The Vandals Biographies

Joe Tarantino    Cosmo Violante    Curt Mallegni    Ned Bawden    Nick Paolini    Also Featuring


 Joe Tarantino - Guitar and Vocals



Joe Tarantino was born April 12,1949 in SF’s North Beach. He attended Salesian School, Sacred Heart High School and SF City College where he majored in music and broadcasting. Joe began his musical journey early in life. Both his sisters played the piano so at age ten his mother decided to let him take piano lessons. Joe quickly discovered that riding his bike and throwing rocks through windows was way more fun. So when Joe asked to take accordion lessons, which also meant the purchase of an expensive instrument, his Mom countered by bringing home a guitar which she picked up on Market Street for $20.00. Joe hasn't stopped playing since. He was 35 years old when his mom stopped asking him when he was going to get a “real job.”


The recording studio experience he got with The Vandals planted the seed for yet another career. In 1974, he became a recording engineer and is currently working at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. He has re-mastered hundreds of jazz CDs from Duke Ellington to Ella Fitzgerald to Miles Davis and R&B CDs from Booker T & The MGs to Isaac Hayes. (For a complete discography go to and type in his name where it says “Artist”).


Joe now lives Danville, has two daughters, Nicole 12 and Lauren 18.




 Cosmo Violante - Lead Singer


Cosmo Violante, a native of San Francisco and North Beach was born in August of 1946.  He lived in the predominantly Italian American neighborhood until the age of 7 where he attended Sara B. Cooper Elementary School. His family moved to the Marina district, where he attended Sherman Elementary and Marina Junior High. Cosmo then followed his sister Marie and his brother Mike to Galileo High School.


His early years at school found him developing an ever-increasing interest in athletics.  He brought those talents to Galileo where he played football and was a member of their 1964 City championship baseball team.  Cosmo graduated in 1964.


He became a Vandals’ band member in 1965. His neighbor and best friend, Nick Paolini, asked Cosmo if he would be interested in singing with the group. Loving to sing, Cosmo jumped nervously at the chance.


When asked about those years with the band, Cosmo's reply is simply, “Those were some of the best and happiest days of my life. I miss those times; I wouldn't give the memories up for anything. We became more than just a band, our lives became one, just like a good marriage with its ups and downs, worth every ounce of energy to make it work. And, it did!”


Cosmo is married to Rose Marie Alioto Violante; they have been together for 35 years. Rose Marie also attended Galileo High School. They have two children, Matthew, his son who performs with his father at the reunion; and their daughter, Rochelle. His children are both married, Matthew to Shannon Fitzpatrick and Rochelle to Kenneth Simurdiak. Their first grandchild, Giordana, was born on January 11th 2002 to Ken and Rochelle. Cosmo and Rose Marie believe that family is everything, and it shows in the love they share with one another. Their new addition to the family, Giordana, is the love of their life.


Cosmo has been in restaurant management for nearly 35 years. He plays in several men’s softball leagues, is an avid golfer though admittedly not a very good one. He loves to travel, and just generally tries to enjoy life. He still loves to sing, and says, “Life is music, but in different tempos.”  When asked, he and his talented brother Mike will gladly sing in delightful harmony their signature song, “What's Your Name?”



 Curtis Mallegni - Drums and Vocals

























Curtis Mallegni was born on October 30, 1949 in San Francisco. He is the son of immigrants, his mother from Canada and his father from Italy. His father was a local music impresario doing business under the name of Sammy Manners. “Sammy” sponsored and produced local dances at Fugazi Hall, and Bimbo's 365 Club in the late 40’s and early 50's. While he did not play music himself, he had a deep appreciation for big band music, most notably Count Basie and Stan Kenton. Curt recalls sitting with his father listening to  bone-crushing renditions of Basie's "April in Paris" while the elder Mallegni sat with tears in his eyes taken with the overwhelming power of the Basie orchestra. When Curt was about 8 years old, his father "borrowed” a drum set from Ray Clark, a drummer Sam knew through his musical bookings. Ray was a great stylist and often played with the legendary Mike Corino at Fugazi Hall. Young Curt always possessed an innate sense of mimicry, so he basically began playing the drums the same way through watching, hearing, and then imitating. When Sam Mallegni passed away in 1960, Ray Clark came to redeem his loaner drums, and Curt was "trapless" for a few years.


