Amancio was born in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1936 into a Goan family. He had 5 sisters and was the only boy in the family. His father worked in the Accounts department of one of the big cotton mills. His mother looked after the children and their very modest home. Money was scarce and education taken very seriously. Music was part of life and the children often sang Goan folk songs in harmony together. The family spoke Konkani, the Goan language (a mix of Portuguese and Marathi) and English.
Although he loved his local primary school, he was deeply unhappy at his secondary school, Don Bosco High School, run by Salesian priests from Italy. He recounted that as the school building came into sight each morning as he walked to school, his stomach would cramp up.
For a couple of years Amancio’s mum and the children moved back to Goa. For him, this was paradise, playing outside on the water, amongst the luscious vegetation. Even school there was a happy place. Then it was back to Bombay.
Amancio desperately wanted to play guitar and he was thrilled when a wealthy friend persuaded her brother to buy him one. It turned out to be a Les Paul type Framus with a Florentine cutaway – but it was an electric bass – not a guitar! Undefeated, Amancio and his friend Cyril found two plastic keys and converted it into a guitar. He played this guitar professionally for several years.
He played in house bands in Chandigarh, Jaipur and Simla, usually with Connie D’Souza on drums and Anaclet Noronha on piano. He also played many gigs in Bombay, some with the famous Nelly (Battiwalla) and her Dance Band and also with another band leader and pianist, Dorothy Jones, mother of the well-known percussionist/drummer Robin Jones.
It was while leading the house band at Davico’s restaurant in Simla in 1964 that he met his future wife Joyce, who had come from Ireland to teach in the Loreto Convent School, Tara Hall. They fell in love and got married in Jan 1965 at the Catholic church in Jaipur, where Amancio was doing a residency at the Rambagh Palace hotel, owned by the then Maharani of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi. She was a great admirer of his playing and brought him a Gibson guitar back from the US. Sadly it was a round-hole, not an electric guitar!
After the season, they moved back to Bombay, where Amancio began to play for the Bollywood film music industry, notably for the famous composers Laxmikant and Pyarelal. He had already composed and played a backing track for an Indian travel film made by the German TV station Nordeutscher Rundfunk.
Their daughter Maria was born in November. Further seasons in Jaipur and Simla led them to New Delhi, where Amancio joined the famous saxophonist Braz Gonsalves playing at the Laguna restaurant. Their son Stephano, now an accomplished guitarist himself, was born in Dec 1966.
Stephano was in and out of hospital and their wonderful paediatrician, Dr Suchil Arya, advised taking him back to the west. Amancio sold the Gibson to help make the fare – the Maharani also contributed to this emergency fund. They planned to go to Ireland, but Stephano was so ill on the plane, that they had to stay in London where they had planned simply to change planes. Gradually he recovered and in 1968 their third child Francesca was born.
Amancio got jobs at the famous Prospect of Whitby pub by the river Thames. He cleaned the loos in the mornings and played guitar there in the evenings!
Thanks to personal contact, Amancio met the record producer Denis Preston of Lansdowne Studios and his recording career took off, as well as his collaboration with some great jazz musicians – Don Rendell and Ian Carr, Joe Harriott, Dave Green, Norma Winstone MBE, Trevor Tomkins and Bryan Spring.
Records don’t always pay the bills and Amancio began to develop pick-ups for electric guitars. For these he wound the fragile copper wire using a hand drill attached to a chair! His reputation spread and severable notable guitarists came to have their pick-ups adapted by Amancio, in order to achieve a particular sound.
In 1974 the family moved to Coggeshall in Essex, where Amancio worked for a while at Selmer Guitars in Braintree as well as performing many local gigs. Perhaps the best thing to come from Selmers was a lasting friendship with Dave Seville and his wife Christine. (Dave later became a director of Yamaha-Kemble).
Amancio began a lasting teaching career, working at Jenako Arts Multicultural Centre in London, teaching guitar to a wide variety of guitar students.
In 1985, with the three children now finished their schooling, the family moved to Liss in Hampshire. Joyce, who had been teaching in a comprehensive in Witham, Essex, had decided she wanted to work for an animal welfare organisation and got a job with Compassion in World Farming, then based in Petersfield near Liss. Amancio continued to commute to Jenako, until Hackney Education Authority withdrew funding.
Amancio shared Joyce’s concern about the treatment of animals and they both became vegan.
As Amancio and Joyce were both interested in the teaching of Jiddu Krishnamurti, it seemed appropriate that Amancio began to teach guitar at the nearby Krishnamurti school, Brockwood Park. This he continued to do until his stroke in 1992 – and even with a few select pupils, such as Valentin Gerlier, after that. Some of those students are still actively involved in music and remember Amancio’s teaching with affection.
Amancio had had many health problems during his life and had three operations for duodenal and stomach ulcers, as well as blood pressure problems. His stroke, in November 1992, ended his playing career, which was a tragedy for him. For several months he could not even bear the sound of music – a condition which affects some people after a stroke. However gradually his love for music returned – as well as his “perfect pitch” ability. Once again he was able to enjoy his CDs of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Paul Desmond and Bill Evans as well as wonderful Indian musicians like the great flute-player Hariprasad Chaurasia and visits from good friends like Steven Edwards, Bocha di Gamba, Loz Speyer, Bruce Pollin and Alan Gray. Joyce kept her job going and had help from a couple of wonderful carers and from her friend Barbara O’Brien.
Amancio died on 17th July 1996. In accord with his wishes, he was buried in a cardboard coffin in the green burial site at Brighton cemetery.
Although Amancio never showed interest in re-playing his old recordings, he might just be pleased that they are now being re-issued on CD for a new generation to enjoy.