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April Lawton 11/2006

April LawtonNovember 23, 2006 – April Lawton (Ramatan) was born on July 30th 1948 on Long Island New York. As guitar virtuoso, singer, and composer she came to notice in the early 70s as the lead guitarist of the criminally underrated rock band  Ramatam, which also included former Iron Butterfly guitarist Mike Pinera and the former Jimi Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell. With Jimi just dead, she was hailed as the female Jimi Hendrix by many, and her style was a mix of Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Alan Holdsworth. When Pinera and Mitchell left after the self titled debut album, she stayed with Ramatam for “In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns”, in my opinion one of the most incredibly versatile albums ever recorded.

But April left after this second album, to follow her solo project called the April Lawton Band, which dissolved in the late 1970s. Some much less talented male guitar players with the help of a jealous so-called fellow female guitar player friend spread the rumor that April was transgender, since no good looking woman could ever play the guitar like she could, n’est-ce pas?  Even though others like Mike Pinera and swore this to be a lie, these flaming fuckers actually may have been a major reason why she never allowed for an interview and kind of “disappeared” from the music scene after the 70s were over. Another reason was that she was also a worldclass visual artist.April_with_Jimmy_Page

Her painting and graphic designs, were amazing and as a worldclass freehand artist she got published in Magazines like Science Digest.

Yet from a very obscure piece of fusion she wrote in those years one can easily deduct that playing guitar must have stayed a major part of here life in the 80s. Listen to this obscure recording of a tune she wrote and then produced together with New York guitarist Rishard Lampese (REESHO) in his home grown studio in the early nineties. The tune is called “Breathless” and April plays the second lead starting about 2 min. 10 sec. in. It’s some of the most advanced guitar playing I had ever heard at that time.

April was in the habit of constantly changing arrangements which became very frustrating to me. I didn’t believe at the time that a completed collection of work was ever going to happen because of this. We had worked on at least 10 tunes like this one over a period of 2.5 years. We took a break until she reached out to me with a half dozen rewrites which I declined. I would be nice to know that we completed and published the album in a parallel universe at least. I miss her today more than ever. – Rishard Lampese.

Her personal life stayed very private until her death on Thanksgiving 2006, although during the 1990s she recorded demos for a future album, but the material remains unreleased. Some excerpts were available at the April Lawton tribute website but are now unplugged. If anything, April Lawton opened the doors for female superstars on guitar, such as Orianthi, Nori Bucci, Sophie Lloyd, Giulia Gualtieri, Alexandra Maiolo, Laura Cox and others.

She sadly died from heart failure at her home in New York on Nov 23, 2006 at age 58.


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