New Brunswick, New Jersey, who idolized Gene Autry and was mimicking his
playing at the age of nine.
Five years later, he would already be playing local gigs, including
He went on
tour with Tony Pastor’s outfit in 1947, and even performed on a few
of their recordings. Joe also
spent some time with Charlie Barnet’s band. He moved to the Big Apple when he
was in his early 20s, but he became addicted to heroin, and it nearly
destroyed his career, not to mention his life.
The 1950s were
essentially a blur, including a couple of stints in jail, and Joe wound up
in the Synanon rehabilitation center in
California. By 1961, he was
feeling well enough to record an album, Sounds
of Synanon, with other musical patients,
including Arnold Ross.
three years of recovery, it was time to rehabilitate his career. With the encouragement of Dick Bock,
he inked a deal with Pacific Jazz, and released a string of albums, including
Catch Me, For Django, Simplicity and 12-String
Guitar. Ironically, in
1963, Down Beat bestowed their
New Star Award on him. Two
years later, he was on the road with George Shearing.
He found safe
haven, however, in the recording studio, where he became an invaluable
session man. Some of the
artists he worked with included Louis Bellson,
Johnny Mathis, Della Reese, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Joe
Williams. He also made
appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, The Steve Allen Show and The
‘70s, he hooked up with Herb Ellis and they played regular gigs at Donte’s in L.A. With Ray Brown and Jake Hanna, they
recorded the inaugural release for the newly-formed Concord Jazz, fittingly
He also did a
turn as an author, releasing a string of guitar instruction books,
including Joe Pass Guitar Style,
which has become a classroom staple.
Peterson decided to re-form The Oscar Peterson Trio, he recruited Joe and
Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen.
They appeared on 1971’s In
Tune, with The Singers Unlimited.
Joe recorded a
solo album, Virtuoso, in
1973: He also appeared on Ella
Fitzgerald’s Take Love Easy. In 1974, the trio
released—well, The Trio—and
it won a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance by a Group. He re-united with Ella on Easy Living, Fitzgerald and Pass… Again and Speak Love. His
last CD was Roy Clark & Joe Pass
Play Hank Williams.
away from cancer of the liver on 23rd May 1994 in Los Angeles,
He is regarded
as one of the pioneers of the jazz guitar, expanding its possibilities with
complex harmonies, dizzying tempos and telepathic improvisational skills.