About Joe

Untitled Document

Joe Gorfinkle on stepsSummarizing Joe is not easy. In terms of style, Joe's music covers a lot of territory. As a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, he has a broad vocabulary. His life and musical career has been a sometimes difficult and indirect path, struggling with rebellion, overcoming demons, always aimed at music, leading him to become the writer, musician, and artist he is today. He has distilled it into a style that is authentic and to the point. His songs combine humor, stark cynicism and genuine compassion for the real people he sings about.

Born in 1952, Joe grew up in suburban Larchmont, NY (described in his song TV Town). His love of music surfaced in grade school. But trombone was not his future. At age 10, he got a Lafayette stereo recorder and began experimenting with recording sounds and overdubbing them to create abstract sound collages. In 7th grade Joe was let go from the school band for improvising, a sign of things to come. By 9th grade he was a juvenile delinquent or ‘hood’ and rarely attending school.

In 1967 he was sent to a coed prep school in upstate NY, a juvenile delinquent thrust into the counterculture. At Barlow, music changed his life. Joe got into folk and blues, playing jug, washboard and harmonica. He learned to play slide in open tuning, which became one of his hallmarks. Joe’s life became listening to records in study hall - Folkways records, Library of Congress transcriptions and jazz records. Joe stole a classical guitar from his sister. He crudely painted and open tuned his first axe. New music was everywhere. Joe saw Jimi Hendrix, The Electric Flag, Jeff Beck, Albert King and others at the Fillmore East in New York. It was different than what he had heard before, and it was powerful. “Hendrix literally seduced the whole audience with his guitar was unlike ANYTHING I had ever heard.”

In 1968 Joe wound up in a school in Bath, ME for remedial studies. He did his first gig on harmonica at coffee house in Bath, a few days later he left school and hitched to Boston with $8 in his pocket. He worked as a dishwasher, sold underground papers, and busked on Boston Commons. Hitching to the ‘68 Newport Folk Festival, Joe saw Taj Mahal w/ Jesse Ed Davis “Taj’s band was a 3 piece group, but WAY different from Hendrix.” A lesson learned in how to play. Simple, funky with a hook.

Back in school in NY City that fall, Joe’s musical education really took off. Meeting players like BB King, Johnny Winter, and Jerry Garcia, he learned that THEY shared the same ideas, and all encouraged him musically. Joe met steel guitarist/banjo picker Bill Keith and did his first recording session in 1969 at the Hit Factory in NYC playing harmonica with him. That year he took up electric guitar and started on pedal steel. Offered a chance to start a duo with Phoebe Snow, Joe typically chose to go it alone. Barely graduating High School, Joe went to Denver University, got into the folk scene, did folk gigs and started writing and recording his own songs on a 2tk reel to reel. A memorable gig was an unannounced 15 minute closing set at DU in front of 4000 people where James Taylor had played earlier. “You could say that James opened for me, even though no one knew who I was..”

Joe left and went back to NY. Joe played around locally and kept a day gig working in music stores and as a live sound engineer. By 1980 he was selling recording studio equipment and learning from masters like Roger Nichols, Bob Lifton and others. A self-produced record that year died when Joe lost interest. He then built an 8 track studio in his apartment, producing demos for people and studied music theory at a local College.

In 1983 Joe moved to LA. He worked selling recording studio equipment, partnered in a studio doing demo and TV soundtrack work. He was playing the club scene in LA. On the verge of a record deal, his band, Pink Mink, imploded. Again, lifestyle eclipsed musical and professional careers that had been taking off. It all crashed. By 1988 he was out of work, broke and had hit bottom. In 1989, friends who saw his abilities gave him a chance and a way to make a change. A very big, life saving change.

For years afterward Joe avoided the music scene and clubs. He did some sessions on slide (demos, commercial/film work), played occasional events with friends, then resumed playing in a band called Next of Kin., but in many respects he had turned his back on his only friend.

In 2006, Joe went back to writing songs, “MY blues, not just rehashed licks and lyrics.”The focus was on songs, not playing guitar, slide or harp in bands. “I wanted the music to sound as complete as a band. There was none, so I had to do it on my own.” This led to playing in clubs doing original material by 2008. Joe began recording his material at home again, refining and developing his music. Joe’s first CD, 'Well, here we are' is from this period.

Joe became immersed in his emerging style, writing and playing music. Longtime friend and colleague, LA session guitarist and producer Chuck Kavooras (at the time musical director for Sugaray Rayford), got him to start sitting in on a regular basis with Chuck’s house band and other well known musicians at LA’s legendary blues and rock club, Cozy’s. Singing and playing, crafting his unique musical style. A conversation with Sugaray prompted Joe to write a song called ‘Overnight Sensation’, one of the highlights of Sugaray’s record, ‘Blind Alley. It fit the singer’s story and showcased Joe’s songwriting skills.

In the fall of 2011 Joe started 'The Project' which raised funds to help make the current record, “Take a Chance” with a portion going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “Take a Chance” was recorded and mixed at Slideaway Studio by Chuck Kavooras, and produced by Joe and Chuck. “Take a Chance” is an eclectic collection of Joe’s songs backed up by truly world class musicians. The album has gotten a great response from listeners and industry pros for its songwriting, directness and strength of performances. It establishes Joe as an artist, performer and songwriter to be reckoned with.

Joe's songs and onstage humor tell stories that affect the spiritual perceptions of listeners and expose the fragility of humankind. They are dark, funny and expose his world in the stark light of honesty, but there is often a payoff at the end. His music really tells the story, listen and find out for yourself.

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