Josh Caterer

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Josh Caterer (born April 12, 1972) is a Chicago-area musician, best known as the lead singer, lead guitarist, and principal songwriter of punk band The Smoking Popes, which he founded in 1991 along with his brothers, Eli Caterer (b. 1975) and Matt Caterer (b. 1968). Caterer has also written and recorded a considerable body of Christian and gospel music. In addition to the Smoking Popes, he founded the blues band Jackson Mud.

Early life[edit]

Caterer's father was a successful businessman and his mother, the salutatorian of her high-school class, was a homemaker. Although his parents were of a spiritual bent, they were not overtly religious, and the family never went to church and rarely discussed religion when Caterer was growing up.

Caterer graduated in 1990 from Harry D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Illinois, a city neighboring his hometown, Lake in the Hills, Illinois, a far northwest suburb of Chicago. After graduation, Caterer held several menial jobs such as a job as a machine operator at a plastics company.[1]

Caterer wrote his first song around 11 years old. During junior high he formed his first band, Slavedriver. His early musical influences included Fugazi, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Mel Tormé, and Frank Sinatra. As a senior in high school, Caterer formed Speedstick along with his brothers Eli and Matt. This band was the forerunner to the Smoking Popes.


Smoking Popes formed in 1991 and in early 1994 the band opened for Green Day. Caterer referred to his early songs, half-jokingly, as "pop nuggets". His singing voice changed from a punk shout to a vibrato when he tried to imitate the crooning of Frank Sinatra, initially as a joke.[2] His singing is sometimes compared by journalists to that of Morrissey.[3]

The creative mastermind behind the Popes, Caterer composed the majority of their repertoire of distinctive, pop-influenced punk songs, many of which have an intensely melancholy air underneath their driving beat. Lyrics of his early songs evoke feelings of fear, failure, intense despair, purposelessness, and romantic love as a redeeming agent. His later songs are marked by a more positive outlook, and many center upon the uplifting nature of religious faith and upon the importance of examining one's spiritual path. Consistent among both early and later songs is the allusive and metaphorical nature of Caterer's lyrics, often focusing upon man's search for meaning.

Caterer became a Christian in 1998. A collapse due to a cocaine overdose at an all-night party[4] and C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity helped lead him to Christianity. He renounced his rock lifestyle, and began trying to introduce Jesus into the band's songs.[3] Shortly after his conversion the Smoking Popes broke up, after Caterer became disillusioned when seeing Morrissey on tour with them. "I was realizing that he had a bigger budget than we did, but he was basically on the same treadmill that we were on," Caterer said. "It became a reality to us that this was going to be us, this was going to be me. It didn't seem any more fulfilling for him than it was for me."[3] Caterer became heavily involved in his church, working at World Relief, a charitable, non-profit organization. He released a five-song EP of gospel music, Why Me, featuring solo guitar music.[3] In 2001 he returned to the rock scene, founding a Christian rock band, Duvall, which included other former members of the Smoking Popes.[5]

In November 2005 the Smoking Popes reunited for a sell-out show at the Chicago club The Metro.[6] They embarked on a U.S. tour in early 2006 with the band Bayside. Several older, pre-1999 songs were not played due to their expression of views incongruent with Caterer's Christian beliefs. They released a new album in July 2008.[7]

Caterer performed alongside Bayside for the acoustic version of "Megan" on their record "Acoustic."

Church Musician[edit]

Josh served as director of worship for the Village Church of Barrington, Illinois, and is now Pastor of Worship and Music Ministries for Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois.[8][9]

Equipment List[edit]

Early Years 1991-1998: Monaco Yellow American Made Telecaster – Marshall ½ stack Black Fender Acoustic Electric

After Break 2005–Present: Inca Silver “Double Fat Strat” American Made Stratocaster – Marshal ½ stack and volume pedal Jet Black “Double Fat Strat” American Made Stratocaster Wine Red Gibson SG


Lift Up The Name (c) 2008[10] has become a contemporary American church favorite with an upbeat pop-rock worship style.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Josh and his wife, Stefanie, have two children.


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  2. ^ "Josh Caterer". Hello Beautiful!. Chicago Public Radio. 20 July 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-07.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d Guarino, Mark (2000). "He'd rather have Jesus - Josh Caterer of the Smoking Popes used to attract throngs of fans. Then he turned from rock to religion". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  4. ^ Wright, Derek (Winter 2008). "Smoking Popes: Staying Down". Soundcheck Magazine. Archived from the original on April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  5. ^ Conner, Thomas (6 November 2005). "Duvall to remain a faith-fueled band". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on 2009-10-17. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  6. ^ Conner, Thomas (6 November 2005). "The Party's not quite over for the Smoking Popes - Josh Caterer regroups, gets band back together". Chicago Sun-Times.
  7. ^ Conner, Thomas (3 July 2008). "Smoking Popes back with new album, 'Stay Down'". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on 2009-12-14. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
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