Joe Cerisano began performing professionally at the age of 14, being underage but still singing local speakeasy’s where liquor was sold at the time in the dry state of West Virginia. Even before he was old enough to be in these clubs he was singing with a succession of regional bands in the north central West Virginia area. At sixteen he called Dave Coombs who was the leader of the most popular band in West Virginia, JB & The Bonnevilles, who were the darlings of West Virginia University and who would travel out to NJ every summer to play in Somers Point NJ. At seventeen Joe was asked to join The Bonnevilles. It was the summer of 1968 the Bonnevilles played at The Bayshores Cafe seven nights a week with matinees on Sat and Sun from 3PM to 2AM earning his stripes as a real trooper. Coming home at the end of the summer called for a break so Joe left The Bonnevilles. In the spring of 69 Combs called Joe again to possibly start another group which turned out to be Kaboose which eventually morphed into Elderberry Jak. Elderberry Jak secured a record deal with Kinny Roger's brother Leland in Memphis.
The Elderberry Jak Story
Imagine a time: Without cable TV, when more in-home screens were black-andwhite than color. When FM radio stations were exceptions, not rules. When interstates and other four-lane highways were in their infancy. We're talking more than 40 years ago, when much of the world seemed far more distant than now for those of us growing up on the north end of the Appalachian coal fields. It was a time when local musicians with dreams of rock 'n' roll success weren't sure music's stars could ever shine on someone from these parts. Elderberry Jak changed that with the release of "Long Overdue," on Nashville-based Silver Fox Records, which was owned by singer Kenny Rogers' brother Leland. Now, anyone with a computer can put their music in front of millions of potential listeners without ever leaving home. They just record the songs and upload them to Web sites like MP3.com. Randy Worsham, a singer/songwriter I played bass for in Springfield, Mo., a few years ago, has done that. So has Joe Cerisano, Elderberry Jak's lead vocalist, with his more recent work. When "Long Overdue" first made its way onto vinyl, however, home computers as powerful as the Commodore 64, the 64 standing for 64 kilobytes of random access memory, were still on the drawing board. Most of us send email photos today that are larger than 64K! Back then, the hotspots in the still-young rock universe seemed as far away from north central West Virginia as the stars in Orion's belt. Things were happening in L.A., London and New York. Geez; Pittsburgh was a two-hour trip back then! Many of us who practiced in garages to play weekends in tiny little clubs around there took heart and hope in Elderberry Jak's success. Heck, I played covers of several "Long Overdue" cuts; "Changes," "Forest on the Mountain," Wishing Well," and "Vance's Blues." "Little Joe," the late Dave Coombs, Joe Hartman and Tom Nicholas were several years older. I started playing locally, keyboards back then, after their debut album was recorded and released, and they'd gone on the road to support it. Dozens of Volkswagens now sit in the parking lot of what was, back then, The White House - along U.S. 119, north of Morgantown, almost to the Pennsylvania state line. To this second, I can recall the butterflies I got as a teenager the night. I first played there as a member of a Fayette County, Pa., band called Brimstone. Like the guys in Jak, my bandmates were several years my senior. A couple of them had jammed with Cerisano and Coombs when they were still part of J.B. and the Bonnevilles, pre-Elderberry Jak. All night long during that first White House gig, I willed us to be as good as Jak; but not with the goal of getting a record deal. At that point, none of us had even started working on original material. Rather, my wish simply was that we use the stage, and those four 45-minute sets, as well as Elderberry Jak did because they showed all of us that it could be done. Even coal-patch musicians from this part of the world had a shot at realizing our goals if we let the music do the talking and respected it... worked at it... as much as some of those who'd crossed that stage before us. The White House was the only nightspot I ever played that Jak had ruled around here before recording "Long Overdue." As a result, the nights spent on its stage are among my fondest musical memories. Meeting Joe Cerisano also is among them. He continues to sing songs on the soundtrack of my musical dreams. Inspiration provided through the years by "Long Overdue" helped me achieve much of what I had hoped to in music. Some goals remain, so I keep listening to Jak to remind me that it's never too late. Some might argue; but from here, it seems Jak was ahead of its time. Listen to Hartman's pounding double-bass footwork on "Vance's Blues"and "Changes," for example. Jon Bonham, of Led Zeppelin, was playing that way back then. But most of the others - Alex Van Halen, Tommy Aldridge (Black Oak Arkansas, PatTravers and Whitesnake), Denny Carmassi (Montrose and Heart) were at least a few years away from the spotlight. Nicholas' guitar work rivals the kind of thick, chunky and powerful hard rock riffs that helped Joe Walsh become a star with The James Gang, which he parlayed into a successful solo career and a long stint as arguably the most brash member of The Eagles. Coombs' bass made every song work. He kept the rhythm with Hartman while using every inch of his guitar's fingerboard to find just the right notes for every measure of every Jak original. Measure Cerisano's talent by the full body of his professional work. First with Jak, later with Silver Condor and as an alwaysworking studio musician, and more recently on solo releases and tours with the Trans Siberia Orchestra, "Little Joe" remains big on the ability to lend just the right touch to every lyric he sings. What we have here is proof that these four men, together, made and played their music from the heart and soul. That this wonderful album has made its way to CD is a blessing beyond belief.
