Val Paganelli

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Folks shopping for musical instruments or instrument supplies in the Los Angeles area may have very well been waited on by Val Paganelli, not realizing that she is an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist…
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Folks shopping for musical instruments or instrument supplies in the Los Angeles area may have very well been waited on by Val Paganelli, not realizing that she is an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist who put aside possible career glories in order to raise children and help provide an encouraging music store atmosphere for up and coming players. Zep's Music store in Los Angeles was started by her late husband, the equally talented Zep Meissner. He was a former Spike Jones sideman and also led many of his own Dixieland bands. Paganelli got her start in show business singing with the amusing country star Tex Williams, who liked to have a female vocalist or two on-stage to help him cough his way through ditties such as "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette." Meissner happened to catch Williams' show one night in 1963 and was apparently instantly entranced, hiring her on the spot. Paganelli remained an important member of his band for more than a decade. She sang and played an arsenal of instruments, including trumpet, vibes, drums, mandolin, and banjo. The couple's combo was a popular attraction at most of the major hotels around both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Glenn Evans and Richard Simonian, another pair of multi-instrumentalists, also played in this quartet. The group's repertoire was simply massive, incorporating many different genres of music from several different eras, much of it arranged with taste by Meissner. The versatile combo finally called in quits in the late '70s. Many fans of the band assumed the couple had been married right from the beginning of their musical relationship, but this wasn't so. They were actually just good friends until Meissner's first wife passed away in 1982, after which their relationship took a new course. They finally married, but were only together a few years before Meissner also died. The music store was founded in 1962, by which time Meissner had already built a strong reputation as a composer, arranger, and clarinet player. He wanted to establish the store as a "comfortable hangout" for local musicians and was delighted when they took to the place in just the manner he had hoped. Paganelli continued to run the business following his death, making sure the staff continued to include seasoned professional musicians such as Stu Aptekar and Rafael Galante. Although she performs less than in the heyday of the Meissner band, one of the store's sidelines has continued to be making music groups available for various events. So there is still the possibility that, say, a seven-piece band hired for a local Bat Mitzvah might include her swinging vibraphone playing.