One day when Curt was 12 years old, he walked into Sherman Clay on Kearny Street and went downstairs where they kept the musical instruments. He was taken with a silver flake set of Ludwigs with a chrome Slingerland snare drum. He sat down to try them out and he knew he was hooked. He pleaded with his mother to buy the set, and in a short time, they were delivered to 3216 Fillmore Street.


Once he started playing again, his pal from St Peter's & Paul, Joe Tarantino, got wind of it. He came over to Curt's place to hear for himself. It worked out and Joe, Curt and Fred Bustos formed the Interludes. Fred would later leave the band. Curt was also playing "casual" gigs with another boyhood friend, Nick Paolini, who played the accordion. He talked the versatile and gifted Paolini into trying the bass guitar. Nick auditioned with Joe and Curt to try out a few songs. Cosmo Violante, an aspiring vocalist, was Paolini's next door neighbor. While practicing at Nick's, Cosmo would come over and sit in, and it all seemed to click. The sound was a little light in the middle, and Cosmo and Nick heard of this terrific keyboard player from Galileo, Ned Bawden. Ned added his formidable keyboard musicianship to the band, and the Vandals were born. In the hay days of the band, Curt played on a Rogers black-onyx drum kit. The set he is using for the reunion is a Rogers set he found in a used instrument store, but replicates the set he used some 35 years ago. As a teenager Curt studied percussion with Bob Frediani and Gene Bardolli among others.


Curt put the sticks down when the Vandals finally dissolved in 1967, but always retained a deep appreciation for a variety of musical styles and idioms. After college, he took up the Tenor Saxophone, and also studied classical clarinet for over 10 years as a pupil of Rudy Tapiro of the Oakland Symphony. His current musical interests include West Coast Jazz, his favorite artists being Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, and Cal Tjader. He is also an avid aficionado of classical music.


He is a graduate of the St Ignatius High School class of 1967. He will be married to his wife Kathy Rende for 25 years on April 9, 2003. She is a graduate of ICA and UC Berkeley. They have two children Dan, 22 and Francesca, 19. Curt and Kathy live in San Francisco.


Here are some quick rim shots from Curt:


Ø      Favorite 60's Bands: The Beatles, The Rascals. The Temptations


Ø      Favorite Drummer: Dino Dinelli of The Rascals. "Blinding chops."


Ø      Favorite Album: Sergeant Pepper Lonely Heart's Club Band  "A break



Ø      Favorite post 60's band: Steely Dan "Unbelievable grooves that can go on and on. Knockout horn charts.”


Ø      Favorite post 60's drummer: Bob Garibaldi from Tower of Power "Simply



Curt is very grateful for the kind support of many friends and followers of the band.




 Ned Bawden - Keyboards








Ned Bawden graduated from Galileo High School. He studied music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for many years. Ned was more then an accomplished musician. To the group, he was pure genius. Ned was responsible for many of the Vandal’s original songs, and his musical talent was extraordinary. He was able to listen to a very small portion of a popular song on the radio, and then, write out everyone’s part within minutes. “Natural chord progression,” he’d say. It made learning new songs quite simple, just some timing to get it tight. At the age of 17, he was already transposing music for the entire group; some keys just had to be changed. He could do this while they were playing if needed.  His training was mostly in classical music, but he found it easy to jump over to rock and it paid the bills. Ned would practice the piano for six to eight hours a day when not performing. It showed in his ability to play virtually anything upon request. 

Ned was unable to rehearse with the Vandals for their performance in 1993, simply because they were unable to find him, but he did show up the night of the show and he sat in without missing a beat. 

He was not at their most recent performance of April 26th, 2003. They were again, despite their best efforts, unable to locate him. The show had to go on without Ned. Hopefully, there will be future performances, and the Vandals will find their missing link.




