Born in Utica, NY, May 8, 1977, blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa got his start playing guitar when he was just four-years old. His father Len, a guitar shop owner, had exposed his son to music early, and when Joe showed interest in the guitar, Len gave him a short scale Chiquita on which he could practice. It didn't take long for the elder Bonamassa to realize there was something special about his son's abilities on the instrument. Within a year, the young guitarist was playing a full scale model and playing blues like a much more seasoned musician.
Joe was working regular gigs locally at the age of ten, and by the age of 12, he was touring with B.B. King. In fact, King called Joe "a legend before his time." Not bad for a kid just starting out.
At 14, Bonamassa attended a Fender guitar event and met Berry Oakley, Jr. (son of the Allman Brothers Band bassist), Miles Davis' son Erin, and Robby Krieger's (the Doors) son Waylon. Together, the musicians formed a band called Bloodline. This group released one album, which produced two chart singles — "Stone Cold Hearted" and "Dixie Peach."
After the band broke up, Joe took the opportunity to work on his voice and developed his signature raw, gritty vocals. In 2000-01, Bonamassa's first solo album, A New Day Yesterday, was recorded. He received musical support from Gregg Allman, Rick Derringer, and Leslie West, and the producer, the legendary Tom Dowd, became a fan and friend of the young bluesman.
Working on an album for Joe Lynn Turner, Bonamassa met drummer Kenny Kramme and bassist Eric Czar. The three hit it off and soon the Joe Bonamassa Band power trio hit the road. This combination proved quite successful, producing three more studio albums, a live album, two instructional DVDs (only one of which is currently available), and two live performance DVDs. His hard work led to Blueswax magazine naming him Artist of the Year two years in a row (2004 and 2005), and his album, Had To Cry Today, was named 2004's Album of the Year.
Over the years, Bonamassa has shown his commitment to music extends far beyond dollars and cents. While touring, Joe performs at special Blues in the Schools (BITS) events across the country and was elected to fill a vacancy on the Blues Foundation's Board of Directors. His seat represents the many roads blues travel, and serves as an example of what the blues is all about — tradition, diversity, tenacity, and perseverance. Working with BITS and the Blues Foundation has only deepened the admiration many of his fans have for him.
During the autumn of 2005, Joe Bonamassa began work on his sixth album, You & Me. This effort marked a great departure from his tried and true line-up as he brought in Carmine Rojas (bass), Rick Melick (piano, organ, tambourine), Jason Bonham (drums), LD Miller (harmonica), Doug Henthorn (vocals), and Pat Thrall (guitar). You & Me debuted at #1 on Billboard's blues charts and #1 on CD Universe, on both the rock and blues charts.
Changes for Bonamassa didn't end in the studio. Joe's new touring band now featured former Johnny Winter bassist Mark Epstein and Kenny Wayne Shepherd's former drummer Bogie Bowles. The sound was still Bonamassa, but the energy was fresh and sharp.
As Joe Bonamassa continues to challenge himself, people are eagerly lining up for the opportunity to see him perform. And there's no shortage of gigs. With the most ambitious tour schedule to date, it's safe to say that the Joe Bonamassa Band will soon outgrow the smaller and mid-sized venues they've been playing for the past several years.
From the U.S. to Canada to Europe, Joe Bonamassa's proven to be a solid draw for venues everywhere. Long-time fans, happy with his success, continue to spread the word on this blues guitarist who lives up to his "Always on the Road" motto.
Additionally, Joe recently had a guest spot on VH-1's reality rocker, Supergroup, as he sat down with Ted Nugent for a jam at Las Vegas' Sand Dollar Blues Lounge.
Throughout the month of August, Blogcritics.org will bring you reviews of Joe Bonamassa's entire discography. In the meantime, you can sample some of his work on his official website and on the Joe Bonamassa fan website.