1979, I followed my sister Evelyn and moved to the San Francisco
Bay Area. She had come out in June of 1979. There was nothing
to keep me in Jersey, so I went ahead and loaded up my 1961 Ford
Sunliner convertible and headed out west! This opened up a whole
new world of musical experiences.
in New Jersey, I used to play in a rehearsal big band. There
was an older sax player names Danny Patiris there who had some
connections in San Francisco. He gave me the number of a trombonist/band
leader named Jimmy Price and suggested that I contact him when
I got there.
took me under his wing and gave me some tunes to learn so I
could do Dixieland gigs which were popular at the time. He also
gave me a spot in his big band and I can remember playing a
show at Bimbo's 365 Club, which still exists today. He also
played with the Jimmy Diamond Dixieland band which performed
nightly at the New Orleans Room of the Fairmont Hotel in San
Francisco. I was allowed to sit in with the band on several
occasions. Unfortunately, no recordings exist from this time.
sure of the exact timeline, but I joined the musician's union
and had the opportunity to play with the San Francisco 49'ers
band at Candlestick Park. This was a band that was like a traditional
big band, but was three times the size. So, instead of 4 trombones
there were 12, etc.
also got the opportunity to perform with the San Francisco Giants
dixieland band, also at Candlestick Park. We would play for
the tailgaters in the parking lot, then in the stadium, we would
roam around during the game and when the teams were changing
innings, we would run down and jump on the dugouts and play
to the crowd.
also was hired to provide a Dixieland band for the San Jose
Earthquakes soccer team for one season, Joe
Bone's Dixieland Band.
1980, while getting my jazz repertoire worked out I
joined a group called the Bay
Bones. The ensemble was based out of Skyline
College in San Mateo, Ca. The group was made up of only
trombones and we played more classical style pieces.
We played a concert at St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco
with a total of 40 trombones! The previous year they
had close to 90.The instrumentation was made up of soprano,
alto, tenor, bass, and contra bass trombones. Because
the design of the church resembled that of a washing
machine agitator, it was sometimes jokingly called "Our
Lady of Amana!" One of the most awesome shows we
did was at the Reno Jazz Festival at the Pioneer Theatre.
We had 20 trombones and did 3 pieces, One was a classical
piece and the others were basically big band arrangements
using only trombones covering all the parts. Check that
one out for sure!
Bones at St Mary's Cathedral >>>>
Bones at Reno Jazz Festival >>>>
Friends Big Band
in the 80's there was a music store in South San Francisco
called Bronstein Music. One of the owners, Rich Welker
was a trumpet player who organized a rehearsal band
called Just Friends. I
became a member of the group as the lead trombone player.
We would rehearse in the music store after hours. The
group was made up of some great players. I have a trombone
solo in the song "Tuning Up" below. The other
trombone solos were by Matt Finders who was an amazing
player. At one point we got a Sunday gig for 12 weeks
at a place called the B Street Restaurant on B Street
in San Mateo. It was a great gig!
Little Bit Helps
a Boat Leaving Soon for New York
all tunes here >>>>
Friends at B Street
late 1979, Jimmy Price passed a gig on to me that he
couldn't do. There was this funky old place called the
Pier 23 Cafe down by the San Francisco Embarcadero.
There was a live house band there called Jack
Jive Shafer and the Rhythm Rascals. Jack Shafer
was 72 years old at the time and had performed in vaudville
shows as well as playing lead trumpet with the Harry
James Orchestra. The trombone player, Richard Elmore,
worked on the side as a one man band, "Professor
Gizmo", one of those street musicians that had
all kinds of instruments and drums hanging on his body.
He needed to take a month off to go to New Orleans Mardi
Gras to do his one man show.
I had been driving a van for a delivery company in San
Jose during the day. I subbed for Rick for the month,
and when he came back, he told me I could keep the Pier
23 gig as he wanted to do other things. This was a big
break for me, a steady gig, 4 nights a week! Shortly
after, I quit my day job and stayed on at the Pier for
a couple of years. I learned a lot from Jack Shafer.
The place was packed every night with tourists and people
from every walk of life. The music was high energy and
LOUD! In the middle of every set, Jack's daughter, Melody
Anne, would come up on stage and do 3 little show tunes.
This is where I met my first wife Betty Anne. The Pier
23 Cafe still exists today, but is more trendy.
my time there we recorded the album below, "Quiet
live tracks below are from my last night at the Pier.
Got What It takes
all tunes here >>>>
Ball Jazz Band
in the 80's, San Francisco was known for having a lot
of street musicians/performers. I joined a little street
Dixieland quartet called The
Medicine Ball Jazz Band.