- Article Written by Tim Lilley
Moving to the Big City
By 1972 Elderberry Jak had run it’s course and finally broke up. The realization that to truly be successful Joe had to leave the security of West Virginia. He first tried moving to Cleveland but got nowhere. He then joined a band that had steady weekends at a place called The Lion’s Den in Akron Ohio where he got to warm up for Bob Segar, Slade, Rory Callagher and other band traveling through Ohil. Then that fell apart. It seemed that the only true solution was to face the fact that he had to somehow get to NYC. Buy rather than move into the city it seemed logical to move to New Jersey. At least in NJ there was a way to make a living singing in bar bands while he could learn the ropes of the music business. It wouldn’t be easy. After a bunch of different bands not working, even being fired by one band out of Philidelpia always being pushed back to West Virginia he finally got so disgusted that he took a job as a roadie / lightman for a hundred dollars a week. This band was a well known club circuit band and was booked well into the future. It was also a good way to meet other musicians. One of the hardest things to do is to leave the security of a small town. It’s a very steep learning curve especiallly if you're from West Virginia. Remember if it were easy everyone would do it. The roadie gig lasted for about six months and served it's purpose. Then for the next two years Joe sang with a series of bands until he met a guitarist Lee Fink who had a band called R-Band. That when is all started to come together in late 1977. New York City here we come. R-Band in New Jersey. In the late 1970's New Jersey was a hotbed of rock and roll activity. Joe and his guitarist/co-leader Lee Fink had a band that became one of the top original groups in a sea of cover bands in the New Jersey rock club scene. R-Band started to draw large crowds due to their original songs, which was rare for the time. Sometimes playing seven nights a week finally took its toll after a while so in December 1979, after a call from Earl Slick, Joe left the band. R-Band had tried their best to get a record deal but couldn't get the attention of the major labels.
"California Here I Come"
So Joe packed up his VW with a stack of tapes containing the songs he had written for R-Band and drove to California. Within six months he was signed to Columbia Records, using all the songs that he had written for R-Band back in NJ. The band Silver Condor had a real shot but for many reasons the Condor never soared. In fact, it was another learning experience. Then after their first tour the group broke up. So In reality, the second Silver Condor album "Trouble At Home" was a Joe Cerisano solo record. The same week that record was finished Joe backed his VW into a Ryder truck, packed all his possessions around it and headed to NYC. That was Aug of 1983.
Back to NYC 1983 to the present.... to be continued
Joe Cerisano Timeline
1956-57 Watched Elvis with the family perform on Ed Sullivan Show. He was hooked.
1965 -66 Performs first show with The Distortion at the Town House Motor Lodge for the TBI’s fraternity smoker recruitment party then at different pool parties and teen dances.
1966-67 Joe followed The Prophets the best band in the area. Eventually was asked to join. The band was all older, in their 20's. Joe was 15 at the time. The Prophets had a steady weekend gig at The Hampton Club, an over 21 club that sold liquor, which was illegal in West Virginia.
1967 August Hears through the grapevine that J.B. of J.B. & the Bonnevilles the top group in the state, is leaving the group. Joe calls leader Dave Coombs for an audition. Dave invites Joe to come down to Morgantown for a live audition. The result is Dave gives Joe an open invitation to come down to Morgantown, WVU whenever he wants to sing with the band. He tells the guys from The Prophets. They’re surprised and don't believe that he went to Morgantown and sang with the Bonnevilles. Coombs gives Joe an open invitation to come down and sing anytime he wants.
