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John Ciambotti dies at 67; bass player for rock band Clover

The 1970s Bay Area group backed Elvis Costello on his critically acclaimed debut album, 'My Aim Is True.' Ciambotti later worked as a session musician and chiropractor.

March 27, 2010|By Randy Lewis
  • With Clover, John Ciambotti backed Elvis Costello on his debut album.
With Clover, John Ciambotti backed Elvis Costello on his debut album.

John Ciambotti, bass player for the 1970s Bay Area rock band Clover, which backed Elvis Costello on his debut album, and a session musician for acclaimed folk-rockers including Lucinda Williams, John Prine and Carlene Carter, died Wednesday in Glendale. He was 67.

Ciambotti, who became a chiropractor specializing in musicians' injuries, apparently died from an abdominal aneurysm after surgery for an unspecified condition, a spokeswoman at his Glendale office said Friday.

As a member of Clover, Ciambotti plugged away for years without finding stardom. But the band was tapped in 1977 on a trip to the United Kingdom to back a wiry Irish rocker named Declan Patrick McManus. The acerbic singer and songwriter had recently taken the stage name Elvis Costello and wowed audiences and music critics with "My Aim Is True," a debut built around a raw, stripped-down sound provided by Clover and power-packed songs filled with biting lyrics that earned Costello the sobriquet of the "angry young man" of the late-'70s new wave rock movement.

Ciambotti and two other Clover members reunited with Costello in 2007, playing the album in its entirety at a pair of fundraisers in San Francisco for an organization serving children with Prader-Willi syndrome.

Clover disbanded in 1978, and Ciambotti found demand for his bass-playing skills from many highly regarded singer-songwriters. He played on Williams' 1998 commercial breakthrough album, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," which earned her a Grammy.

In the late 1980s, Ciambotti had tired of touring -- to the extent that he later turned down the Rolling Stones when they invited him to audition after original member Bill Wyman left the band -- and turned his attention to healing.

He received a doctorate from Cleveland Chiropractic College in 1989 and joined the Toluca Lake practice of Bruce Oppenheim. Ciambotti eventually opened his own office in Glendale focusing on holistic healing and catering to musicians and other entertainers, drawing on his firsthand experience with the kinds of repetitive stress injuries common in the field.

Among his survivors is a daughter, L.A. singer-songwriter Gia Ciambotti. Complete information about survivors or services was unavailable Friday.

randy.lewis@latimes.com

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