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
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
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.
Q. And R.C.A. isn't a whole lot different than when you first went up against
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?
Q. Did you in fact get label interest from doing that
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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