July 1, 2013

Boy With A Dream (and some scissors and glue) .... The Real Joey Welz (Baltimore 1950s-70s / Lancaster 1980s-present)

Lititz, Pennsylvania, 5 minutes up the road from where I grew up in Lancaster County, home to the Victor mousetrap factory and a leading contender for World's Oldest Teenager......  Joey Welz.

So... this Joey Welz character, back in the 80s, played a regular boogie-woogie piano gig he called "Retro-Rock" at a hotel out on Route 30 amidst the Amish Country tourist traps. He released modern "hits" like Rockin' in America and a rap version of Rock Around the Clock. Joey self-released cassette box sets of his music and claimed to be an original member of "Bill Haley's Comets," Uh-huh... sure he is. And like, he was "the first rock'n'roll piano player"... and he "played with the Beatles in Hamburg." This guy can't be for real. Or can he?


For years, Joey has promoted his act out of his house and has his own rock'n'roll museum. He cuts and pastes his face into photos of famous musicians including the Comets and the Beatles for his press kits. Many of his original songs from the 50s and 60s have his more recent Roland keyboard and drum machine inexplicably overdubbed, so it's really hard to know what to make of the "Joey Welz Legend."

But then I found his name on the back of a Link Wray record. Link Wray!!! Could it all be true? So I wrote Joey and asked which records I should buy to learn about the "real" Joey Welz and how he got his start back on Baltimore.

He made me a deal on 4 CDs and I've been digging through them and a few other downloads ever since trying to make sense of it all. I wrote down some "tough questions" for The Welz and sent them off by email.  He responded (in all-caps) without any hesitation at all. I've included here the parts of Joey's story that have at least some concrete, if sometimes tampered with*, photo or audio evidence. I left out some claims, that while they could be true, are too vague or have only circumstantial evidence to back them. You be the judge.

Welcome to WELZ WORLD:

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HERE YOU GO PAL.....ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS.....

THE REAL JOEY WELZ,,, THEY DON'T COME ANY MORE REAL THAN THE WELZZZZZZZ




You claim to be the inventor of your piano style, before Jerry Lee. What do you base that claim on?

IN THE JAY ROCKERS, WE HAD NO BASS PLAYER, SO I BECAME VERY GOOD AT INVENTING BASS RUNS ON MY LEFT HAND AND LEARNED HOW TO CUT THE BOOGIE WOOGIE PIE UPWARDS, BACKWARDS AND HALF UP AND HALF BACK, AND FULL LEFT HANDED OCTIVE RUNS. THIS WAS BEFORE LITTLE RICHARD AND JERRY LEE LEWIS.

The Jay Rockers - Jitterbug Rock 1955

WHEN I STARTED DOING SESSIONS IN 1955, I ALWAYS USED THIS BOOGIE STYLE AND IT WAS JUST RIGHT FOR BILL HALEY'S MUSIC BECAUSE THE BULL FIDDLE BASS DIDN'T MAKE THE NOTES AUDIBLE, ONLY THE SLAPPING. THAT'S WHY I GOT THE JOB AS BILL'S SECOND PIANO MAN, AND WHY THEY CALL ME THE BOOGIE WOOGIE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL.

I LAID DOWN THE BLUEPRINT FOR PIANO PLAYERS IN THE 50S.... IN 1954 I RECORDED THE JITTERBUG ROCK B/W BLUE ROCK, WRITTEN BY JOEY WELZ, ON BERMAN RECORDS. ONLY 10 ACETATES WERE MADE IN 1955. THE JAY ROCKERS WERE JIMMY STAGGS ON GUITAR AND SAM CATALDIE ON DRUMS AND JOEY WELZ ON PIANO. THIS WAS MY FIRST RECORD AND IT WAS ON 78....

The Rockabillies - Twangy 1957
The Rockabillies - Come On Baby 1957
The Rockabillies - Shore Party 1959
The Hi Lees - All Nite Party 1959

The Cold War is another interest of mine. What was it like for you at AFN Berlin (a US military radio station) at that time?

I WAS THE RECORDING ENGINEER FOR AMERICAN FORCES NETWORK IN BERLIN, AND RECORDED AND CO-PRODUCED RADIO PROGRAMS LIKE FROLIC AT FIVE (TOP 40/POP HITS), AND STICK BUDDY JAMBOREE (Country Music).

AT THIS TIME-1960-1963, I WROTE AND RECORDED MANY SONGS LATE AT NIGHT WHEN THE STUDIO WAS FREE. THAT'S WHEN MANY TRACKS WERE RECORDED ON MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS ALBUM AND THE YOUNG JOEY WELZ CD. I ALSO RECORDED GROUPS FOR AIRING AND TWO OF THEM WERE THE BATS AND THE NITE RYDERS FROM ENGLAND ON WHICH I PLAYED PIANO.