Guitarist David Sturdevant was the leader. We had David
on electric guitar (with a battery powered amp), John
Meyers on trumpet, Bert Carelli on sax and clarinet,
and myself on trombone. We would set up at different
locations in San Francisco, put out a guitar case for
tips and start playing. Lots of times we did this downtown
at Montgomery Plaza at lunchtime and all the business
employees would come and sit and listen. We would pass
a hat and made pretty good tips for a couple of hours
worth of playing. The pics and audio below are from
when we set up at Liberty House in Union Square which
is now Macy's. There's also a banjo player on these
recordings sound like an old 78 record because they
were done on a small portable cassette recorder behind
Found a New Baby
all tunes here >>>>
I married my first wife in 1981, I wrote a musical arrangement
of the Bridal Chorus and the Wedding March for 6 trombones.
When my sister got married in late 1982, I used the
same arrangement for her wedding with me and 5 other
trombones playing the music.
was late 1981 when I left the Pier 23 gig to go out
on my own. It was time for me to become a band leader.
I soon found out that once you are a leader, none of
the other band leaders call you for gigs as you are
the competition now! I landed a house gig at a new club/restaurant
called Basin St. West, on Broadway in San Francisco.
The gig didn't last very long because of owner mismanagement,
but while it was happening, I had a great band! Jon
Davis on piano, Richard Saunders on bass, John Waller
on drums and the amazing Hal Stein on alto sax along
with me on trombone and vocals. Yes, while at the Pier
23 Cafe, I found my voice, and started regularly being
a vocalist in my group.
Joe and his group at
Basin Street West in San Francisco
of the Blues
Street West stream>>>>>
Joe and Jon at the Grosvenor
Street West was now closed. I had an opportunity to
do a duo gig at the Grosvenor Airport Inn by the S.F.
airport. My piano player, Jon Davis was very adept at
playing left hand bass on the piano. I bought a used
drum set and figured out a way to rig a foot controlled
drumstick to hit the ride cymbal. This way when i was
playing trombone over the drums, I could keep the ride
cymbal going along with the high hat. When i wasn't
playing trombone I would pick up some brushes or sticks
and play drums while Jon soloed or I was doing vocals.
The gig lasted for a month. The audio below is a sample
of our gig. Three songs, Rosetta, Pennies from Heaven,
and Undecided. That was pretty much the beginning and
the end of my being a drummer, but it was fun!
and John at the Grosvenor
From Joe Escobar Quartet to
the Music of Joe and Terri
didn't have a house gig anymore so I did my
best to find work for myself and the band.
I did a short stint with a group called David
Kelsey and Pure Trash. He was a gay
performer who played piano and organ using
bass pedals for bass and the rest of us formed
what was a Dixieland style group. We played
at a club called The New Bell Saloon on Polk
Street in San Francisco. The place was jumpin'
have a recording of a gig at a place called
The Griffin which was a restaurant/bar in
Berkeley, Ca. At this gig was a female vocalist
sitting in with us named Terri Williams. Going
back a little in time before this, I had joined
with a wedding band called Common Stock. We
were hired to do a wedding and they requested
a female singer be in the band. Terri Williams
was that singer. We met at a rehearsal for
that gig. I had recently divorced my first
wife...and you can see where this is going!
Long story short, Terri and I ended up in
a relationship and I started working on some
music arrangements for us that were inspired
by the vocal group, Manhattan Transfer . Terri
was new at this, and would sit in on my quartet
gigs as a guest vocalist. The recording at
the Griffin is one of those instances. At
one point The Music of Joe and Terri became
my main focus. We did a few gigs in the San
Francisco Bay Area but work was not easy to
find. A new development was on the horizon
though. We performed at a restaurant in Oakland,
Ca. called Gallaghers. It was a huge place
with a big dance floor that had various live
bands. We met a couple there that performed
as a duo called Peter and the Wolfe (based
on his first name and her last name). He was
a keyboard player and had this electronic
gear that helped them sound like a full band.
There were several places that were hiring
small duos and I decided that I had to figure
out a way for us to get some of this work!
the tracks below, the band members were: Si
Perkoff on piano, Richard Saunders on bass,
John Waller on drums.
Joe with David Kelsey and
Pure Trash at The New Bell Saloon
and Terri at the Starlight Room at the Sir
Francis Drake Hotel in san Francisco.