 Nick Paolini - Bass and Vocals

  b: 1948 - d: 1970
























I first met Nick when my wanderlust took me North to the reaches of Greenwich and Gough Streets to visit my childhood and life-long pal Bob Pellegrini. He lived about 5 blocks away from me on Greenwich, five or six doors up from the dynamic duo of Violante and Paolini. This Italianate combo ultimately wound up being 2/5ths of the Vandals. As I crossed Gough, passing Fort Mason Market on my way to Pellegrino’s, little (not as in Jerry Little) did I realize that I was entering Nick's territory. Once across Gough on Greenwich I was approached by an officious and ruggedly built handsome youngster, who was none other than Nick himself. He was the self-ordained diplomatic corp. for that stretch of Greenwich Street. After being grabbed by the shirt (I think I lost a few buttons), I was thrown into his garage door, stood up, and got a quick primer on the facts of life for that block. At close range, I was asked in so many words, "Who was I, and what the hell was I doing on his (Nick's) block?" I told him I was going to see Pellegrini acknowledging and affirming that no doubt it was Nick's block and certainly I was a persona non grata visitor, just slightly up the food chain from whale feces. In all events, I was nothing more than a mere trespasser. Once this and other finer points about who was allowed admission to that block of Greenwich Street were established (which I readily conceded and acknowledged), Nick slowly released his secure grip of the front of my shirt, with a lingering stare as if to say "you're luck I'm busy or I'd mop the street with your face" which by the way he could have done with minimal effort. With all this in mind, I gingerly proceeded up the street to Pellegrini's. When I got there, I asked Bob what's up with Paolini. He laughed and said Nick was a great guy and one of his best friends. In time as I worked up the courage to repeat the trip to Pellegrini's I too would learn Nick was a great guy and we would become very best and closest friends.

With return visits to Pellegrini's, I worked my way into the Greenwich between Gough and Franklin crowd and got to know Nick very well. We had much in common. We both loved to eat. We understood the ways of the old country as sons of immigrants, and we loved music. As our friendship grew, Nick and I got together to share our musical interests, his on the accordion and mine on the drums. At age 12 or so, Nick was an accomplished player, such that Mike Corino was sending him out at this relatively tender age to play gigs the much-in-demand Corino couldn't cover. It wasn't just Nick's proficiency on the squeezebox that made him memorable.  He projected an image, a personality. He had pizzazz, and with his natural good looks he easily connected with the audience.  As a result, people were very engaging with their requests for favorites. Nick with his excellent musical skills could accommodate most requests. The rest we faked. Among other gigs, I can remember us playing a Christmas Party at the old Hamm's Brewery at the foot of Potrero Hill.  With the accordion and a few drums, we gave the party some zip. It was as much fun for us as for the guests. We played a number of "casual" gigs together and our friendship continued to grow.

Into our teen years, our musical interests moved to rock and roll. We shared the changing times and tastes together. I had been playing mostly surfing music and other instrumentals with another friend Joe Tarantino.  The accordion didn't quite fit it with this genre, so I convinced Nick to try bass guitar that might provide an entree to rock and roll. Based on his solid musicianship, Nick picked it up in a snap. My next move was to get Nick, Joe, and I together. The rest was history.

During my high school years, I spent just about every day of my life with Nick. In those days we practiced 3-4 times a week at Joe's place on Chestnut Street in North Beach. Joe's dad Steve had the patience of Job listening to us work the songs out night after night in his garage. I should say Steve Tarantino was one of the very best guys you'd ever want to know; a great man - "old topper, old bean, old tamale". In sharing our music and growing the band, we all became very close. What was especially interesting with Nick was to watch his bass playing develop and mature. We used to sit in his car for hours listening to Paul McCartney's bass on Day Tripper, Paperback Writer, Penny Lane, and many other songs. It seemed every time he listened he learned something and it would come out in his playing the next time we got together.

When it came to talent, I say now as I did then and I speak for many. I never knew anyone with as much natural talent for so many different things as Nick Paolini. He was an athlete par excellence, especially in Baseball usually behind the plate calling the pitches and directing the team. All City for SI-no sweat. Football - Nick brought a full load every time.  He was what you might call an impact player.  You would find him on the D-line or at guard.  If my memory serves me, he was an All City Honorable Mention. Leadership-he had it to burn. Student body Vice President at SI his senior year, honor student, running school assemblies. We looked to Nick for our cues. He was a mentor to me and many others.

