Jo Jo Zep

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Joseph Vincent "Joe" Camilleri (1948) is an Australian singer songwriter, musician and saxophonist.

Early life

Joe was born the third of ten children in Malta on the 21st of May, 1948. The family migrated to Australia when he was two. Joe grew up in Port Melbourne and listened to rock music on the radio. His mother called him Zep and he became known as Jo Jo Zep.

Music career

Joe began his music career in 1964 when literally thrown onstage to sing with The Drollies. He played blues and R&B in the mid-1960s with The King Bees, and was then a member of Adderley Smith Blues Band.

In 1968, lead singer for the band, Broderick Smith had been conscripted for National Service during the Vietnam War. Camilleri lasted a year with Adderley Smith, and enjoyed working with the band including guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst (later in The Dingoes with Smith). According to Australian music journalist Ed Nimmervoll, Camilleri was sacked for sounding too much like Mick Jagger and upstaging other band members. After Adderley Smith, Camilleri was a member of various bands, including The Pelaco Brothers during 1974–1975

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons

Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons formed in 1975 and Camilleri gained national prominence as the group's lead singer, co-songwriter and saxophonist. Other members (from 1976 on) included Jeff Burstin (guitar, vocals), John Power (bass guitar, vocals), Gary Young (drums), Tony Faehse (guitar, vocals) and Wilbur Wilde on sax. Incorporating influences from blues, R&B, soul, punk rock, New Wave and reggae, the group achieved considerable commercial and critical success in Australia.

In 1981, most of The Falcons left the group, and the act's name was shortened to Jo Jo Zep. The Jo Jo Zep ensemble became unwieldy with, at its peak, a roster of 11 members and disbanded in 1983.

The classic 1976-1981 group reformed in 2001 for a one-off gig, but stayed together to release an album of new material, Ricochet, in 2003.

The Black Sorrows

After the demise of Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons in 1983, Camilleri achieved his greatest success with another long-running group The Black Sorrows, which began in 1984 as an informal semi-acoustic band playing blues, R&B and zydeco. The Black Sorrows had a shifting line-up and at various points included three ex-Falcons: Jeff Burstin, Wayne Burt, and Gary Young. Later additions to the band included sisters Vika and Linda Bull on vocals, and backing vocalist and lyricist Nick Smith. Camilleri himself has been the only constant member of the group.

The Black Sorrows developed a strong fan following and garnered wide critical acclaim for their recordings and superb live performances. After starting life as an acoustic cover band, they evolved into a full electric ensemble that wrote their own material, releasing a string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums in the 1980s and 1990s.

For the first several years the band was in existence, Camilleri performed under the pseudonym Joey Vincent (a name he had previously used for a solo single), although he wrote and produced material for the group using his real name. The Joey Vincent persona was finally dropped in time for the release of 1990's Harley & Rose.

With a number of different line-ups, the band has continued to release material through the 1990s and 2000s. Their most recent release of original material was Roarin' Town in 2006, followed by a live-in-the-studio album of newly recorded versions of older songs called 4 Days In Sing Sing (2009).

Side projects

While with The Black Sorrows, Camilleri also performed with The Revelators (originally, as least for the first few gigs, The Delta Revelators). The Revelators returned to The Black Sorrows roots of playing mostly covers of country/R&B style music, and had virtually the same line-up as The Black Sorrows. They released their first album in 1991, and followed it up with two others, including the self-tiled The Revelators in 2002.

Bakelite Radio was another side project from the early 2000s. This particular group focussed on more acoustically-oriented music, though still in a country/R&B mold. The group has released four albums: Bakelite Radio Volume II (2003), Bakelite Radio Volume III (2004) Bakelite Radio Volume IV (2007), and Bakelite Radio Volume I (2009).

Limestone, released in 2005, was a collaboration between Camilleri and Bomba's Nicky Bomba.

Camilleri has only infrequently released material with solo billing. A 1980 single credited to Joey Vincent was his first solo project; two singles from the 1980s and a 1995 EP called All Saint's Hotel are his only other solo releases of original material. (Note that a few CD 'best-of' releases, which compile material by Jo Jo Zep, The Black Sorrows and Joe's other bands, are credited to Joe Camilleri.)

Highest charting singles

Highest charting albums

Joe has also produced records for The Sports, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Paul Kelly & the Dots, The Black Sorrows, Renée Geyer and Ross Wilson. He can also be heard as a session musician and/or vocalist on recordings by dozens of Australian recording acts, including Skyhooks, Tim Finn, Icehouse and Mondo Rock

Australian music journalist, Ian McFarlane, described him as one of the most genuinely talented figures in Australian music.


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