A bluesman for modern times, smokin’ Joe Bonamassa has been honing his blues-rock technique since he was a young boy. Les Davidson explores his monster style.
Les Davidson explores the wonderful career of blues virtuoso Joe Bonamassa.
If you share a stage with BB King before you reach your 16th birthday, chances are that a glittering musical career awaits. And so it has been for blues-rock phenomenon, Joe Bonamassa.
Born in 1977 in New York, Joe was given his first guitar at the age of four by his father, who also shared with his son his love of the blues – in particular for the musicians who drove the 60s British blues boom. Joe’s early influences embraced the three Kings but, like his father, also stretched across the water to Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Paul Kossoff, Gary Moore and Peter Green. By the age of 12, Joe was already causing a stir as he played around his local area with his own band, Smokin’ Joe Bonamassa. Within just a few years he was playing 20 shows opening for BB King – no mean feat! The videos of this precocious lad are testament to his burgeoning talent and are well worth watching. Joe’s next step was in an outfit called Bloodline, a blues-rock band with the sons of music legends Miles Davis and Robby Krieger of The Doors. He then went solo, releasing his first album on his own label J&R Adventures.
Joe’s success is due in no small part to his live work schedule (200 plus shows a year) and his ability to write and sing blues songs to suit the modern palate. Now aged 39, Joe’s style continues to mature and develop as he investigates different musical languages and incorporates them into his playing. He has several side projects, which keeps him honed in different areas and he also runs a not-forprofit organisation called Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, to help fund scholarships and provide music education recourses to schools in need.
Joe plays with muscle and a very precise picking technique, so focus on precision and feel in equal measure. I’m using a heavy pick but I occasionally bring in my second and third finger when crossing strings. Use whichever approach feels best for you.
YOu GOTTA GO OuT ThERE AND wORK fOR IT AND ThAT’s ThE DRIvE Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa: pinstripes, vintage Les Paul, Bigsby and a capo!