All those great memories; having sandwiches at Fred's on Francisco Street; driving across Speedway Meadows (off the road) in his old Dodge loaded to the gills with band equipment laughing our butts off; having him and his buddies Bill Laveroni and Fred Tocchini trying to talk me out of quitting football - my head was too hard; double dating at Playland at the Beach and Nick picking the most turbulent rides making me scream like a 3 year old kid when I was trying to act cool for my date; trying to convince him that we really couldn't take on 50 guys at Tick Tocks regardless of how tough he was (it never worked); running into his Alfa Romeo with my Volkswagen in front of his house and causing about $800 damages (a lot in those days) while his father Fred looked on in disbelief and Nick laughing so hard he cried. What I remember most though, was hitting those grooves on the bandstand with my buddy the bass player. It was special, unique and I was lucky to be part of it.

When Nick died, I was devastated and part of me died too. Yet somehow as we come back together for this reunion, a small part of that returns; those fondest memories of my great friend - Nick!

Curt Mallegni

April 15, 2003

More About Nicky...

Nick Paolini was born on April 13th 1948, the youngest of three sons. He attended Saints’ Peter and Paul School (Salesian's) in North Beach, where his family lived for the very early years of Nick’s life. His parents then moved to the Marina district when Nick was a young boy, where they remained for the rest of their lives. He attended Saint Ignatius High School, was student body president, an athletic scholar, and made all-city in baseball and football. He was offered a professional baseball contract after graduation, but decided to take a baseball scholarship to the University of San Francisco. Nick was also an accomplished musician having played the accordion professionally. His musical interests took a different direction when he joined the Vandals, and taught himself to play the bass guitar.

Nick had an unquenchable thirst for music; it was part of his soul. His natural talent was a thing of beauty; he had a God given ability to play and write music, and could learn to play any instrument if he put his mind to it. The notes just seemed to pour out of his mind, on to his fingers, and on to paper.  His way with lyrics and melodies are timeless. All anyone has to do is listen to one of his recorded songs and they can easily relate to its theme, melody and message. 

Nick’s life was to be a short one. We lost a musical talent few performers possess, an athletic ability most of us pray for; but most of all, we lost a very dear friend. We often think of all the good times we could have had together but that were never to be realized. Nick we know you are in a better place, and God is making use of all your talents, and charisma.  We love you, and this one is for you. 

Cosmo Violante

April 21, 2003














Also Featuring...

 Carl Curreri - Bass and Vocals



“I used to follow the Vandals around to all the dances. They were my best friends. I admired Nick Paolini’s bass playing and I am honored to fill his shoes for this event.”



Matt Violante - Rhythm & Solo Guitar



Matthew Violante was born on January 14th, 1969 in San Francisco. He lived in the City until he was almost 4 years old. In 1973, his family then moved to San Rafael in Marin County where he grew up. Matt attended Marin Catholic High School. In addition to his education, he played football for 4 years and was also a member of the golf team.  He then went on to the University of San Diego and graduated in 1992. Matt now has his own graphic design company, Violante Design Group, whose offices are in San Rafael.  

Matthew first became a second generation Vandal when he performed with his father, and the rest of the group at their 1993 Reunion Dance, playing rhythm and lead guitar.   

Matthew is married to Shannon Fitzpatric, and they are currently living in Marin County along with their dog Bailey. Matthew shares his father’s love for music, and he plays his guitar when ever possible. 

Cosmo said being able to play with his son Matthew has been one of “the most memorable moments in his life,” moments neither he nor his son will forget - two moments to be exact (and counting) 1993 and 2003.


John Groves – Keyboards



John Groves received his B.A. in Music from Rutgers University where, in addition to his studies in the classical repertoire, he also studied jazz piano with Kenny Barron.


In 1977, John made the trek from the Garden State to the Golden Gate where he began working as a vocal accompanist, playing in restaurants and teaching.  In 1980, he joined Dick Bright’s comedy lounge act, the “Highballs.” He also played with Dick’s rock orchestra, the “Sounds of Delight” which was the house band for the Bay Area Music Awards in the 80’s.


John subsequently joined J.D. & Company with whom he performed for over fourteen years at numerous wedding receptions, parties, fundraisers and corporate events.


John is now the leader of his own jazz group, the “Trio Bravo,” in addition to playing as a solo artist and member of a duet.  You can hear John in various venues throughout the Bay Area.