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Kenny Kramme of the Joe Bonamassa Band: September 2004


Had To Cry Today Review by John Dworkin

Featured Artist: Joe Bonamassa CD Title: Had To Cry Today Year: 2004 Record Label: Premier Artists Style: Blues Musicians: Joe Bonamassa (Guitar, Vocals), Eric Czar (Bass), Kenny Kramme (Drums), Benny Harrison (Organ), Jon Paris (Harmonica) Review: Joe Bonamassa’s latest CD “Had to Cry Today” has no shortage of smokin’, let ‘er rip, blues/rock guitar blowing. Being 27 years old (not too young, but young enough to mention), his technique and command of so many different guitar heroes’ phrases and chops (ranging from Elmore James to Jeff Beck) is impressive. Bonamassa has also spent a lot of time (and money!) on getting the “phattest” sound out of his gear. He lists the guitars and amps used for each tune; very cool for gear heads and guitar aficionados. His gritty, tenor vocal style suits the music as well.

In relation to the blues/rock equation, Bonamassa comes down mostly on the rock side in terms of tone and sheer “heaviosity” (thank you Woody Allen). While Bonamassa has obviously studied and worked on much ‘traditional’ blues, this record is definitely in the ‘modern’ blues category, with a firm emphasis on the ‘guitar solo’. Although there are some slower, plaintive tunes, subtlety is not the focus. Nor need it be. Bonamassa came to kick some ass and that’s exactly what he does. The fact that his study and respect of the blues tradition may put off some hard rockers - while his study and respect of rock playing may put off some ‘bluesers’ - should not be considered a problem. Bonamassa is not concerned with giving in to any one particular group of listeners. Good for him.

The highlight of the record is “Revenge of the 10 Gallon Hat”, dedicated to his friend and mentor Danny Gatton. Gatton told him to get into some chicken pickin’ and rockabilly stuff, and Bonamassa sure got into it. Major right hand picking technique and a real cool ‘head’ and form written by Bonamassa. This tune is one of just a couple on the record with a ‘clean’ sound throughout, and it’s pretty burning; A nice break from the rest of the record’s “heaviosity”. In fact, seven of the eleven tunes on “Had to Cry Today” are original tunes.

Bonamassa has yet to truly find his own voice yet, however. As accomplished a player as he is, the bulk of the playing here still feels like an amassing of nearly internalized influences, albeit very well played. ‘Nearly’ is the key word in the previous sentence. For an album which represents “a never-ending search to find myself in music,” I think it’s telling that it’s been titled after a tune written by someone else over 35 years prior. This is not meant to offend, or to say that Bonamassa is not on his way to finding his own voice. To the contrary. Only that it’s a long path, and that he’s got a great journey to look forward to – and a great head start!

Tracks: Never Make Your Move Too Soon, Travellin' South, Junction 61, Reconsider Baby, Around The Bend, Revenge Of The 10 Gallon Hat, When She Dances, Had To Cry Today, The River, When The Sun Goes Down, Faux Mantini Artist's Website: Listen or Buy: @ Reviewed by: John Dworkin


You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise David Jackson 09/3/04 Interview with Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa

Joe BonamassaGenre:
Blues / RockLocation:
Los Angeles, CAWebsite:
Buy "Had to Cry Today"

You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise By David Jackson 09/3/04
Originally posted on
Or click on Tilte of Article to link to original.

Brief Bio:
Joe Bonamassa (pronounced "bon uh moss uh") starting playing guitar at the age of four. He started gigging at age 11, and at age 12 he opened for B.B King. Joe recently released his fifth CD “Had to Cry Today”.

Joe has done a lot since age 12, and he was nice enough to share insights into his past, and the recording of his new CD, and more.

Behind the Scenes: Special thanks to Joe who had moved into a new place in California the day before. Moving is a pain the butt, and I truly appreciate the amount of time you provided to share with us during such a hectic time.

The Early Years
Dave: So you started gigging at age 11?Joe: Pretty much the first paying gigs I had I was around 11.Dave: When you’re 11 who else is in your band?Joe: We had a four piece backing band (guitar, drums, keyboard, and bass).Dave: Were these guys in the 20s and 30s?Joe: No these guys were in their 30s and 40s. You know a full, legitimate, blues band. They did a set then I’d do a set.Dave: Kind of a “Chuck Berry” thing where you find a band and get them to back you up?Joe: Exactly.