1968 April Joe gets call from Coombs and asks if he wants to join the group. Joe accepts. Sets up a schedule with his high school. Returns in the fall’s for senior year.
1968 June The band leaves for Somers Point NJ to play the whole summer, seven nights a week 8:30pm-2:00am with matinees from 3:00 pm to 2:00am on Saturday and Sunday at The Bayshores Cafe. The morning he arrives in NJ Coombs drives directly to the Atlantic City Boardwalk and Joe at 17 sees the ocean for the first time!
1968 September Arrives back in Fairmont from NJ. Back at school, Senior year. Quits The Bonnevilles. Starts a new local band, The House of Bourbon.
1969 May Joe packs up the band trailer takes the House of Bourbon to Gaithersburg, Maryland to play an outdoor concert. There was an amazing group called Grin which featured a guitarist named Nils Lofgren.
1969 June Joe graduates Fairmont West High School. Wants to go to the Atlantic City Pop Festival his band says no. But Joe goes anyway. They fire him. Joe hitchhikes with friend to Atlantic City. Sees Janis Joplin, Creedence, Little Richard and a ton of other groups. Then hitchhikes to Washington DC. End up at Dupont Circle. He and his friend end up crashing with a bunch of hippies for a few weeks then head back home for some rest and recuperation.
1969 September Joe gets call from Dave Coombs to possibly start a new band.
1969 October Kaboose is formed.
1970 March Kaboose morphs into Elderberry Jak.
1970 May Elderberry Jak gets a record deal with Electric Fox Records in Memphis. Electric Fox Records is owned by Leland Rogers, Kenny Roger’s brother.
1970 July Elderberry Jak goes to Memphis to record album “Long Overdue” at Sounds of Memphis and American Recording Studio where Elvis had just recorded a month earlier.
1970 October “Long Overdue” is released
1971 Elderberry Jak warms up Three Dog Night in front of ten thousand people at Columbus Fairground Coliseum. Then does a two week tour with the original three piece James Gang featuring Joe Walsh.
1972 January Elderberry Jak breaks up.
1972 February Joe joins local group Copper Lake.
1972 March Copper Lake starts to play across the state of Pa.
1972 October Joe plays five days at Captain’s Garter in Neptune NJ. Meets Terry Magovern, the manager of the club. Joe and Terry hit it off and Terry tells Joe he should meet his good friend who just signed a record deal with Columbia. Terry’s friend’s name? Bruce.
1973 March Joe leaves Copper Lake and moves to Cleveland, starts three piece power trio “Trick” and starts playing bass.
1974 February Trick breaks up and Joe joins the house band at the Lion’s Den, a bar in Akron Ohio. Gets to warm up acts that come to the club, Bob Seger, Rory Gallager. Slade and others.
1974 May Joins cover band “Magic Bus” in Philadelphia area, Lives on a farm with the band. After three months of rehearsal they decide they don’t want a lead singer and they fire him.
1974 July Back to parent’s house in West Virginia to regroup.
1974 September Randy Cutlip roadie friend working in NJ comes home on a break. He says the band he’s working for needs a roadie / light man. Joe who is totally disgusted says he wants the job. On his way to NJ again the next day.
1974-75 Works as roadie / light man for the group “Waterfront”. Pay is $100.00 a week, but he’s in NJ and meeting musicians and collecting names.
1975 December Moves to Highlands, NJ permanently.
1976 February Starts trio "Denim". Begins playing small clubs doing cover material mostly from the 60’s. Writing everyday.
1977 May Lands a gig playing seven nights a week at the Headliner formerly Captain’s Garter where in met Terry Magovern Bruce’s friend in Neptune NJ. Great harmony three singers echo on everything a big sound from a trio.
1977 November Denim breaks up.
1978 March Meets Lee Fink and starts playing bass and singing lead with R-Band.
1978 April Plays first gig with R-Band at The Riverview in Raritan NJ, First song? “Sweet Home Alabama”
1978 Playing the north central rock and roll NJ club circuit 5 nights a week.
1978 September Starts to integrate original songs into the cover song list. As a way to introduce original songs (which club owner’s frowned on) Joe says “Here something brand new by Bob Seger, even though the songs were written by Joe” Within six months R-Band is playing a whole set of Joe songs.
