Four years ago, I tracked down the elusive Santo Farina from Santo and Johnny, living In a remote corner of Long Island, New York. I was the first person to talk about music with him since 1989 (so he told me), and he hadn’t played publicly or released any new music since then. Spoiler alert: the meeting went pretty well, and he told me he would give me an interview. But after I got home, phone calls were never returned, and any letters or packages I sent to his address were marked “REFUSED BY ADDRESSEE.” I have no idea what’s going on in Santo’s world, but he didn’t want to be found.
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I had an address on Long Island. I wasn’t even sure it was the right Santo. Way off the beaten path, I pulled up to a gate that said “Do Not Disturb.” I debated opening the gate and going in, and just then I saw somebody on the property walking behind a car. “Excuse me,” I said. A gentleman walked out from behind the car. “Are you Santo?” I asked. He looked me up and down. “You got some balls to come all the way out here looking for me,” he replied. After showing him my “credentials,” he told me he didn’t want me coming in the house, but he offered to take me to the local McDonald’s and tell me anything I wanted to know.
Does he still play? Yes, but only inside the house. Has he talked to Johnny since their 1976 breakup? He’s only seen him briefly once or twice, out in public, and they didn’t speak. Does he know that people are looking for him? Yes, he has had many offers to perform and record. Does he still own his original steel guitar? Yes, he does. Does he have any interest in coming out and playing some festivals? No interest whatsoever, he says. Would he be up for letting me call him and do a real in-depth interview, so I can write his story down? Yes, “but that number is just for you, OK? Don’t go giving it out.”
Then he said he had to get back to his house. I dropped him off, and he told me I was crazy for coming up to his place. I told him I was grateful he didn’t chase me off his property with a shotgun. He laughed, and went back inside. And that, to the best of my knowledge, is the only contact Santo Farina has had with anybody connected to his musical legacy of Santo and Johnny for over a quarter of a century.