Front Porch

Local Musicians to Honor Jeffrey Joe with Tribute Concert and CD Release

Jeffrey Joe was a man of great joy, despite suffering from health problems and chronic pain. Photo by John Hancock.


Jeffrey Joe, performing in O Berkley, Where Hart Thou? Photo by Dennis Andersen.


A few weeks before he passed, Jeffrey Joe got a cool vintage car. This photo was taken on the first day he drove it. He was stoked! Photo by Liz Abbott.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since Jeffrey Joe passed away. However, the spirit of the man who radiated love and music and made us all laugh lives on in each of us. We all have our stories to share… and so we have…

One of the things his friends enjoyed was reading his “gratitude lists,” which he’d post on Facebook almost every day. The man inspired the rest of us to be grateful. For example, here are some of the things one list included: Mohammad Ali, Facebook blocking, Carina’s nurturing love, renting the deathbed, my ol’ bride’s Scripps Hospice care team, knowing who hasn’t got your back, being profoundly judgmental, knowing a lot of great people, my colossal humility, Vic Damone. Then, he’d finish off the list with a great quote. In this case it was one from Mohammad Ali: “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”

After Jeffrey Joe was hospitalized due to complications from respiratory failure last July, legions of friends came to visit him in the hospital. Although he was unconscious, we sang songs to him, held his hand, and talked to him, telling him that it was NOT his time to go. Despite the best efforts of the staff at Sharp Hospital, they could not bring him back in a way that Jeffrey Joe would want to live. A gathering of his family and loved ones sang “Happy Trails” to him, which was how he usually closed his shows, as they released him. It was once said that to Jeffrey Joe, friendship was oxygen. He rose surrounded in love an gratitude.

A tribute concert and album release for Jeffrey Joe’s posthumously released album Don’t Get to Know Me will be held this month at Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living. Organized by Jeff Berkley of Berkley Sound and Jeffrey’s fiancée, Carina Wheatley, the tribute will feature local musicians who performed on the album, including the Euphoria Brass Band, Rob Thorsen, Josh Hermsmeier, Sky Ladd, Steph Johnson, Lindsay White, Veronica May, and other long time contemporaries Gregory Page, Tori Roze, Larry Grano, and more. More than your typical tribute show, Jeffrey Joe will also be “present” through the magic of technology.

Jeffrey Joe’s post-production efforts to manufacture and distribute this album were thwarted by numerous health issues. Following his death in 2017, Berkley and Wheatley released this powerful testimony to the fragile beauty of life thanks to financial contributions from several former bandmates. While the Don’t Get to Know Me album release concert is rooted in shared grief amongst Jeffrey Joe’s colleagues and loved ones, the event’s organizers and performers are creating a joyful celebration that honors his ongoing gifts of love, gratitude, humor, and joy.

Wheatley states, “This album bookends our relationship. I had my first listen late at night in Jeffrey Joe’s car following an evening out. He had just received the master reference CD and was bursting to share it. I barely knew Jeffrey at that time, but I can assure you I knew him more deeply after hearing his stories.

“A particular pleasure is ‘Jesssica’s Song’ a word-for-word homage to an adorable three-year-old YouTube star doing her daily affirmations in front of a mirror on top of the bathroom vanity. Jeffrey loved that video, loved that this little pint of a person was learning early the power of her worth and declaring it to the world. ‘Jessica’s Song’ is a big-band blast of energy featuring the Wayward Women’s Chorus [made up of Jeffrey Joe’s many girlfriends].”

As a Vietnam veteran, Jeffrey was a tugboat skipper and later an embedded sailor on the Perfume River, Hue, Vietnam. As he often said, he was brought in to “teach sailing skills to folks who’ve lived on the river for thousands of years.” In truth, he was the first sailor in his position to survive the post on nightly river patrols, a fact he found difficult to reconcile at times. “Sunny Riverside” shares his sorrow at taking another’s life to save his own, a song, he lamented, that took 40 years to write. Jeffrey Joe performed “Sunny Riverside” live a handful of times. Claudia Russell of Jazz 88 declares, “It is “the quintessential song of that era”.
The title track, “Don’t Get to Know Me,” was Jeffrey Joe’s uniquely humorous homage to his ongoing battle with the Grim Reaper. He had faced death up close more than seven times, the most recent just prior to recording this album in 2014. It was warning for all of us who loved him that he knew his time was finite. It was also a warning that we all respectfully ignored.

There is so much to treasure on this album from Leo Dombecky’s weeping saxophone on “Love Letters,” Euphoria Brass Band filling out his songs with big jazzy brass and if you listen carefully, you can hear Jeffrey Joe’s heartbeat inside the final harmonica notes of “Wonderful World.”
According to Jeff Berkley, “Jeffrey Joe was a walking encyclopedia of music. He was a living jukebox with the gift of interpretation. You may have heard the song before but not like this. Something about JJ’s past authenticated the words and melody. Something about his gentle lilt. Something about his slow vibrato. Something about his complete immersion in the performance. Some little piece of heart and soul in every word and every breath. Every note a gift.”

Longtime friend and collaborator Lindsay White concludes, “This album is a glimpse of what it means to be a part of the San Diego music community. We’re not just a scene, we’re a family. I feel lucky to be one of the many branches on JJ’s musical family tree.”

Date: Tuesday, July 17. Time: Doors and beverages 6:30pm. Concert at 7:30pm. Location: Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living, 4780 Mission Gorge Pl., Suite H, San Diego. Tickets: $20 (includes one copy of Don’t Get to Know Me per family). Ticket Link: jeffreyjoe.homestead.com

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