1979 May R-Band starts to go into NYC to play Monday nights at Great Gildersleeves in the Bowery.
1979 Audiences are showing up just for the third set which is now all original songs. Club owners see what’s happening and love it.
1979 November Having a hard time securing a record deal, playing five, six nights a week. Four sets a night 5 or 6 days a week is wearing the group down.
1979 December Joe gets call from Earl Slick. Joe sends Slick demos of his songs. Slick hears the songs and asks when can he head out. Joe tells the band he’s leaving for California. Arrives in Van Nuys Dec. 14 1979.
1980 February R-Band comes in second in the state in the The Aquarian, NJ’s top rock weekly newspaper for best original band contest. Joe had already left the state.
1980 March Meets Trudy Green says she'll help Joe and Slick get a record deal and begins to manage them.
1980 April Records demos at Pasha Studio with Duane Baron behind the board. Got an offers from David Geffen who was starting a new label when he came to a rehearsal.
1980 August Joe and the group sign a $350,000.00 deal with Columbia Records. They start recording album Oct. 18th with Mike Flicker (Heart) producing.
1981 Silver Condor is released in the Spring. Columbia Records release “You Could Take My Heart Away” as first single which is the kiss of death. It’s the only song Joe didn’t write. Joe put it on the record as a favor for keyboardist John Corey. The song wasn’t responsible for getting the deal but they used all of Joe’s advance money to promote it.
1981 Summer Silver Condor tours across America in an extended Dodge van.
1981 “You Could Take My Heart Away” only makes it to #32 and all the promotion money is gone. No second single.
1981 Late August Joe finds out that it's costing him $10,000 a week to be on tour and the money is being charged to his future songwriting royalties. At the time the group was warming up Peter Frampton. Joe calls LA and promptly ends the tour.
1981 September Earl Slick, John Corey, Claude Pepper all leave the group leaving Joe holding the bag to the tune of $350,000.00 dollars owed to Columbia Records plus the cost of the tour.
1982 Joe IS Silver Condor. Columbia Records won’t let Joe change the name of the group. Arthur Spivak formerly Trudy Green’s assistant is now helping Joe to regroup.
1982 Joe begins to write songs for the second Silver Condor album which is really a Joe Cerisano solo record.
1982 July Joe chooses Eddie Kramer to produce second Silver Condor record. Joe hires top LA musicians to record tracks for “Trouble At Home”
1982 August Starts recording the tracks for second album “Trouble At Home”
1982 October Joe has to fire Eddie Kramer because he’s not doing his job. All he does is spend time on the phone talking to his wife about horses.
1983 January Joe records Clarence Clemons on six songs at Electric Lady Studio NYC.
1983 January Joe records Rick Derringer on “Thank God For Rock and Roll” Electric Lady Studio NYC
1983 August Joe finishes “Trouble At Home”. He calls for a flatbed truck. Backs his VW into a Ryder flatbed and packs up his stuff around the VW and leaves Los Angeles. Heads back to his parents house in West Virginia. He stays there for a month for some R&R then heads to NYC.
1983 October “Trouble At Home” is released. Joe puts together an east coast version of Silver Condor which include Glenn Burtnik, Ed Manion, Dave LeRue, Jack Scarangella, Lee Fink and Copa (Dennis Antonacci).
1983 October “When a Man Loves A Woman” with Clarence on sax starts being played heavy on WNEW NYC getting tremendous response.
1983 October East Coast Silver Condor east plays a series of shows. The Capital Theater where former R-Band drummer Tico Torres brings an unknown kid John Bongiovi backstage to meet Joe, The Ritz, Ed Manion brings Little Steven Van Zandt backstage to meet Joe. At The Brandywine they play with Nazareth.
1983 late October Joe has lunch with Paul Rappaport, head of A&R Columbia Records. Joe was hearing When A Man Loves A Woman all over NYC radio....Rappaport tells Joe that “When A Man Loves A Woman” is being pulled off the radio. Columbia executives decided not to support the record.
1983 November. Joe is wanting to get dropped from Columbia Records. He owes them over $713,000.00. Then Joe gets a phone call to audition for a Miller Beer commercial. He thinks he might make a quick $150.00 and goes to the audition.
