Joe Camilleri at Mordialloc Festival, March 2006
Photo: Mandy Hall
|Birth name||Joseph Vincent Camilleri|
|Also known as||Jo Jo Zep, Joey Vincent|
|Born||21 May 1948|
|Genres||Rock, R&B, blues|
|Years active||1964 through present|
|Associated acts||The Pelaco Brothers
Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons
Adderley Smith Blues Band
Joseph Vincent "Joe" Camilleri, (born 21 May 1948 in Malta) aka Jo Jo Zep or Joey Vincent, is an Australian vocalist, songwriter and saxophonist. Camilleri has recorded as a solo artist and as a member of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons and The Black Sorrows. Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons' highest charting single was "Hit & Run" from June 1979, which peaked at #12; Jo Jo Zep's "Taxi Mary" peaked at No. 11 in September 1982; and The Black Sorrows top single, "Chained to the Wheel", peaked at No. 9 in March 1989.
Camilleri has also produced records for The Sports, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Paul Kelly & the Dots, The Black Sorrows, Renée Geyer and Ross Wilson. Australian music journalist, Ian McFarlane, described him as "one of the most genuinely talented figures in Australian music", and, as a member of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Camilleri was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2007.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 Early years
- 1.2 Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons: 1975–1983, 2001–2003, 2011–present
- 1.3 The Black Sorrows: 1984–current
- 1.4 Other projects
- 1.5 Production and session work
- 2 References
- 3 External links
Joe Camilleri was born the third of ten children in Malta in 1948. The family migrated to Australia when he was two. Camilleri grew up in Port Melbourne and listened to rock music on the radio. His mother called him Zep and he became known as Jo Zep. Camilleri began his music career in 1964 when literally thrown onstage to sing with The Drollies. He played blues and R&B in the mid-1960s with The King Bees, and was then a member of Adderley Smith Blues Band. In 1968, lead singer for the band, Broderick Smith had been conscripted for National Service during the Vietnam War. Camilleri lasted a year with Adderley Smith, and enjoyed working with the band including guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst (later in The Dingoes with Smith). According to Australian music journalist Ed Nimmervoll, Camilleri was sacked for sounding too much like Mick Jagger and upstaging other band members. After Adderley Smith, Camilleri was a member of various bands, including The Pelaco Brothers during 1974–1975.
Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons: 1975–1983, 2001–2003, 2011–present
Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons formed in 1975 and Camilleri gained national prominence as the group's lead singer, co-songwriter and saxophonist. Other members (from 1976 on) included Jeff Burstin (guitar, vocals), John Power (bass guitar, vocals), Gary Young (drums), Tony Faehse (guitar, vocals) and Wilbur Wilde on sax. Incorporating influences from blues, R&B, soul, punk rock, new wave and reggae, the group achieved considerable commercial and critical success in Australia. Hit singles for Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons included "Shape I'm In" and "Puppet on a String"; their highest charting single was "Hit & Run" from June 1979 which peaked at No. 12.
In 1981, most of The Falcons left the group, and the act's name was shortened to Jo Jo Zep. "Taxi Mary", credited to Jo Jo Zep, peaked at No. 11 in September 1982. The Jo Jo Zep ensemble became unwieldy with, at its peak, a roster of 11 members and disbanded in 1983.
The classic 1976–1981 group reformed in 2001 for a one-off gig, but stayed together to release an album of new material, Ricochet, in 2003. As a member of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Camilleri was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2007. The group continues to tour and play live dates.
The Black Sorrows: 1984–current
After the demise of Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons in 1983, Camilleri achieved his greatest success with another long-running group The Black Sorrows, which began in 1984 as an informal semi-acoustic band playing blues, R&B and zydeco. The Black Sorrows had a shifting line-up and at various points included three ex-Falcons: Jeff Burstin, Wayne Burt, and Gary Young. Later additions to the band included sisters Vika and Linda Bull on vocals, and backing vocalist and lyricist Nick Smith. Camilleri himself has been the only constant member of the group.
