Little Joe McLerran is one of the most exciting and talented young blues guitarists to emerge in a very long time. His particular style of Roots Blues and his proficiency on his instrument is turning heads. He is currently making festival appearances and club dates throughout Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Colorado
Little Joe was born in Boulder, Colorado in July 1983. Born to a musical family in that his father was a working musician with a day job. All of his dad''s music buddies were considered his uncles and band rehearsals at home were commonplace.
Joey fell in love with the guitar when he was 8 years old. It was his fourth grade teacher, a closet country blues picker who sometimes played his guitar in class, who first inspired Joey. Joey came home from school one afternoon and asked his dad if he knew anything about the blues. This came as a bit of a surprise to Dad because until now the only music Joey seemed interested in was classical, particularly Mozart. The family had sat through, walked into or out of, at least a hundred viewings of "Amadeus". Joey was so enamored with Mozart he put a "powered wig" at the top of his Christmas list to Santa one year.
Joey then asked his dad to show him how to play the guitar. Joey started practicing on an old Stella guitar that had been residing in the corner of the living room. Later that year Joey gave his first guitar performance at a school sponsored multi-cultural event by singing and playing Leadbelly''s "Take this Hammer" while his fourth grade classmates swung cardboard hammers they had made in art class. Concluding this 2 song set Joey played a complicated guitar rag by Rev. Gary Davis, "The Slow Drag".
By age nine Joey became consumed with the blues. The powdered wig was on the shelf and a fedora was on his head. He began traveling with his family each year to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He started learning songs, first from his dad but soon started working them up off records and tapes he had begun collecting. He had a deck of the Yazoo blues cards and had memorized all the facts and history of the Delta blues masters.
That summer Joey and his younger brother Jesse started their first band, "Buddy Hollywood", with Jesse on drums. They would set up on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder playing Beatles, Bob Marley and all those great old blues songs. The mall patrons were amazed to see these young kids playing songs by Big Bill Broonzy, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt followed by Ob La Dee Ob La Da or Redemption Song. They could make a couple hundred dollars on a good day. They always filled the hat whenever they made an appearance, much to the dismay of the homeless guys playing Dylan songs.
When Joey turned 15 the McLerran family moved to Tulsa. Living out in the country they could really turn it up. The kids they met at school were into Heavy Metal so Joey and Jesse invited them out to their house to jam. After a few failed attempts starting a Heavy Metal band, Jesse decided to develop a style of percussion on a washboard. Jesse patterned his own washboard after that of an old McLerran family friend, Washboard Chaz Leary, from New Orleans. Chaz was Jesse''s godfather and Jesse had been watching Chaz play all his life.
Joey and Jesse started playing the old blues songs again, Joey on guitar and Jesse on the washboard. Joey changed his name to "Son Piedmont", taken from the term Piedmont Blues, a style popular in the southeast USA in the 20s and 30s, and Jesse became "Washboard Jesse". Without a street mall, gigs were hard to come by and they''re tender young ages, 16 and 17, the bars were out of the question. They finally landed a steady Sunday afternoon gig at the Rivers Edge Bistro in Tulsa. They began to catch the attention of many of Tulsa''s finest musicians. This led to a few restaurant and private party gigs. Jimmy Markham invited them to play the Oklahoma Blues Festival and gave them a lot of encouragement.
Enlisting the help of their father on bass they began working on a CD project. For several months they worked on the CD inviting their friends, Dexter Payne, a multi-instrumentalist from Boulder, and Big Mike T. Travelletti, a harp player from Sapulpa, to join them. During the final stages of mixing the CD Jesse was killed in an accident. Joey was devastated by Jesse''s death and nearly a year passed before Joey could listen to those tracks again. Playing music, other than in the solitude of his home, was the last thing on Joey''s mind. In memorial and as a tribute to Jesse, the "Pearly Gates" CD was released in 2004 as Son Piedmont and the Blues Krewe on the Roots Blues Reborn label.
Joey performed as a roving busker during the 2004 Oklahoma Blues Festival held in Tulsa. Scheduled to appear the final night on the Blues Stage was one of Joey''s heroes, 93-year-old Homesick James. Homesick''s traveling companion, Johnny Long, a great country blues player himself, had known Joey since his days in Boulder. When scheduled travel plans fell apart Joey volunteered to drive Homesick and Johnny back to Springfield, MO. Joey was in the catbird seat having Johnny Long riding shotgun and Homesick James in the backseat cussing up a storm. After spending the day together Homesick gave Joey the name Little Joe, a hundred dollars and told him, "Go buy a new pair of shoes". Joey did that and he bought himself a new hat too.
Little Joe booked himself into the Shades of Brown coffee shop on Brookside in Tulsa and played every Monday night for the better part of a year. He invited other players to join him and jam those great old blues songs he had collected. These weren''t your standard 12-bar blues songs. Little Joe''s set list included classic rags, delta slide songs on the National Steel, Piedmont tunes and swing tunes, a vast repertoire of songs from the greats, Blind Blake, Big Bill, Tampa Red, Georgia Tom Dorsey, Lightnin'' Hopkins, Blind Boy Fuller, Bumble Bee Slim, Leroy Carr, Lonnie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy, Robert Johnson and of course, Homesick James. Some spirited music came out of those Monday night jams.
At a jam session in Tulsa one Sunday afternoon Little Joe attracted the attention of David McKnight, a record producer from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Guitarist Lloyd Price had suggested to David that Little Joe and the style of music he played, might be just what David was looking for. David was contracted by the Hit Records label in Fayetteville to produce another CD for the label. David produced the "Hard Way" CD at the Cat House Studio in Fayetteville. Although Homesick James declined an invitation to appear on the CD, Lloyd Price and Canadian Harp giant, Ray Bonneville, made notable contributions. Robbie Mack played bass on the CD and warned Joey of the perils of working with a record label. Sure as heck they
Little Joe''s NEW CD released Oct. 2007
misspelled Joe''s name on the liner notes. Little Joe started experimenting with a larger band and the use of a keyboard player. When Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans, Joey''s old friend Washboard Chaz evacuated to Tulsa and played gigs with Joey for about a month. The Dusk til Dawn Blues Festival and the Stillwater Blues Festival were among the gigs they played together on that trip.
In January 2006 Little Joe represented the Oklahoma Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis. Although he did not win the competition, he sparked a lot of interest in the national blues community, where he performed two thrilling performances. Everyone but the judges thought he had won it. Said Little Joe, "There''s always next year.
Joey "Little Joe" McLerran, a gifted and talented musician, continues to perform and record. With every performance his reputation grows, along with his audience. With his new CD release for October 2007 - "Live At Last Vol. 1", Joe continues his musical journey, exploring distant roots and perfecting his unique style with a God-given talent.
Comments from a blues legend & the media
After a road trip with Homesick James, Homesick commented on Joey McLerran, "This kid is providing a service to humanity by carrying on this great tradition".
A quote from the Denver Post: "The hottest blues to come down that dirt road in a long time" (Joey Mclerran, Son Piedmont at the Red Fish, Boulder, CO)
"The music is from really deep down in the delta - I dig it." Tulsa World
Jimmy Markham commenting on Joey''s performance at the Oklahoma Blues Festival BluesTent - 2003 and 2004.
Chosen four times as "Editors Choice" - Urban Tulsa
"Little Joe is the real deal! We need more young players of his caliber to carry on the blues tradition..." - David McIntyre, KGNU Bluesoligist & Mayor of Blues Town - Oct. 2006
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