1983 December Joe receives a phone call that he won the Miller Beer commercial and that it will be airing Super Bowl Sunday Jan 1984
1984 February Joe starts getting calls to do commercials. Little did he know that he was embarking on a new career as a session singer.
1984 August Flown out to LA to audition at SIR with Black Sabbath. Had a great audition. Got the gig. Went back to hotel in the valley on Ventura Blvd. Thought about it and decided he really didn't want to do it, didn't want to move back to LA, was beat up from the Silver Condor deal and studio work in NYC was starting to really pay off. Next day had a meeting with Mr. Don Arden, Sharon Arden's dad in Century City and respectfully declined the job.Link to Black Sabbath Forum to Joe Cerisano Audition
1985 Starts to become top call for session work and meeting the top musicians in America, guys from the Letterman Band, Saturday Night Live Band and everyone you could think off. For the first time in his life he was actually getting paid fairly for singing.
1986 March More studio work. Sings lead for "Hands Across America" written by friend Marc Blatte and John Carney for Ken Kragan from "We Are The World".
1986 June Marries the love of his life, Marie Ann Cerisano
1986 December 29 First child, my son Joseph A. Cerisano IV was born at New York Hospital.
1987 Doing up to 20 recording sessions a week in Manhattan.
1988 Doing up to 25 recording sessions a week enjoying my family on the weekends and singing for a living.
1989 September Joe notices that recording sessions were being conducted more and more in small boutique studios and apartments. Also he saw major studios were shutting down in addition to the number of sessions slowing down. There was a paradigm shift happening in the world of recording commercials due to the use of the computer. Joe makes a few calls, makes some appointments and books a flight to Nashville.
1990 May Joe heads to Nashville to dovetail his session singing career into his songwriting, singing career that he put on hold while doing the session work. He meets Chuck Cannon. At the time Chuck was a struggling songwriter. They become life long friends.
1990 July 30 Joe’s Second son Michael J Cerisano was born at New York Hospital.
1991-93 Joe still doing commercials but still travels to Nashville every few months to write and establish himself. Things are starting to go good in Nashville. Writing and co-writing song with a lot of people.
1993 May Asylum Records show interest in what Joe is writing when the president hear the Carbon Copy demo through the wall. Joe continues to do sessions in NYC and travel to Nashville.
1993 June Joe and Marie travel to Nashville to look for a small house to rent but keep one room just for Joe when on his visits.
1993 July Joe receives a call from Asylum Records asking when will he be back in town. They’re ready to talk record deal. They love his song Carbon Copy.
1993 August 2 while sitting on the plane pulling into the terminal I usually try the call the car but there was no answer and that was strange Joe. Marie were waiting at Newark Airport to be picked up by Marie’s sister Marlene. Three miles from the airport she was ran our Volvo into the back of a tracker trailer that was parked on the shoulder without warning triangles. Marlene is in a coma for three months and blind. Matthew was in the back of the car in his car seat unhurt. Joe and Marie lost their six and a half year old son Joseph Cerisano IV in the crash.
1993 August 2 at least five years of total grief, depression and sadness, lawsuits, tears and madness.
1998 for joe and Marie and Michael who was in back seat and wasn't physically injured. He needed help too because he saw his brother die.
1996 April 4 Joe’s third son Matthew J Cerisano is born at New York Hospital.
1998 December Joe gets a call from Paul O'Neill creator of Trans Siberian Orchestra to sing on The Christmas Attic CD.
1999 Joe records with Trans Siberian Orchestra.(The Christmas Attic) first and second album.
2000 April Joe performs in his hometown of Fairmont accompanied by Eric Weissberg of Dueling Banjos fame at Fairmont State University, when the nationally broadcasted show NPR's Mountain Stage came to town.
2000-2003 Nov- Joe tours with TSO for four seasons
2006 to present Joe starts traveling to Nashville and starts writing again.
2007 Meets Frank DiLeo Michael Jackson’s former manager in Nashville and he hears Carbon Copy and the new songs Joe has started to write... He wants to represent Joe’s songs for movies and TV.
2008... Joe gets call from Frank that Michael Jackson is coming out of retirement and our project will have to be put on the shelf for a while.
2009 Michael Jackson dies and Frank is going to become available again. In the intervening years Joe has more songs.
2011 Frank Dileo dies from complication of heart surgery.
2012-2021. Living life, writing, singing and loving my family..