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This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the December 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Music for Trenton’s Kids
Trenton-based blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter
Joe Zuccarello has come to realize that becoming a teacher was probably
the best decision he ever made.
"The music clubs are too fickle today," says Zuccarello, "but
I was able to make a living in the early 1970s just playing Trenton
clubs." At 49, he spends his days teaching instrumental and general
music at Trenton’s Martin Luther King Middle School, where he directs
the orchestra and band.
Zuccarello — or "Joe Zook" as he’s known in the music
world — is part of the generous line-up for the Ernie White Band’s
second annual Christmas Extravaganza at Conduit to benefit the Trenton
Head Start Program. The Monday, December 23, show also features Mark
Giovi, Dan Lavery, Pete Maloney, Lisa Bouchelle, Richie Cole, Duke
Williams, John Bushnell, Joe Vadala, Paul Plumeri, the Commons, Ed
Wilson, Scott Rednor, Jerry Monk, Mike and Chris White, and Joe Grillo.
Zook’s education at Trenton State College was interrupted by the death
of his mother during his freshman year in 1972. "I left school
after my mom passed away," he explains. "She was the one that
was really keeping me in college, and I was perhaps 19 when she died."
The environment for music clubs around Trenton was much healthier
"I was in a lot of different bands, including my own. But the
club gigs are just not happening like they used to," says Zook.
"And you realize you’re not so young anymore. I used to be able
to survive by playing gigs around Trenton, making 75 or 100 bucks
a week, in 1974." After a nearly six hiatus, he went back and
graduated from Trenton State College [now College of New Jersey] in
Zook, who released the CD, "Blues with a Capital B" two years
ago, will release another album of mostly original blues this spring.
He’s knowledgeable and passionate about the classic blues artists:
vocalists Big Joe Turner, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and guitarists
Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Freddie King and others.
Zook began playing guitar as an 11-year-old after he saw the Beatles
perform on TV. "That year I took my first lesson from Frank Hipp
on Hamilton Avenue in Trenton," he says. "He’s still there
now, still teaching, he’s awesome!" Eventually Zook was teaching
guitar at Kretchmer Music Store and at home.
For most of the 1980s Joe Zook and Blues Deluxe had a residency at
the now-closed City Gardens on Calhoun Street. The band became legendary
for their Tuesday and Wednesday night shows, but Zook and his band
also had the chance to open shows for Sam and Dave, Albert Collins,
Junior Walker, Hubert Sumlin, Hot Tuna, and others.
Zook’s forthcoming CD, which he plans to release by June, is called
"Still Payin’ Dues." In 1991, he and his band issued "Payin’
Dues" on cassette.
Zook won’t be accompanied by his regular band at the benefit show.
But he looks forward to sitting in with Ernie White, guitarist Paul
Plumeri, saxophonist Richie Cole, and others.
"We think Head Start is a great organization," says concert
organizer Ernie White. "It deals directly with helping kids —
that’s what Christmas is all about. We figured we’d go right to the
source and help the local kids." White organized last year’s Christmas
Extravaganza, which resulted in donations of over $1,000 to two area
charities. "We’ve put together an even bigger and better show
this year with more national and local celebs," says White. "We
hope everyone will come out and enjoy a great night of music and fun
and help a local charity."
"This sounds like it’s gonna be one helluva show," says Zook
enthusiastically, "and I’m hoping I can do some sittin’ in and
jam with the other bands. I know I’m supposed to do `Merry Christmas
Baby,’ and I might be sittin’ in with Duke Williams on `Silent Night,’
but I hope to do some sittin’ in with everybody! Hey, we’re all from
— Richard J. Skelly
Street, Trenton, 609-656-1199. Holiday show featuring the Ernie White
Band to benefit Trenton Head Start program. $10 donation. Monday,
December 23, 8 p.m.
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