Having grown up in the rock and roll badlands of Ocean County, I’ve always been privy to the bizarre world of rock and roll garages and basements. Power chord marauders have slithered from these darkened tombs to roam some of the world’s largest stages. Evolving from beer-drenched woods parties, these bar-chord barristers have seen career destinies soar into a myriad of both tragic and glorious realities.

I remember standing slack-jawed in front of long gone Toms River legends like Richard Sweat, a blazing guitarist who brought powerful recollections of Robin Trower straight to Fischer Blvd., and a guy who played his heart out. Sweat was untouchable in his glory days, and was poised on the steps of greatness more than once before leaving us for good.

Other standouts include Salty Dog guitarist Eddie Jelley. I would go see Eddie at the Chatterbox on the Seaside boardwalk. He would be on stage with black Les Paul Custom and matching black eye from a pre-set fistfight. Jelley was a tumultuous combination of Joe Perry and Peter Green fury. Guitarist Vinnie DiCunza was another visible TR talent that blazed like Jimmy Page. The rhythm/lead power of Joe Sinopoli fueled Mick Ronson/David Bowie visions in bands like The Imports, as did George Voyovich, another exceptional axe man who burned in the psychedelic fields of Hendrix. George was a Strat player who taught many of us the stage presence and pentatonic power of the Pine Barrens. And of course we can’t forget Scotti Hill and Dave Sabo, two laidback Hooper Avenue boys that would become the planet’s biggest rock stars.

And last, but not least, there is Jack Ponti. Ponti was a personal mentor of mine, and I learned my entire presentation from the guy. Sporting leather and a 1959 Les Paul Standard, he was the epitome of cool when we were all fumbling, “Smoke On The Water,” three-chord morons. He is now one of the country’s most successful industry kingpins.

As each decade would begin or end, more unsung talent would emerge from the strip mall woodwork. Constant and voracious, it was as if there were some strange cause and effect force that had a master plan of dropping Route 37 gunslingers all over the world’s imagination. And that is the grungy, tube-fueled sector from which my next guest emerges.

Tenacious, hardworking and dedicated to the unsung toil of the garage studio and the club stage, guitarist, songwriter and Grammy Award-approved Joe Birardi took a few minutes to talk about everything under the hood of this greasy language we call music.

Tell me about your involvement with music and our Armed Forces.

My dad, Sgt. Joseph John Birardi, came from Jamesburg, New Jersey, and went to war with 11 of his childhood friends from the town. Besides my dad, only two others came home. He fought throughout the European theater and battled the Nazis over four years before ending things up at the Dachau Poland concentration camp. He was also there for the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

So anytime I can help our military I always will. I have done many shows in the past to raise money for the Adopt A Soldier Platoon organization. I have sent guitars and amplifiers to recreation centers in Iraq for our troops, and all iTunes download proceeds go to our troops. I am very humbled and honored by the fact that they have sent me flags flown in the face of the enemy and signed by the platoons. Band member Bill Tuohy [EOS guitarist] has also been instrumental with his military connections and help on the overall campaign.

What drives you to pick up a guitar and make music?

Most musicians say that they learn to play music for the girls, but that wasn’t me. I always did it for the excitement and the experience. When I was four or five, my large Italian family would have get-togethers every couple of weeks or so.

My uncle Arty was an expert accordionist, and my other uncles were expert drinkers. I say that with the utmost respect, as they were all great, hard-working people. Midway through the get-togethers, the fist fights would come, and then the night-ending “I love you’s” and “I’m sorry, let’s do it again in two weeks,” would close out the festivities (laughs). My uncle Arty would play every Dean Martin, Jerry Vale or Vegas crooner song ever recorded, and he could make his accordion sounds like it was an orchestra.

I took my first guitar lesson during sixth grade. I tried to better myself by taking countless lessons with various instruments, teaching myself through books and studying the theory of what makes great music great. Whatever the genre, a great song can traverse all boundaries. I love to write songs, which I always write for the listener’s perspective first. Writing gives me a sense of great accomplishment. Kind of like when I was a kid and I pitched a no-hitter, or bringing home multiple medals from district and regional wrestling championships. Everything is a baseball game or wrestling match to me. The fundamentals are the same. Win or lose, how you deal with it is who you are, and that goes for life, work, and music. That’s why I will play music till I die. I guess I’m still that little kid.

What has been your favorite gig, and why?

They are all very precious to me, as they are imprints in time and soundtracks to so many lives. I cannot compare the time I shared the stage with Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy, Skid Row or Leslie West to the time EOS or 9th Infantry headlined The Stone Pony for the benefits that raised money for Toys For Tots, cancer research, and our troops. They have all been everlasting memories and huge honors.