The Black Sorrows developed a strong fan following and garnered wide critical acclaim for their recordings and superb live performances. After starting life as an acoustic cover band, they evolved into a full electric ensemble that wrote their own material, releasing a string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums in the 1980s and 1990s. These albums included A Place in the World, Dear Children (an Australian Top 20 album in 1987), Hold on to Me (peaked at No. 7, 1988), Harley & Rose (peaked at No. 3, 1990), Better Times (peaked at No. 13, 1992) and compilation The Chosen Ones – Greatest Hits (peaked at No. 4, 1993). Top 30 hit singles by the band were "Chained to the Wheel" (which peaked at No. 9 in 1989), "Harley & Rose" (1990) "Never Let Me Go" (1990), and "Snake Skin Shoes" (1994).
For the first several years the band was in existence, Camilleri performed under the pseudonym "Joey Vincent" (a name he had previously used for a solo single), although he wrote and produced material for the group using his real name. The "Joey Vincent" persona was finally dropped in time for the release of 1990's Harley & Rose.
With a number of different line-ups, the band has continued to release material through the 1990s and 2000s. Their most recent releases of original material include the 3-CD set Crooked Little Thoughts (2012), and the album Certified Blue (2014).
While with The Black Sorrows, Camilleri also performed with The Revelators (originally, as least for the first few gigs, The Delta Revelators). The Revelators returned to the Black Sorrows roots of playing mostly covers of country/R&B style music, and had virtually the same line-up as The Black Sorrows. They released their first album in 1991, and followed it up with two others, including the self-tiled The Revelators in 2002. The Revelators were active as a live group from circa 1989 through about 2004.
Bakelite Radio was another side project from the early 2000s. This particular group focussed on more acoustically-oriented music, though still in a country/R&B mould. The group has released four albums: in order of release, they are Bakelite Radio Volume II (2003), Bakelite Radio Volume III (2004) Bakelite Radio Volume IV (2007), and Bakelite Radio Volume I (2009). As a live act, Bakelite Radio was active from 2001 to 2007.
The Voodoo Sheiks
The Voodoo Sheiks are a ten-piece ensemble led by Camilleri that celebrates the musical heritage of New Orleans. The band features a large brass section, and a repertoire of cover songs. They started playing gigs circa 2011, and seem to have supplanted Camilleri's previous side projects The Revelators and Bakelite Radio. The Voodoo Sheiks have yet to record, and are so far strictly a live act.
Here Comes The Night
Here Comes The Night is a Van Morrison tribute project, spearheaded by Camilleri in association with Vince Jones and Vika Bull. Beginning in 2013, the group has performed several live shows throughout Australia.
Camilleri has only infrequently released material with solo billing. A 1980 single credited to "Joey Vincent" was his first solo project; two singles from the 1980s and a 1995 EP called All Saint's Hotel are his only other solo releases of original material. (Note that a few CD 'best-of' releases, which compile material by Jo Jo Zep, The Black Sorrows and Joe's other bands, are credited to Joe Camilleri.)
Production and session work
Beginning in the late 1970s, Camilleri also produced recordings for other artists including The Sports, Paul Kelly & the Dots, Renée Geyer and Ross Wilson. He can also be heard as a session musician and/or vocalist on recordings by dozens of Australian recording acts, including Skyhooks, Tim Finn, Icehouse and Mondo Rock.
- ""Chained to the Wheel" – Search Results". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'The Black Sorrows'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
- "Joe Camilleri aka Joey Vincent aka Jo Jo Zep". Australian Rock Database. Magnus Holmgren. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1970 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988.
- "Discography The Black Sorrows". Australian Charts Portal. australian-charts.com. Retrieved 3 April 2009.
- "ARIA 2008 Hall of Fame inductees listing". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 3 April 2009.[dead link]
- "Winners by Award: Hall of Fame". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 3 April 2009.
- Jenkins, Jeff; Ian Meldrum (2007). "Joe Camilleri – A life in music". Molly Meldrum presents 50 years of rock in Australia. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing. pp. 192–201. ISBN 978-1-921332-11-1. Retrieved 11 March 2009. NOTE: Authors, Jenkins and Meldrum, acknowledge the chapter is written by Camilleri. The on-line version is from Camilleri's Official website, a mirror copy is available at The Black Sorrows Official website.
- Nimmervoll, Ed. "Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons". Howlspace – The Living History of Our Music (Ed Nimmervoll). Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Adderley Smith Blues Band'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-768-2. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- "Music: The Black Sorrows". The Black Sorrows Official website. Retrieved 3 April 2009.