Pepe Smith

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Joey "Pepe" Smith
Pepe Smith (2008).jpg
Pepe Smith
Background information
Birth name Joseph William Feliciano Smith
Also known as Joey Smith
Pepe Smith
Born (1947-12-25) December 25, 1947 (age 69)
Angeles, Pampanga, Philippines
Genres Pinoy rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, guitarist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass guitar, drums
Years active 1958–present
Associated acts Juan de la Cruz Band
Speed, Glue & Shinki
Asin (band)
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Fender Jazzmaster
Gretsch 6120
Gretsch Nashville Reissue
Gretsch Country Club Reissue
Gibson Les Paul Standard

Joseph William Feliciano Smith (born December 25, 1947) is a Filipino singer-songwriter, drummer and guitarist. More commonly known alternately as Joey Smith and Pepe Smith, he is an icon of original Filipino rock music or "Pinoy rock".[1]

Early life[edit]

Smith was born 25 December 1947. His father, Edgar William Smith, was a U.S. serviceman, and his mother, Conchita Feliciano, was from Angeles, Pampanga, where the huge Clark Air Force base was located. Smith said his father told him he had served as a naval aviator in World War Two, flying the Grumman F8F Bearcat and the Vought F4U Corsair. Smith spent his first years in Angeles, often visiting the airbase, where his father would take him to the flightline to watch the U.S. military aircraft take off and land. To this day, he has a fascination with, and collects model airplanes.

When he was eight years old, his parents separated, and his mother died from hepatitis. Smith and his younger brother Raymond went to live with their grandmother, Concordia Go, in Kamuning, Quezon City.[2] Smith continued to live with his grandmother on and off for the next 50 years, even during his heyday as a rock icon, and she was affectionately known to the Pinoy rock community as "Lola Smith" (Granny Smith). Smith said he never had the opportunity to speak to his father again, although he briefly corresponded with an American half-sister from another family his father had started when he returned to the U.S.

Joey Smith has a younger half brother who lives with his wife in Germany. His brother Allan Smith, like their father, also served for the US Air Force.


Smith has been associated with several women over the course of his life, and has five children. His eldest, Queenie, born 1976, also a rock singer, is the daughter of noted artist Agnes Arellano. She is followed by former MYX VJ Sanya Smith,[3] born 1985, Beebop, born 1989, Desiderata, born 1991 and Delta, born 1992.


Smith learned to play the drums by about age 9, and formed his first rock band at age 11, in 1959. This group, composed of friends from the Kamuning district, was first called The Blue Jazzers, later The Villains, then The Surfers. As The Surfers, they got a 6-month gig in Vietnam in the early 1960s. A few years later, Smith became a rock sensation in Manila as the drummer and lead vocal of the Eddie Reyes and the Downbeats band, imitating Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. This earned him the title "Mick Jagger of the Philippines". The Downbeats, managed by the Reyes clan of Pasig, owners of RCR Productions, appeared in contemporary TV specials and movies. Eddie Reyes and the Downbeats opened for the Beatles at their July 4, 1966 concert at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, performing "Get Off Of My Cloud", originally by The Rolling Stones. The Downbeats was the highest paid international band in Hong Kong during their time.

Smith then played drums and sang for the Japanese rock trio, Speed, Glue & Shinki. An interest in amphetamines was the attribution for his "Speed" moniker in the name of the band.[4]

In December 1970, Smith joined the seminal Pinoy rock group Juan dela Cruz Band along with Wally Gonzales (guitar) and Mike Hanopol (bass). "Juan dela Cruz" is a Filipino term for "everyman" similar to "Joe Blow" in the U.S. The band had some earlier lineups, but this trio was the classic one. It became a quartet a few years later with the addition of Edmon "Bosyo" Fortuno, formerly of Anakbayan, on drums, when Smith decided to play guitar instead. Among their first gigs was the 1970 Antipolo Rock Music Festival, an open-field concert similar to Woodstock, attended by thousands. Juan dela Cruz arguably invented the Pinoy rock genre, focusing on original songwriting in Tagalog, instead of covers of foreign hit songs in English. It made superstars of all four members.

Smith composed Juan dela Cruz's arguably most classic song "Himig Natin" backstage in a ladies' toilet (he said the door to the men's toilet was busted) in 1972, while waiting for his turn to play in a concert called "Himig Natin" at the Rizal Park grounds in Manila.

Although "Himig Natin" and many others of the Juan dela Cruz songs have become rock anthems in the Philippines, none of the group members profited from the recordings. The rights to the whole catalog had been sold in perpetuity to Vicor Records from the very beginning of the band, a practice that might today be regarded as exploitative, but was apparently commonplace during the era. The band members were paid monthly stipends and other fees for live appearances and recording dates.

Smith and the late Fortuno were lifelong friends and frequent bandmates; in fact, Smith's other nickname was "Kalabog" from "Kalabog en Bosyo", the long-running Larry Alcala comic strip (1947–1995) about two dimwitted detectives, one tall, the other short, like Smith and Fortuno.

During a hiatus of Juan dela Cruz, Smith formed his own band, The Airwaves, circa 1976. The members were Smith (vocals/dobro/drums), Jun Lopito (guitar), Gary Perez, formerly of Sampaguita (guitar), Gil Cruz (bass) and Edmon Fortuno (drums).

Smith was jailed for 19 months for alleged drug trafficking, starting in 1992. His constant jail visitor in the Quezon City Jail was Apa Ongpin, who, with Pepito Bosch and other friends, mounted a legal defense for him. He was eventually released for lack of evidence.

In 1994, he survived a car accident that damaged his signature jaw and put him out of action for some months.

Smith released his first solo album Idiosyncrasies on Alpha Records in 2005. The 14-track album was three-years in the making; the recording project had started in 2002. The album was released simultaneously with the Juan dela Cruz three-CD collection from rival Vicor Records.

Smith played a comic role on an ABS-CBN sitcom in the late 2000s.

Multi-awarded journalist Howie Severino produced and directed perhaps the most complete documentary on Smith's life. Entitled Pepe's Myth, it aired on GMA Network on April 24, 2006. The raw footage consisted of several days of interviews with Smith, his friends and family, and included a poignant concert at the Quezon City Jail, organized by Severino, 12 years after Smith's release from the facility.

Smith played as one of the two main characters in the 2014 movie Above the Clouds directed by Pepe Diokno,[5] the movie also uses some of his songs.


Juan dela Cruz Band albums with Smith[edit]

  • 1973: Himig Natin (translation: "Our Music" {Hymn})
  • 1974: Maskara (trans.: "Mask")
  • 1975: Super Session
  • 1981: Kahit Anong Mangyari (trans.: "Whatever Happens")

Solo album[edit]

  • 2005: Idiosyncrasies

Reunion concert[edit]

During the first Juan dela Cruz reunion concert in 1998, the band members appeared one by one on stage, adding one instrument at a time, building to a dramatic crescendo accompanied by fog and light effects.[6] Finally, as all members were playing on stage except for Smith, there was an overlong pause and a lull— Smith is notoriously late to everything— when someone in the audience shouted "Ilabas ang bangkay!" ("Bring out the corpse!"), referring to Smith's cadaverous appearance. The crowd erupted in hysterical laughter, and Smith, with serendipitous timing, made an even grander entrance than he had planned.