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Interview with Swing City Sam

Swing City Sam: What was the name of the first song I just played?

Joe: That was a tune called "35 Cents". That's really the only protest song on the CD. I have a real problem with trying to get past the quarter. A quarter is so easy. So one day I was just over and over trying to look for that extra dime. That's where that song came from.

Swing City Sam: Joe is a resident of Nashville, Tennessee. That's a good place to be a resident of. Last time I was down there, Joe, what I found that the musicians in that town are so friendly. Everybody is a musician. You can go into a club and start talking to people and the next thing you know you are on stage playing with them . You got a wide variety of people on this album. I guess a lot has to do with that whole open music culture in Nashville.

Joe: That's right. Everybody 's pretty supportive of each other there. It's not as much of dog eat dog sort of competition . Although the competition is fierce, we all try to help one another out with referrals and you have to be able to "cut the cake" to get it. There are a number of great guys down there.

Swing City Sam: Joe, let's go to the Nashville scene. I know you've played with a wide variety of groups. Now down in Nashville that's a big country music scene. But when I was in Nashville, I was amazed that you think you are just going to only hear country music. I went into a place on the outside of town, but you walk into this place and there is a band playing good country music, and they get done, and the banjo player switches to alto clarinet and they start doing Kenny G stuff . They just varied all night from one style to another and every style they played was just as good as the last. and these musicians can really handle everything and this is what we have on this album, Joe. Let's talk about some of the people you've played with. Now you play a number of instruments yourself. What do you play?

Joe: I play whatever they'll pay me to play. But mainly keyboard, saxophone and harmonica, are the major three. I found it really pays, especially in a town like Nashville , to be versatile and work on your chops for several instruments unless you just happen to be a virtuoso on one of them.

Swing City Sam: Did you write all the material on the CD?

Joe: Yes, I wrote all the songs with the exception of one song. I wrote the music, and the lyrics were co-written by myself and a friend of mine Jeff Silbar". 

Swing City Sam:  Now the musicians on the CD, are from the Nashville area?

Joe: They live there now. Most of them are not from Nashville. There's one guy that I know that is a true Nashvillian, not a transplant.

Swing City Sam: Are a lot of these guys studio musicians? They do a lot of country music besides this swing music, I would think.

Joe: They all play in studios. Like you said about the experience you had with the bar band, you really need to have a vocabulary and a pallet with a lot of colors you can play and work with as a musician.

Swing City Sam: Now, you've played with a number of people and really the gamut is just incredible. Tell us some of the really great people you played with. Some of whom I played here on Swing City and some of whom are country artists that I have played elsewhere.

Joe: I have been very very fortunate to have been employed as a touring musician for a lot of different groups. I am fortunate to have a wife that is a musician and she is on the CD so she understands but I also retired myself ,for the time being, from the road for a while. I've been raising my 4 year old son and being with my wife a lot more. But anyway, I suppose the major musicians and artists that I've worked with would be Dolly Parton, and Waylon Jennings. I played in his band and we did a tour with Waylon and Willie.

Swing City Sam: What did you play in that band?

Joe: I played keyboards, sax and harmonica. I was the utility guy but the mainstay keyboard player, piano player. 

Swing City Sam: I see you also worked with Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Vassar Clemens, Doctor Hook, the Shirelles, you did oldies work, and you did Leon Russell and Edgar Winter.

Joe: That was a great experience.

Swing City Sam: Edgar Winter is quite a musician and Leon Russell is just unbelievable.

Joe: That was probably, musically, the most complex and really the most rewarding for me because I've always loved those guys. When I was a kid, I listened to their records. Really all the artists I worked with, it was like a dream. You are on the stage and you look over and see somebody you have always admired.

Swing City Sam: I like when you talk about your musical influences. I heard an up and coming country band the other night out of Pennsylvania, more leaning towards rock. The guy said my influences are Hank Williams and Black Sabbath. Looking at this here and sure Hank Williams is there and a couple of my big favorites, Fats Waller, Louis Prima, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, in the swing hat. Then you got Jimi Hendrix, the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan, which I grew up on that stuff and with the blues you got Sonny Boy Williamson. That's quite a range of influences. You also are a professionally trained musician.

Joe: I'd don't know if I'd go that far. The school of hard knocks, but I did at a later age decide to study seriously and so I took a trip up to Boston and went to Berklee College of Music for a while.

Swing City Sam: We have a great pop music song, that kind of grabs you, right on the Joe Turley album called "Ging Ginga Ding". Tell me a little bit about this song, Joe.

Joe: A really good buddy of mine, a drummer from the Chicago area, we would always be jamming along when he referred to jazz, being a drummer, would say "Come on Joe let's play some of that ging ginga ding". I said "What in the world does that mean?" He goes "You know swing.. ging ginga ding". Hitting the ride cymbal ..ging gina ding, ging ginga ding, ging ginga ding. So I took my tape deck home one Christmas, I taped my whole family at different times saying "ging ginga ding" for me.

