Born in upstate New York, Joe Bonamassa started playing on a short scale Chiquita guitar at the age of four, graduating to a full-scale guitar at seven. By the time he was 8, Joe was playing the blues like a veteran. "Stevie Ray Vaughn was a huge influence in my early days," says Bonamassa, "but not my only one. I was influenced by all the great blues masters - Duke Robillard, Danny Gatton, Eric Clapton, and Robben Ford were all musicians I gravitated towards. I just naturally loved the blues and the seductive sound of the Stratocaster."
At ten, Joe was performing locally, and at twelve, he was asked to open for B.B. King. After the performance, King would say, "This kid's potential is so great that he hasn't begun to scratch the surface. He's one of a kind….a legend before his time." The Father of the Blues' high regard for Joe would be echoed by the guitar greats who would later perform with Bonamassa, including Buddy Guy, Danny Gatton, Robert Cray and Stephen Stills.
In the following two years, Joe established such a name for himself that Fender Guitars invited him to California to participate in a tribute to the company's founding father, Leo Fender, in a line-up that included Robben Ford, whom Joe cites as a major inspiration and "one of my favorite guitar players of all time."
While on the West Coast, Joe also met the musician who became the nucleus of the band that would start him on the road to international recognition. "While I was out there, I met Berry Oakley, Jr. [son of legendary Allman Brothers bassist]. It turned out that the sons of famous musicians knew other sons of famous musicians, so he was lifelong friends with Waylon Krieger, who is Robby Krieger's [Doors guitarist] son, and Waylon Krieger knew Erin Davis, who is Miles Davis' son, who is a drummer," says Joe.
The group named the band Bloodline. Their self-titled debut CD on EMI (which also featured a guest appearance by Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes) produced two chart hits, "Stone Cold Hearted" and "Dixie Peach"; their hard-driving fusion of blues, boogie, funk, and southern roadhouse rock galvanized audiences across the country.
Following high expectations and initial success, Bloodline eventually disbanded. Joe, realizing that to have the kind of future in music he wanted he would need to play more than guitar, began studying with a vocal coach.
In 2000, Joe finished work on his debut solo CD, A New Day Yesterday. With his newfound vocal confidence, the new disc featured great appearances by such fabled guitar monsters as Gregg Allman, Rick Derringer, and Leslie West. The CD's producer, the legendary Tom Dowd who, in the course of his 25-year career at Atlantic Records, recorded everyone from the Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles to John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman would become a Joe admirer and friend.
The memorable melodies and potent guitar work of A New Day Yesterday brought to mind the classic blues-based rock of Cream, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Jeff Beck Group, and the Allman Brothers Band. The album included such outstanding originals as the forthcoming single "Miss You, Hate You" and the slide guitar showcase "Cradle Rock" along with a powerhouse version of the title song "A New Day Yesterday," first recorded by Jethro Tull in 1969. Putting together a power trio, Bonamassa spent the next ten months touring in support of the A New Day Yesterday.
Upon returning from the road in 2002, Bonamassa hooked up Clif Magness (Avril Lavigne) to record the muscular and sweeping studio disc So, It's Like That, which hit #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart multiple times. With its inspired fusion of classic blues and pop production, So, It's Like That helped expand Bonamassa's already impressive fan base even further.
To celebrate 2003 The Year of the Blues, Bonamassa released Blues Deluxe, featuring nine cover versions of blues classics alongside three originals.
The recording of Blues Deluxe was inspired while Bonamassa was in the midst of a two-plus year tour in support of So, It's Like That. Fans, immersed in every bluesy note of his acclaimed live performances, often asked whether a full blues record was in the offing. When the tour ended, Bonamassa entered the studio with producer Bob Held and engineer Gary Tole (David Bowie, Jimmy Vaughan, Bon Jovi) and recorded a handful of blues covers to "blow off steam."
The resulting masters were so compelling that Bonamassa and his label decided to finish the record and release Blues Deluxe in time for The Year of the Blues celebrations.
While touring in support of Blues Deluxe, Joe became involved with Blues in the Schools (BITS), a program developed by The Blues Foundation to help perpetuate the heritage and legacy of blues music to new generation of music fans.
The BITS lectures take teenage students on a journey, tracing the evolution of blues music, from its birth among the field workers of the Delta during the late 1800's up to the present day. The lectures include a live performance by Bonamassa.
Excited and energized by what he has accomplished with Blues Deluxe, Bonamassa, with producer Bob Held joining him again, went back into the studio in 2004 to record the follow up to Blues Deluxe.
Joe's latest CD, entitled Had To Cry Today, continues where Blues Deluxe left off. Mixing original and classic blues, Had To Cry Today incorporates influences of Chicago, Delta and British blues into something wholly unique and electric. From the 40s and 50s music of BB King, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy to the English invasion of the Yardbirds, Clapton and Cream, Had To Cry Today deftly elaborates on the many faces of modern music's most influential genre.