was barely old enough to drink and only been playing guitar for about 5-6 years. He, on the other hand, had been in the music industry since I was crawling and had done more than people knew or understood.

Gene was a sales guy for Washburn Guitars when I met him. I have a very early Washburn Nuno Bettencourt N2 model that I’ve not seen another one like and always pondered if it was a rarity that Gene got out to a local music store at that time. And that says a lot about how he was as a salesman and as a man. He was always doing special things for people. It’s an approach to sales that wasn’t “old school”…it was the “right school”. See….Gene could have been selling sand in the desert and people would buy it because it was Gene. Not because of any sales trick or gimmick, but because of the type of man Gene was.

Gene was a salesman in the era of when he drove from customer to customer in his region. He had a nice comfy road-cruising car and I remember him having a few big photo albums he carried with him. I asked him one day about something or someone, and he produced a photo album as deep as it was wide. And off we went through photos of people and places that were springboards for stories rich with personality. I didn’t ask. He just treated people in that special way.

Gene would do anything he could for people. I have a photo of me standing next to Ted Nugent. and some guys from a local music shop. Gene set us up to meet Ted after a Damn Yankees show in 1991. This wasn’t a typical meet and greet. It was after the meet and greet and with Ted and his family in his room backstage. The normal thing would have been to hook us up with tickets and maybe a meet and greet or maybe a sound check. Gene didn’t treat anyone normal, he wanted the people he knew to have something special. And it was.

Gene was the doorway to many of my biggest and best exposures to the industry. Because of Gene, I have met people that include Tony MacAlpine (solo artist, Vinnie Moore, Steve Vai, and more!) and Scott Dalhover (Dangerous Toys, Ghost Machine Guitars) and and have gotten to know them outside of “the stage”. And then there were the experiences that Gene shared… Ted Nugent, Nuno Bettencourt, Eddie Van Halen, and so on. It’s been said that Gene had been to NAMM more than anyone else….and I don’t think anyone would doubt that.

For the past several years, Gene had gotten in to sharing his sales experiences. You can find his book on Amazon. In fact, let me share a suggestion his son-in-law made….google “Gene Fresco”. My suggestion would be to carve out enough time to read through the results.

Why is all this in the past tense? Scores of people in and out of the music industry lost a friend and a mentor yesterday at the news of Gene’s passing.

Thinking of Gene reminds me of how a single person can have a huge impact on not just a customer…and not just a company…but an industry. It seemed as if anytime I recounted a “Gene story” to someone within the industry, they always knew who I was talking about. The sort of influence that Gene held is what still inspires and gives hope in a time of so many big companies losing sight of how simple gestures will bond with a person to make them a customer for life.

Here’s to Gene….up in heaven, selling harps to the angels

Darth Phineas is a long time music industry insider who provides his readers with unbiased reviews on musical instrument and guitar gear. You can read more of his reviews and check out industry news on his Facebook community Darth Phineas