(Editor's Note: Bloodline featured Berry Oakley, Jr. [son of legendary Allman Brothers bassist] Waylon Krieger, who is Robby Krieger's [Doors guitarist] son, and Erin Davis, who is Miles Davis' son.)

Dave: So you were 17 when that album came out?
Joe: We recorded that album a month before my 16th birthday, and it came out when I was 17, and we toured on it for years. I was in that band for 6 years.

Dave: Was it a big ego clash (with all the famous children)?
Joe: I was 13 when I joined that band. And everybody else was 17, 18, 20, and 21. You kind of go through a crisis in our early 20’s. You realize you’re on your own, and searching for your identity and you’re not really sure what you want to do. All you do know is your want to impress people and take over the world. You just don’t exactly know how to do it. You’re not sure where your talents really reside. I think those guys were going through that, and I didn’t really realize it, and it became a misunderstanding. There were some technical issues with us, as we had to decide what style of music we wanted to play. You put out a blues/rock record and build up all these fans and then do a complete 180, go in a different direction and expect people to like it. It just doesn’t make any sense. You know, you’re dealing with a bunch of kids, and a bunch of egos (present company included), and a bunch of people who thought they knew everything, and how everything works, and … I realize now, I’m 27, that when you’re going through your twenties, you really don’t know shit. You THINK you know everything at 21, but you really don’t. It’s a blind, clueless, and ego that combine for that occasional volatile situation. So that’s what kind of happened there.

Dave: It’s a great CD. It’s still one of my favorites.
Joe: Oh yeah, I’m proud of it, and the time I spent in that band. I’d say 40-50% of the people that come to my shows remember me from Bloodline.

Going Solo - Vocal Lessons

Dave: So Bloodline goes away, and you start your solo career. I’ve read where you worked with a vocal coach to get your vocal chops up to speed.
Joe: I had to make a decision if I wanted to be a guitar that did or didn’t sing. I figured now or never, and give it a shot. If it sounded terrible then I’m not going to be a singer. I started with a woman, and still do. I go in every year for the 100,000 mile check up. I study with a woman named Katie Agresta who is a brilliant instructor, and has her own way of teaching. You don’t really think about it, but you thank her every night because the next morning you wake up and you have the voice to sing again. It’s those techniques that you're taught at the beginning that will help you down the line when you’re singing 6 nights a week. If you don’t have those and you start blowing out your voice, the road becomes a miserable experience.

Keeping it Fresh on TourDave:
Now you’ve had Kenny (Kramme- drums) and Eric (Czar - bass) in your band for four or five years now. How do you keep things fresh on the road, as you guys tour alot?
Joe: We have five CD’s now, so we’ll bring back different material, and we’re always experimenting. We do different tributes. We currently do “Heart of the Sunrise” into “Starship Trooper”. We get asked the question, “Can a blues band do that?” and you know… “Yes we can.” We try and challenge ourselves, well say “Let try to put this thing in.” We’ve toured with some national bands, and legends that have been nice enough to befriend us and help us out. We will tribute the people we are on tour with somewhere in the show. It’s not really obvious. Only to the discerning ear can you hear these little things we’re throwing in. We’ll throw in a little ZZ Top, a little Frampton, throw in a little Allman’s you know…everybody we’ve played with Foreigner, Bad Company, Blues Traveler, there is always a little bit of something in there from each of those bands, and that keeps it fresh, and puts a new spin on your material.

Dave: Sure
Joe: I think you should be better live than you are on your CD. I’m a firm believer that I don’t think people really want to hear you try to carbon copy every note and everything you did on the record. There are certain things that are good on a record that you want to recreate, but other than that .. Dave: .. Right, other wise I can sit home and listen to the CDJoe: (agreeing) You can stay home and listen to the CD. You don’t have to stand elbow to elbow with Sparky the guy who is going to spill beer on you.