Get Around Much Anymore
(Duet with Terri Williams)
Will Never Be Another You
all 4 tunes >>>>>
The Transition to a Duo
long thread, sorry!
years my focus was primarily on jazz. In order to
get more gigs we would need to cross over and start
adding some pop tunes. I had to hire new players that
were capable of playing pop tunes as well as jazz.The
new rhythm section was :
Alan Steger on keys, Alex Baum on bass, and Eric Almen
one of the previous paragraphs, I mentioned that we
met a duo at Gallaghers called Peter and the Wolfe
who were using electronic gear to create the sound
of a full band. There was more work for smaller duos
and trios. I had to find a way for us to work as a
duo. Not being a piano player was going to make that
challenging for sure, but I found a solution! We would
use background tapes (much like Karaoke is used today).
I had to record some basic tracks of my band with
a 4 track reel to reel tape recorder. I then converted
them to cassette tapes. At that time, there were cassette
dubbing decks that were basically 2 cassette decks
in one unit. The units I bought had a search feature
where if you left a 5 second gap between songs, you
could fast forward to the next song on the tape with
the push of a button. It worked! I created a library
of tapes and we started getting gigs as a duo using
the background tracks, but the musician in me found
it hard just standing there singing and playing my
horn to an invisible band. I invested in an affordable
synthesizer keyboard and the plan was to get my keyboard
chops to a point where I could remove the keyboard
parts from the tapes and actually play them myself
on stage. I also bought and learned to program a drum
machine, which by today's standards, had some lousy
drum sounds. Using my live drum set, the drum machine
and my cheap keyboard, I added more songs to the library
while at the same time improving my keyboard skills.
friend and sax player, Bert Carelli, from the Medicine
Ball Jazz Band had taken a job as the entertainment
director for Hornblower Cruises, which were daily
cruises around the San Francisco Bay. He gave us lots
of duo work on the various ships. Occasionally, we
would add my friend Lisa Pollard on tenor sax to make
a trio. We used to sail out of the Berkeley Marina.
After he left the job, the work basically stopped
for us as the new entertainment director had his own
bands that he used on the ships.
is a demo recording of the band which was also used
to sell the new duo as we used the very same tracks.
is a medley of short segments of the following tunes:
For You, Careless Whisper, Hey Bartender, Mr. Magic,
Heatwave, On Broadway, More Today than Yesterday,
NY, NY, Up Where We Belong, Tuxedo Junction, Boy from
NYC, Just the Two Of Us, Johnny Be Goode, I Just Called
to Say I Love You
Demo May 3,1985
Then Came MIDI!
1984 Yamaha came out with the DX7 keyboard synthesizer,
RX series drum machines and sequencers that revolutionized
the music scene. At the same time, a new system called
MIDI came into view. Basically, MIDI enabled digital
keyboards, drum machines and all kinds of digital
instruments to communicate with each other. You could
actually write arrangements and record them into a
Digital Sequence Recorder or "Sequencer"
and play them back in real time. This was not like
recording audio on tape, it was all data recording.
When you played back a sequence, the connected instrument(s)
would decode the data and play it back. MIDI is still
in use today and is even used in some of the film
scores you hear in movies.
were also MIDI controllable digital samplers coming
on the market, further expanding what you could do
with live performances.
I initially invested in a Yamaha QX1 sequencer, a
DX7 keyboard, an RX15 drum machine, a Yamaha TX81Z
sound module, and a Sequential Circuits, Prophet 2001
sampler. I now had several sound sources for our performances.
I honed my MIDI programming skills, developed some
keyboard chops, and eventually eliminated the tapes.
From then on our show would be with live sequencing
is a sample of a song using the recorded tracks of
the live band and later, the same song after I started
The Last Dance with live band tracks
The Last Dance with MIDI tracks
course, this transformation all took place over a
certain time period. There were not enough gigs even
for a duo in the San Francisco area anymore. We did
a gig at the Vagabond Inn in South Lake Tahoe in October
of 1985. While we were there, we checked out the entertainment
in the various casinos on the Nevada side. We met
another duo who said that there was a ton of work
in Reno/Tahoe and gave me the number of an agent that
booked bands in the area. His name was Kenny Armstrong.
I contacted him when we returned home and he offered
us a gig way out in Jackpot, Nevada. Jackpot is in
the northeast corner of Nevada, close to Twin Falls
Idaho. We packed up my new '85 Ford Escort wagon and
a little trailer and headed to Jackpot. We played
2 weeks at a little casino/bar called The Horseshoe
Club. The club gave the agent a good review and he
booked us at Karl's Silver Club in Sparks, Nevada
for another 2 weeks. They loved us there as well and
gave a good report to the agent. Upon hearing that,
Kenny Armstrong offered us a good paying steady gig
at Harrah's Virginia Street Casino in downtown Reno.
We jumped at the chance to play at one of Reno's most
famous casinos! It was time to leave California and
head to Nevada!
out what happens next in Chapter 3, The Move to Nevada!