It's been a rough weekend for the Houston blues community. Martin Miglioretti, a graphic artist who designed dozens of posters and other images for the Houston Blues Society, even its Lightnin' Hopkins-themed logo, passed away suddenly Saturday night. He was 58 and signed his creations "Martino."
Houston blues musician and Miglioretti's good friend Sonny Boy Terry said Miglioretti's ex-wife called him Sunday morning and told him the artist had suffered an apparent heart attack at his home near River Oaks.
"From what I gathered, he never even made it to the hospital," Terry says. "It's still a shock."
Terry says Miglioretti seemed to be in pretty good shape, and didn't smoke. "He was a pretty lean, mean fighting machine," he chuckled. He had just talked to him Saturday afternoon, he adds.
The two friends had known each other for 32 years, Terry says, since a mutual friend introduced them at a place called Yank's Tavern on Antoine Drive. It was around 1982, he remembers, when the young harmonica player was trying to break into the local blues scene. Miglioretti had already been in Houston for a few years, Terry says.
"Marty lived at the Holly View apartments right down the street on Antoine," he recalls. "There was about five or six of us, and we all became a little gang."
Of that gang, Terry says he and Miglioretti remained friends and that he would help him with artwork for whatever group he was playing with, whether Kenny Abair or Joe "Guitar" Hughes, sometimes on the house. Besides his Houston Blues Society work, Miglioretti designed the posters for the Blues for Food food drive for the Houston Food Bank, and Terry's annual Texas Harmonica Festival and Clinic each summer at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar.
Around 1993, Terry adds, Miglioretti designed the T-shirt and logo for the Houston Blues Society (which Terry helped found), as a way to help raise money for the fledgling nonprofit. In its early years, the artist also served on the HBS board and designed the newsletters, which Terry calls "little mini-Living Blues magazines."
"The logo really gave the organization a face, and something tangible," Terry says. "You couldn't really get anything done better."
Terry remembers Miglioretti as having a perfectionist's eye when it came to his art ("he was a picky dude"), and as also a talented painter who had studied art back in Pennsylvania. His friend says Miglioretti also had an eye for cars, and both photographed and painted vintage, gleaming, chrome-heavy automobiles; his automotive art is on display at this Web site.
Terry says his friend was particularly proud of his 1973 Corvette, though he used a beat-up old pickup for everyday use. He admits he doesn't know how Miglioretti came by his love of blues, but says in this part of the world in the early '80s, it wasn't hard to come by at all.
"There was a big roots boom here in Houston," Terry says. "You could go see James Harmon or the Blasters or Albert Collins on a real casual basis. Now I'd say the scene's pretty much dominated by local artists, but you had a lot of big-time touring. You could go to Fitzgerald's or Rockefeller's or Corky's -- there was a lot of blues on the scene."
More recently, Miglioretti created the series "Blues In All Its Colors," vividly colored portaits fashioned after 1940s- and '50s-style juke-joint concert posters that were displayed at Cactus Music in October 2011 and last summer at the Heritage Society as part of a fundraiser for the Houston Blues Museum.
Miglioretti stood godfather to Terry's son, now 22 months old. The artist is survived by his elderly mother, who still lives in the Pittsburgh area, Terry says.
Gail Singer, President of the Houston Blues Society, says HBS will host an informal gathering at 9 p.m. this Wednesday to remember both Miglioretti and physician/musician Dr. Richard Patt, who passed away from lung cancer early Sunday morning.