Advice for Bands and the Joint Venture ScenarioDave: You’ve had a pretty long career even though you’re only 27. What the Musician’s Cyber Cooler is about is musicians helping musicians. As you look back on where you’ve been and where you’re going. Is there any advice you have for a band starting out? At this point you have managers, promoters, etc, and just building a team?Joe: Well I’ve been through everything, and I’ve really found the situation now where I’m comfortable and I’m happy having the right team around me. Ultimately I feel I was on two different major labels, and this type of music is not geared towards a major label as they’re geared towards top 40 and pop and they want the big hit right away. They’re not into career building an artist. So if your first record sells 40,000 copies they’ll go, “Either we’re not going to go forward” or they will go forward with less money. That’s what happened in my case. They said, “We’ll do another record, but don’t expect a lot of promotion.” Well this is not career building, and you want to build a career. Every CD I’ve done has out sold the previous one. That’s the way you do it. By the time I reach a million units sold for one album, I’ll have a catalog of five or six different records and once you have a big hit people will discover your back catalog. That’s how major labels that are independent made their billions of dollars: by having catalogs. What’s the sense of having one big selling record and the rest don’t sell anything? Then act is dropped and their career spans a year and a half to two years. There is no sense in that.

(Joe continues) Anyway, my advice to a young band is ultimately be yourself. Never try to follow a trend, never try to be something that you’re not. Because ultimately people will see right through you. People respond to convictions not a pair of sneakers, and clothes. People do not respond to image as much as the industry thinks they do. Thirteen year olds do. A band will sell two million records to a bunch of thirteen year olds and think they have a loyal following that will follow them for the rest of their career and that’s false. That’s a big score and they should realize what that is.

To have true fans that will follow you from album to album to album make no apologies about what you do and be yourself. If you’re good they will follow you, and if they don’t it’s time to go back to the drawing board until something does work.

Dave: Amen brother.
Joe: We have so many bands that open for us, and some of them are on a major label, and they’re like “We going to get a bus” and I’m like “Who is paying for that? Is that YOU or the label?”

Dave: That’s where the indentured servant thing comes into play
Joe: We take out a bus maybe twice a year on certain tours, and the rest we’ll fly or we’re an RV or something like that to cut cost. You never take out a bus with someone else paying for it. That’s YOUR six thousand dollars paying for it. The record company says they’ll get you a bus. It’s like YOU cutting the check. Now you’ve got to sell 6000 records to pay for your bus – A WEEK – No thanks. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in 15 years, and a lot of people you tell them and they don’t want to hear it.

Dave: Every book I read says being on a “Major” label is not always your dream come true 'cause you can sell 500,000 have a gold record and still owe the record company money.
Joe: Right, and not see a dime. The whole thing I’ve done now is a joint venture. The real money is in the joint venture. The joint venture is when you have a major label distribution, but you pay for your own record. If your records are in the stores, and the fans have a place to buy them, why not YOU make 4 dollars a record instead of 40 cents.

Dave: Exactly.
Joe: But the whole thing is which comes first the chicken or the egg? You need a following to create a scenario like that. Sometimes the only way to get that following is to sign with a label so they can at least get you in the ball game.

Grass Roots

Dave: I mentioned your web site earlier ( ) and your message board.
Joe: They’re great aren’t they?

Dave: It’s this cool little community going on. They’ve got better information than the CIA. It’s such a cool grass roots approach. With Clear Channel kind of owning everything do you just basically focus on the grass roots approach? I know you do some great things like meat and greet with your street team and stuff like that, so do you even attempt to get radio airplay or do you just say “Look I’ve got better ways, more efficient ways to spend my time?” Joe: I’ve got better ways to spend my money. I’ve had a bunch of singles out and it cost the record companies 10’s of thousands of dollars and it would be top 20 on rock radio blah blah blah.. Do you know many records it sold? None. Radio airplay is overrated unless you are absolutely a top priority album, with a major push on it. What good is it going to do if all of my spins are at 6 AM? But they’ll take your money and say “Listen, buy a program, blah blah blah blah” You know, I’ve never made music to sit on the radio. I figure if I ever have a hit, it’s going to be totally out of the blue, and it’s going to be totally unintentional, and it will be something that grasps on, and people on a mass scale will grab on to it. I’ve made music that puts a smile on my face and that’s the only litmus test. I mean if I’m the only guy that buys the CD….Every time my album comes out I go to Tower Records and buy my own record – but if I’m the only guy that buys it, then that’s it. Ultimately I think grass roots is where it’s at. It’s all about the fans, and everyone on that message board, people that come to the shows. I make sure at the end of every show no matter if I have cold, the flu, or been up for 20 hours, I go out and I meet people. I’ll do a signing or a meeting at the merchandise table or something like that. I will shake the right hand of the person who waited in line. I believe that’s the way to do it. I firmly believe that a hand shake and a “thank you for coming” builds a fan base a lot faster than a single on the radio.