You have a fanbase that is known to assemble time after time without the same issues that many other bands have. What’s the secret for getting them to come out every time?

I believe there are many things that create a successful live show scenario. We’re beyond just our friends coming to see the live projects that I produce. The “never give up, stick with it” attitude comes through in our approach to everything we do. But it’s no secret how we build our base. We make phone calls and follow-up phone calls. We use all social media. We make sure attendees have tickets in hand weeks before the show. The ticket is a guaranteed marketing tool. Every time they open their wallets, they will ask other people, “Hey, I’m going to see my friend’s band, wanna check ‘em out?”

It’s a consistent reminder. We also follow the rule that everyone in the band is a business partner. Time is money as it is in any business. There’s nothing more disrespectful than one or two band members handling all the chores while others sit on their ass and reap the benefits of whatever success might come along. That always leads to animosity and the demise of the band.

What advice would you give to young musicians looking to win this crazy game of music?

Unless you have a giant record deal with a massive marketing department behind you, it’s up to your circle of partners to be successful. One of my old vocal instructors once told me, “Whatever that success is for yourself, never give up, because you are not immortal, but your life’s accomplishments may be some day.”

For more on Joe Birardi and his ongoing exploits, head over to www.2btbmusic.com.

27 Responses

  1. Bill

    Great article! He is one of the last true musicians! Joe is very knowledgeable and one of the nicest guys you will every meet! He has a lot of cool bands and is a kick ass musician! Hats off to John Pfeiffer with this interview!

    Reply
  2. Elaine Weigle

    Love this article! I’m proud to say Joe is my ‘little’ brother…his work ethic and his concern for his fans are wonderful, especially in this entitled, me-me world. What drives his success and fans, though, is he absolute LOVE for music!

    Reply
  3. debi harrill

    A TRUE ROCK STAR.. SOMEONE WHO LOVES MUSIC AND IS PASSIONATE ABOUT PLAYING, LEARNING AND TEACHING. KUDOS TO YOU JOE!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  4. Sara Murphy

    This article really shows Joe in another light! Loved the article- amazing to know true musicians still exists!!!

    Reply
  5. Joe Sinopoli

    Seriously! Birardi, Pfeiffer,2 of my favorite people in the world. Great article, keep rock alive boys!

    Reply
  6. john zelenak

    i have been 2 quite a few of his concerts and hung out with him and his band! he is by far one of the nicest and talented people I have ever met! all his band me his talent has members are just like him! they take time and hang out with you! not a phony bone in his body! this article blew me away! good luck ciid!

    Reply
  7. Heather Wells

    Loved this article on Joe.. I am so proud to call Joe my Friend and part of my family. Hes very passionate about music and what he does. He has taught me so much about music and never got frustrated teaching me. Joe is an amazing singer and songwriter and takes Great pride in what he does. Congrats on the article Joe!! You are a true inspiration to so many people including me.Very well Written John Pfeiffer.

    Reply
  8. Phil Beehler

    Great article!! I love playing in your bands and helping the troops in any small way I can. I’m your bass player for life when you need me.

    Reply
  9. Sharon Gray

    Great article. Love the interview Ciid…..looking forward to the next round of great music you guys put out. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  10. Daisy D

    Good guitar player, I think he was also in a Blondie tribute band. Doesn’t the writer even know that the Treaty of Versailles ended World War 1 and that Dachau is in Southern Germany, not Poland?

    Reply
  11. Kate Heeseman

    Amazing article. Joe is truly a gifted musician. I have seen him preform and his shows are top notch entertainment.

    Reply
  12. Dawn

    Great job Joe! and very well said ! It is rare these days to know someone so passionate about there music and to be able to share generously with others what they’ve learned to perfect. Im honered to be a part of EOS Thanks again Joe and Bill for all that you are!!

    Reply
  13. Dave

    Great Article, New Jersey is steeped in musical heritage. I’m ever so glad to see someone who lives their music and is so serious about life. The Italian references to family were very funny.

    Reply
  14. Danielle Krum

    Great article! Love going to your shows. You’re such a talented friend.

    Reply
  15. Cody

    Awesome. I enjoyed reading the whole article. It great the support you guys give the troops with the iTunes donations and proceeds from concerts and toys for tots. I love the music and the cause. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  16. Rick N

    A skilled and seasoned musical tradesman, Joe Birardi.
    Perched on the upper limbs of the family tree Jersey Shore virtuosos. They take flight and share their songs for the delighted ear of the fan and the joy of soaring, if for nothing else. Keeping Shore Rock and Roll Alive! A noble endeavor in and of itself these days.

    Reply
  17. Wendy williamson

    Joe is a very talented musician and a great guy too. He has taught me many many things, that have made me a better musici Congratulations Joe!

    Reply

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