Swing City Sam: Very interesting cover on the album. Was this designed by a friend or by yourself. This cover is unique original art here. Who did that?

Joe: Actually, we did that pretty much at my house. I have a good friend who is a graphic artist and the cover idea came from a dream that I had. It was this guy sliding down from outer space on a curly keyboard, spiraling down. In my dream he was snapping his fingers and singing "Spanish Harlem" and I thought that was out of sight.  

Swing City Sam: You have one song on this album to my mind is so inventive "Tango Mi Corazon". I think the song throws you when it starts. Then it just takes off in a whole other direction. The electric guitar solo in that song just completely blew me away. When that came in, it was unexpected. I was waiting to hear a nylon string guitar solo maybe and the electric comes in and it belongs there but you never expect it. I like music that has the twists and turns you don't expect, kind of unique. A lot of the music today is formula driven. When you hear music which has a pop sound, in whatever genre you are in, but isn't formula driven, kind of catches your attention.

Swing City Sam: What types of music have you played Joe? You played rock and roll. You played country. You played jazz. Do you have any preference?

Joe:  I suppose, the way I look at music, is, most of the music I play has strong strong strong roots in the blues. The first album I ever bought was Robert Johnson "King of the Delta Blues". I feel like in pretty much all the music I play, the blues. Even the country music you have, Hank Williams Sr. was a blues artist really. He just happened to be white. He learned a lot from black blues artists. A guy named Tee Tot was one of his teachers, who was a street musician. I feel like the blues weeds itself through pretty much all the music that I play. Boogie Woogie playing that's just a little more sophisticated, then you get into people who play stride Fats Waller and start getting into jazz and swing music. If you take blues out of it then it loses its soul.

Swing City Sam: A lot of it comes to sweetsy sweetsy. I hate that sweetsy sweetsy. That also goes with The Top 40 pop music. As long as it has a little bit of edge I can listen to it.

Joe: It is a very spiritual thing , blues and gospel music. 

Swing City Sam: What possessed you to write "Boogietime" , Joe? What went into that song? The arrangement is incredible.

Joe: Thank You. I guess I've got that boogie woogie blues fever, whatever it is. I've always loved boogie woogie. I used to sit there at the piano for hours and hours and just play.

Swing City Sam: But the song takes an unusual turn for a boogie song. It really goes from a straight boogie into a straight-ahead swing rock arrangement. The arrangement is incredible.

Joe: Thank You. I appreciate that. The horns were co-arranged by Jim Williamson, who is a great writer and trumpet player. He plays all the trumpet solos and actually all the trumpet on this CD. I think there are 4 different horns he uses. I recorded a basic version before we got together. He took my arrangement and put the polish on it. I am proud of those horns.

Swing City Sam: On the CD, there is a song "Like-I-Doo". Tell me about that song, Joe.

Joe: That song basically goes along with the theory of this whole CD. I just wanted to produce something that would emanate joy and happiness and not be too heavy for people, just to give a little joy to the people out there.

Swing City Sam: This is a wonderful album. You got wonderful people on it. Tell me about some of the people, Joe, particularly about some of the people on "When the Jitterbug Bites".

Joe: This song was co-arranged horn wise by a friend of mine, Jim Hoke who has his own CD out from Nashville also. Wonderfully talented people on this. He played bass clarinet and I think he played alto on some of the horn parts. Doug Moffet, incredible saxophone player, played baritone sax and he plays throughout the CD. Once again, Jim Williamson. A guy named Bill Huber played trombone. On a lot of the cuts on this CD, I used the strategy of using two guitar players sort of like incorporating an Allman Brothers sound with the swing stuff. I always loved those duel guitars. Well these guys playing guitars on this CD are so fantastic.

Swing City Sam: Little bit about the recording of the record.

Joe: I did insist on an acoustic piano to play my parts. We used 24-channel analog 2-inch tape. There were no digital elements.

Swing City Sam: That is how you got that warm sound. There is one song we can't leave without doing, cut 10, "Don't Dawg This Cat". Tell me a little bit about that number.

Joe: That's a true story there, pal. Any married man or any guy with a girlfriend will know exactly what I was talking about in that song. That's my neighbor's dog and my cat.

Swing City Sam: The next song I would like to play is "Ring that Bell". What's that all about?

Joe: It is a pure and simple love song.

Swing City Sam: You have everything in that song. You got blues. You got gospel . You got it all there. That song shows your stuff. Joe thank you so much for being on Swing City. You come back again next time when you are in town.

Swing City Sam, WGBB Long Island





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