Mentors Dave: One of the things we do a lot on the web site is mentoring each others. I know one of your mentors was Danny Gatton. I’ve never heard of Danny Gatton, and from what I get from the song “Revenge of the 10 gallon hat” I get he was a country picker?
Joe: He was everything. He was blues; he was jazz; he was country. He was one of the best overall guitar players that ever decided to play. He was an extremely talented musician and he mentored me when I was 13. I met him at a show and sat in with him that day. He was just the nicest person, and we really bonded with the fact that he was doing this at age 13. We were both kind of into the same thing. At the time we looked the same he was like mini me from Austin Powers. He taught me everything I know about the electric guitar. He is very sorely missed. Just a brilliant, guitar player … brilliant.

Had to Cry Today

Dave: How long did it take to record Had to Cry Today?
Joe: This is a record for us 13 days
Dave: Wow.

Dave: Wow.Joe: Blues Deluxe (the CD released before Had to Cry Today) was done in 8 days.Dave: Get in get out.
Joe: Amen. That’s the way to go. I’ve done records that take a month to record and I don’t like the way they turn out. I like to give myself a strict time limit. If you listen to track 1 through 12 it sounds like it’s recorded in the same year. Records that linger on for weeks and months always sounds like the first track differs from the last track. Then you have to prioritize which one you want first. I want them all to be good. Literally within three or four days the whole record is pretty much carved out. Then it's just overdubs, guests, and mixing. This one was a little longer because we had a gig in the middle of it which caused us to stop production for a day. But typically we can do it in 8 or 9 days.

The Arsenal of Guitars
Dave: Now you have 78 guitars?
Joe: The new tally was 107 guitars. I have guitars here at my house. I live in LA now. I have guitars at my parent’s house, and then I have guitars in the warehouse where all the bands gear is. When you add them all together you have 107.

Dave: How do pick from the arsenal which one is going to go on the record?Joe: It’s based on the material. This record, there is a song called “The River” which needed a dobro, so I brought the dobro. I have about a half dozen. That’s how you pick. It just depends. This record I feel is more of a Gibson record than a Fender record. Songs like “The River” and “Had to Cry” and “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” or “Reconsider Baby” are pretty much that big fat kind of clean sound. Blues Deluxe is more of a Fender record with a little thinner, lighter sound. It just depends.

Song Arrangements and Guitar Solos
Dave: You brought up the song “The River” I guess you have to work your arrangements out ahead of time as you are recording, but there is a definite “jam” thing going on there.
Joe: All done in the studio. I mean the band guys have been together for so long we’re able to jam out. All of the solos on"The River" and "Reconsider Baby" a lot those songs are recorded live. There are no overdubs or anything done. I just feel it comes out better. To say “I’m just going to play rhythm now, and go for the solo later…" I think you’re missing out on some of your best soloing because you miss the interaction between the band. Sometimes you decide to record the solo again, and you cut the solo again.

Dave: I mentioned “Return of the 10 Gallon Hat” along with “Faux Mantini” are a couple of different shades of Joe. I know you studied classical when you were little, are we going to see any more different shades of Joe in the future? They’re both great.Joe: I’ve always been into country and bluegrass but never did anything on record to let people know I’m even into it. I never felt comfortable doing a tribute to Danny Gatton till now. The other song Faux Mantini, I never do anything out of response to what I read, but I was reading something where someone said my best work was in Bloodline and I had somehow lost it over the year and the kid couldn’t play anymore.

Dave: I would disagree
Joe: I did that song, at my house as a demo, to kind of prove to myself, that I could still play when I wanted to. I played it for a couple people. I played it for my girlfriend Lea, and Bob Held and he was like “We gotta do something like that on the album!” and I was like, “sure.” Dave: It’s a great tune.

