Joe Whiting Interview
(Jumpin' Joe Whiting)

You know him as Jumpin' Joe Whiting, but he could just as easily been called Mr. Rock 'n' Roll.

For over 20 years now, Joe Whiting has been a driving force on the local music scene. His partnership with guitarist Mark Doyle led first to the formation of "Free Will, "then later “Jukin' Bone” (R.C.A. recording artists), on to the Doyle-Whiting Band, and most recently

"Back Bone Slip."

Joe's put together a compilation CD which traces his recorded musical history from 1970 to the present. Titled "Buried Bones," it features 17 tracks and can be found on the Blue Wave Record label.

We talked with Joe Whiting about his past, the present, and what the future holds for him.

Q. Joe, you performed at the Sammy's (Syracuse area Music Awards) this year and you even won a Sammy didn't you?
A. Well, I won for Best Rock Vocalist and I won with my band for Best Rock Band.

Q. What does that award mean to you personally and what does it mean for your career? Can you com­mand higher prices for bookings?
A. Well, that certainly would be nice. I think it (the Awards) has been good for the music community in general. I'm busier, and I'm sure it's more than just a coincidence. I'm busier this year than I've ever been. It (the Awards) got a lot of different styles of music under one roof for one night and I think hopefully established a continuing camaraderie among not only the musicians, but the people who have come out and supported these performances.

Q. How did you know you could sing?
A. That's a pretty good question. (Laughs) I never even thought of it like that. I started playing saxophone before I started singing to tell you the truth. The Dean Bros, (before they turned into the Dean Bros.) had a little band, and I thought if I played an instrument maybe I could get in their band. So, I started playing saxophone. Then, when the Beatles hit, it was like who needs the saxophone? (Laughs) So, I started singing. I never thought of it as I could or I couldn't, although as I went on, I realized there was far more to it than I had bargained for.

Q. Where did R.C.A. Records hear Jukin' Bone?
A. When we were still Free Will, we did a showcase for two weeks at a club called Wheels in New York City that had been set up for us by someone who, if I'm not mistaken, had seen the group up here. We'd signed a Letter of Intent with him, that he would get us down there, and the intent being, if he could get us the deal we wanted, he would in essence be our manager. That never happened. He never got us the deal we wanted. R.C.A. was one of companies that had come down there. When the two weeks were up, we came back and talked back and forth with the guy we went down there with, with the Letter of Intent. That never panned out. At the same time, two people who had worked with Concerts West had seen the band in Auburn, just before we were going to New York. They were aware of our situation, and said don't sign anything, give us a chance. So, when this first guy couldn't come through, they kind of took over, and that's how R.C.A. got involved in it.

Q. Did anyone ever bring up the point that R.C.A. had done right by solo acts like Elvis, John Denver, David Bowie, but what rock group had they ever been behind?
A. That definitely was something that someone had brought up. However, at that time we were just thinking, wow, a major label, making a major commitment in terms of a three album deal, with some money up front. Other than the Jefferson Airplane, it wasn't our kind of thing, but we thought, well, we'll change that. (Laughs)

Q. And R.C.A. isn't a whole lot different than when you first went up against them.
A. I haven't a lot of experience with a lot of different record companies, but from that record company, it's just like a maze. People are afraid to say yes, they’re afraid to say no. If they say yes, and it doesn’t happen, they’re gone as soon as the next turn around comes in. If they say no, and you go down the street and hit with somebody else, they’re in turn gone, because they passed on you. So, you have, for the most part, a company full of people that won't say yes, and won't say no. They don't want to stick their necks out, period. I'm not trying to say that all the problems we suffered was from them or that label. We had first and foremost management that was not equipped to deal with the talents and personalities that were involved. That was a big, big problem. Had they been able to do what a manager was supposed to do, and that is get that rapport amongst the group, and translate it to booking agents and the record company, much of our problems would have been alleviated. But that never happened.

Q. Didn't "Jukin' Bone" do some national tours with the Allman Bros. Band and "Three Dog Night?"
A. We toured in the mid-west, down in the South, Texas, some openings for other groups, some in secondary and even smaller markets, on our own steam, but we never had the follow-up to do it again, because quite frankly by that time, the group had really started to disintegrate and the vibes were so bad with management. R.C.A. was pretty much disenchanted with everything also.

Q. So, when Jukin' Bone broke up, you went to Bobby Comstock's Band?
A. Literally, in a day. (Laughs)

Q. Wasn't that an incredible let down for you?
A. No, it wasn't. Bobby had had a good reputation for a long time. I got to actually play in front of more people with Bobby than I did with Jukin' Bone. We did Madison Square Garden, the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Boston Gardens, Radio City Music Hall for a week, backing up some of the people that were my idols, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis. It wasn't a let down. It wasn't my thing anymore. It wasn't I was a hired hand and part of the thing. It wasn't a let down until about four months went by and then I realized I was quite frankly, burned-out. So, I took a break for three or four months.

Q. You replaced Ronnie James Dio in Elf, when he went on to Blackmore’s Rainbow Band. What was that like?
A. Well, there again, it was enjoyable because it was a different market. I wasn’t playing the same old places. They were always more popular in the Southern Tier, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t really my thing. I was trying to re-create or interpret somebody else's stuff. It was ultimately unsatisfying, although I enjoyed working with David Feinstein who I'd known well before that, Gary Driscoll and Craig Gruber. So, I enjoyed that part of it.

Q. In 1982, when you landed the opening slot for Van Halen, I'm sure a lot of people thought this was your second chance for fame and fortune, right?
A. Yeah.

Q. Did you in fact get label interest from doing that tour?
A. We had interest expressed from promoters who enjoyed the band. Really, that tour more than anything opened my eyes. Let's face it; we went right from playing clubs to the Spectrum in Philadelphia again, you know, literally in a day. I wasn't that familiar with Van Halen quite frankly. So no, we didn't have label things. The opening act is really a warm body. We had some good nights. We had some terrible nights. But, what it did was open my eyes, and I told myself I want to do something a little more serious. The problems with the band and with myself became apparent when we were out on the road. So, that’s why I left the band really, as soon as the tour was over.

Q. Are you still as excited every time you go on stage as you were in the beginning of your career?
A. I appreciate it far more than I did when I first started. I've just become

aware of the people that have come before, the people that aren't as fortunate as me, the people that perhaps had the same dreams as I did 20 years ago, that have given up on them for whatever reasons. I appreciate my talent. I appreciate the audience. I appreciate the opportunity.

Q. So Joe, what would you like to do now, that you haven't already done?
A. What I'd like to do is what I started out to do, although my goals have changed. If nothing ever happens beyond my home base, my goal is really to be as good as I can possible be, and I don't believe I've reached that. I haven't written the song I want to write. I feel I have something to offer on a larger scale which does not eliminate this scale. It doesn't mean I should be somewhere else. I've been very fortunate in this area. I feel that if I had the right song, and the right people behind me, I could definitely be a national commodity.

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