Artist Spotlight  
Joey Gilmore
By Robert John, correspondent to
© 2006 - All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Enid B. Decker

Hailing from South Florida, with a career that spans over 40 years with performances throughout the United States and Europe, Joey Gilmore is a consummate Bluesman and entertainer.

A Florida legend, Gilmore is a highlight at many festivals and clubs, and beginning with his childhood obsession with the guitar, has played for a living almost exclusively.

2006 found Gilmore the winner of the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Coming off this recent win, Gilmore found the time to answer a few questions for us about his influences and career. Read on...

BB: How did you get started as a musician/performer and what drew you to the Blues?

JG: At the time I started playing music, it was the idea that if I could play this here guitar and make music I could make some money to put me in places that picking beans could never get me to. Desperation was my motivation having been orphaned at a very young age with my sisters and brothers broken up and sent to various aunts and such in our family to live. We worked the fields of central Florida as migrant workers picking beans, oranges or whatever to get by. Nobody was going to send me to college or help in a substantial way so I knew from a young age the only escape from my rough background was to use music as my outlet. Central Florida in the 1950’s was still the Deep South and Blues was just a natural progression from that. I had my first gig at a gas station opening when I was fourteen that the sheriff broke up because colored and white people were dancing together. Other than a stint in the Navy, and for a year when I was married in the 1970’s, I have never done anything else for a living besides play music. I have always considered myself an entertainer doing music to survive, not just a Blues man.

BB: Who are some of the players that have influenced your style and approach to your music the most?

JG: As far as guitar styling with Blues/R &B, Little Milton and B.B. King have had the most effect on me. I also play some Tyrone Davis songs in my live show when I sense audience feel wants some of his type of material. My band and I play a variety of artists' material we like when we have a lengthy show including Elmore James, Freddie King, Albert King and various Motown artists. There are a lot of black and white artists over time I have picked up things from. When I first started playing Elvis was an influence on me as far as stage presence.

JG: You’ve shared the stage with a number of impressive individuals, among them James Brown, Etta James and Bobby Bland. Is there anyone you’d love to perform with that you haven’t thus far?

JG: B.B. King and Buddy Guy.

BB: How does it feel coming off your win at the 2006 International Blues Challenge in Memphis?

JG: I feel vindicated for myself and a lot of other older musicians that have been provincial acts over the years. The IBC rules changes are a good thing for allowing musicians in that have had semi successful careers in the past but have gotten lost in the music business shuffle only to feel their talent was lost with no where to go. Also I feel a debt of gratitude for the people that unflinchingly backed me like Dennis Brooks, Jackie Mulberry, Enid Decker, Robert Stolpe, Bobby Weinberg, Jerry Blum, Dave Blum, Dennis Murphy and the rest my supporters from the South Florida Blues Society board and membership. My manager, Jim Nestor, constantly drives into my head that “nothing happens by accident.” I saw that this year when people I did not know were coming up to me on the street in Memphis telling me how happy they were that I came back to the IBC and saw what a ground swell of support I had from all over the country. It feels great that my supporters Larry, Doug and Mike from the Blues Society on Taiwan could share in the victory this year. The work that it generated was great but the fan appreciation was even better. Now I feel like a true ambassador of the Blues worldwide.

BB: Your 2005 CD release, "The Ghosts of Mississippi Meet The Gods of Africa" was well received by critics and fans. What other projects are on the horizon?

JG: We have a Live CD that has been in the works for several months. It is being produced by Al Rude and Jim Finch. They produced Alberta Adams last CD, which was nominated for a Handy Award in 2005. At the same time I have been writing with George Caldwell, my bass player, on material for a Gospel CD and a Blues follow up to Ghosts of Mississippi, which will feature songs also co-written with Jim, George and Graham Wood Drout. I am not sure which will be released first but I know the Live material will be out in 2006 with a companion DVD. Also there are several film/video companies working on projects like a documentary movie and reality show based on my life and music career. Bluzpik Productions is producing a one hour TV show that is all Blues content, which I will be hosting with Dar McCauley from WKPX in Fort Lauderdale and shopping to the cable networks.

BB: Your career has spanned several decades. How do you manage to keep your music fresh and inspired?

JG: Well first off I was ten years without a new release so my fan base is getting a lot of material that was pent up for some time now. As far as writing new material goes it is a collaborative process between my management team and my band. My manager and his staff started working on about a hundred pieces of material for Ghosts of Mississippi and other projects in mind about six months before we went into the studio. Once in the studio we sat down with forty or fifty song ideas to start, then cut it down to about twenty that we decided to record. As the recording progresses, Jim, George and I break down the songs we agree on for a theme to the CD and my arrangements start to emerge from the lyrical content. Then the rest of the band works on their parts for the final arrangement. Life provides musicians with a bounty of material; all they have to do is grasp onto it as life goes by. I write and play what I feel at the time.

BB: How have the venues, fans and opportunities changed over the years within the music business and especially the Blues community?

JG: I have been performing and promoting shows for over forty years. Back in the day, we promoted a lot of shows in the black community and had a captive audience because of how things were. There were two separate downtown areas that thrived. Financially, integration was not the best thing for a black promoter as it decentralized the fan base. Clubs come and go. Over the years I have played at the same venue many times with a different owner and theme. These days we are lucky to play on both sides of the tracks so to speak and often play on the same weekend in the same city to two totally different audiences. When my manager books me at a “Blues Society” type event I am billed as South Florida Blues Legend Joey Gilmore but for the chitlin circuit type events we are billed as R & B even though I play much of the same music. The organized Blues community has evolved over the years to become older middle class white folks who take on the festivals with fervor. Look at the crowd that shows up for the Blues Cruise or at the IBC. I love all my fans and have been blessed over time to have a diverse appreciative audience.

BB: What would you most like your fans to know about you and your music?

JG: My songs are about life’s real situations and many of the fans I meet are the source of my music. I have always concentrated on live performances as the focal point for my band. We will be constantly touring throughout 2006 and 2007. I’d like to personally meet and perform for every one of my fans worldwide.

BB: What are some of your unfilled goals?

JG: Make enough money for a tour bus and professional driver before one of my band members drives my van off the road.

BB: Lastly, what do you value most about making music?

JG: Appreciation from the fans.

© 2006 - All Rights Reserved

You may contact Joey Gilmore at:
Email: Jim Nestor, Manager