Dave: You had a title track before “A New Day Yesterday” was an old Jethro Tull song, and now the new CD “Had to Cry today” is an old Blind Faith song, and when I hear Jethro Tull and Blind Faith, I don’t think “blues band.” Yet you’ve been able to pull these songs in and make them your own. How do you go about choosing a song to cover? Is it just something you hear on the radio? I know you toured with Jethro Tull.
Joe: Actually that was just a coincidence. I recorded the song, and the record was released before we toured with Tull. There is a bunch of great material out there. I’ve never heard “A New Day Yesterday” or “Had to Cry Today” on the radio. There is a bunch of great material out there from these old albums that doesn’t get played on the radio, and they’re a little obscure but its great material. Had to Cry today, you put it on and that riff just gets me every time, and nobody has ever done it. That’s when you know you have a winner when: A) It’s a great tune B) Nobody’s ever done it. C) I think I can do equal or better then the original.

Dave: I think I might’ve heard “Had to Cry today” once on the radio, but forgot about it. I was more familiar with your version and I went back and listened to the Blind Faith version. I was like “Man Joe has totally made that song his own.”
Joe: There are a lot people who will remake very popular tunes that you hear on classic rock radio. I feel that ultimately it’s a waste of time and self defeating if you don’t make these songs your own. I mean, look at the Allman Brothers when they covered a song they made it their own. Look at Stormy Monday. Look at Cream with Crossroads. There is a million of them where they would take these old tunes and make them their own. Now it seems if someone does a cover it’s a verbatim cover, and they stick strictly to the melody or the part which is great, but you’re never going to beat Steve Winwood at his own game. You’ve got to try and make your own version of it.

photo by Susi and Dennis Blanchard

Dave: The one thing I like about the CD is there are a lot of tastes on it, but you end up saying, “That’s just Joe.” The song “When She Dances” just screams to me “Get me into a soundtrack.” The vibe and the guitar tone on that is just haunting, and I love it. It’s great.
Joe: Thanks. I think that was an old Gretsch or something. The thing I like about that song, and about the album; is it works from start to finish as a whole. To play just one or two tracks you’re going to go “Wow there a lot of changes” but when you listen from start to finish you don’t feel like you’ve been all over the place. It dynamically has a certain flow to it. I mean “When She Dances” doesn’t have much guitar in it at all. But that song is after “Revenge of the 10 Gallon Hat” which has like 80 billion notes. It’s a good way to segue

Dave: And I love that it goes from "When She Dances” to “Had to Cry Today” It’s like wake back up, here we go. - BOOM.
Joe: That’s the whole concept of the band. Just when you think you’ve heard everything from us, we’re going to throw you a curve ball. A curve ball doesn’t mean it’s so out that that people don’t get it. You’re going to get it but you’re not going to expect that out of a “blues band.” Everybody has their niche, and I think that’s ours. That we’re a stylistically diverse enough where we can change ears to make a better record. We’re not a one trick pony.

Dave: You have played with every living legend that has ever lived. Anybody you’d like to play with?
Joe: Two people: Clapton and Beck (Jeff Beck - not the "I'm a loser guy").

Dave: I think the next G3 tour you should be one of the g’s
Joe: I know Joe Satriani and Steve Vai they live out here. They’re nice guys.

Dave: What’s next for Joe? Just touring for the CD? I know you’ll be in JOhio in October.
Joe: We start in September with a NASCAR race in New Hampshire.Dave: The song “Travelin’ South” should be the NASCAR theme.

Dave: Joe, I really appreciate the time (Joe was moving into a new place the day before the interview).
Joe: David not a problem. I’m just unpacking and taking my time.

Dave: Thanks again and good luck with everything.
Joe: Thank you.

For tour information, bios, pictures, media smaples, and more go to JOe's Offical Site at
Joe's Fan Site is at
Songs Used in the Interview:
Never Make Your Move Too Soon -
Had To Cry Today
Stone Cold Hearted
Cradle Rock
A New Day Yesterday
You Upset Me baby
Blues Deluxe
My Mistake
So It's Like That
Revenge of the 10 Gallon Hat
Had To Cry Today
Reconsider Baby
Had To Cry Today
The River
Had To Cry Today
Faux Mantini
Had To Cry Today
Had To Cry Today
Had To Cry Today
When She Dances
Had To Cry Today
Tavelin South
Had To Cry Today

(C) 2004contact
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