Santo & Johnny - A Soldier's Story 1960
The Jokers - Boy With a Dream 1961
The Nite Ryders - Moment Baby 1961
The Nite Ryders - Whistlin' Man's Boogie 1961
The Shimmer Trio - Telestar Tell My Love 1962

I ALSO CO-PRODUCED AND RECORDED BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS LIVE SHOW ON AFN FRANKFURT. DURING THAT TIME,I LAID THE GROUNDWORK OF JOINING THE COMETS AS FEATURED PIANIST WHEN I GOT OUT OF THE ARMY, (replacing Johnny Grande. Johnny and I were the only pianists in the history of the Comets).

I ALSO FIRST RECORDED WITH THE COMETS AT THAT SESSION PLAYING ON HONKY TONK AND SINGING BACK-UP ON SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL. YEARS LATER, I LICENSED THE AFN MASTER TAPES TO HYDRA RECORDS IN GERMANY AND THEY RELEASED BILL HALEY LIVE ON AFN CD.

Bill Haley & his Comets on AFN Frankfurt 1962 
Rock Around the Clock
Honky Tonk (featuring Joey Welz on Piano)
See You Later Alligator (listen for Joe Welzant in the credits)

AT THE FRIAR'S CLUB IN TORONTO: RUDY POMPELLI ON THE SIDE (HE WAS OUR SAX),AND AL RAPPA ON BASS, AND JOHNNY KEY ON GUITAR AND BILL HALEY IN THE BACK MIDDLE

WE WERE SOLDIERS FIRST. ONE NIGHT I WAS ON THE AIR ALONE AND GOT THE CALL THAT THE WALL WAS GOING UP. I WAS THE FIRST TO CALL EVERYBODY IN. WE GOT OUR HELMETS ON AND ALL WENT DOWN TO THE BRANDENBURG GATE AND STOOD AT PARADE REST FACING THE EAST GERMANS AND RUSSIANS WHO BROUGHT THEIR TANKS DOWN. WE WERE ALL WAITING FOR WHO WAS GOING TO FIRE THE FIRST SHOT. NO ONE DID, THANK GOD, BUT THE WALL WENT UP. 

I WAS ALSO AT THE RADIO STATION WHEN WE BROKE THE NEWS ABOUT THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS, BUT KENNEDY HANDLED IT WELL AND THEY BACKED DOWN. PRETTY EXCITING TIMES FOR A PIANO MAN LIKE ME....

On some of the recordings of you with famous artists, you overdubbed your electric piano much later. This seems misleading and maybe even fraudulent to many people.  Can you explain why you do that?

I SOMETIMES OVERDUBBED MY PIANO FOR RE-RELEASING SOME OF MY CLASSIC SONGS BECAUSE, ON THE ORIGINAL RECORDING, THE PIANO WAS BURIED IN THE MIX. I ALSO OVERDUBBED DRUMS IF THEY WERE NOT LOUD ENOUGH WHEN I ORIGINALLY RECORDED IT. I ALWAYS WANTED TO IMPROVE THE SOUND WHEN I REISSUED THEM AND WANTED THE DRUMS TO BE MORE POWERFUL TO DRIVE THE BAND....

ON THE LEGENDARY FRIENDS ALBUM, IT'S A COLLECTION OF ALL THE RECORDINGS I DID WITH MY MUSICIAN FRIENDS IN ROCK AND ROLL. MOST OF THE SESSIONS I PLAYED ON WITH THE EXCEPTION OF FLOYD CRAMER/DUANE EDDY/THE VENTURES, IN WHICH CASE I ADDED MY PIANO TO THE ORIGINAL TRACKS. I WROTE ALL THE SONGS AND STILL FEEL THIS IS MY MOST HISTORIC ALBUM.

The Ventures - Save Your Love, Save Your Kisses 1963*
The Cruisinaires - I Ain't Got a Thing 1963



PHOTO TAKEN AT A RADIO STATION IN TEXAS TO PROMOTE OUR NEW SINGLE IN 65 ENTITLED TOUNGE-TIED TONY

The Upsetters - Maybe You're the Girl 1964
The Kidd Brothers - Wooly Bully Rides Again 1966

Joey & the Time Machine - Big City 1967
Joey & the Time Machine - Caught By Love 1967
Joey & the Time Machine - Psychedelic Happening 1967


I'll Do Anything For You WAS A HIT IN NORFOLK, VA. IN 1969 AND THAT'S ME ON DISCOTEN TV RUN BY GENE LOVING FROM WGH RADIO WHO JUST CAME OFF MY LAST HIT OF I WILL SING A RHAPSODY FOR A SUMMER NIGHT.  DICK LAMB WAS THE HOST ON THAT TV SHOW WHERE I LIP SYNCED MY VOCALS


I was excited to find your name on the back of my Link Wray album!

Link Wray and I became good friends in the early 60s and I was a silent WRAY MAN on some of his records playing piano and organ. He and I made a few albums together where he backed me up, as well as did Roy Buchannan.



Link Wray & the Wray Men - Week End 1963
Link Wray & the Wray Men - Run Chicken Run 1963
Link Wray & the Wray Men - Blue Eyes Don't Run Away 1968*
Link Wray & the Wray Men - Turn You On to Sunshine 1968
LinkWray & the Wray Men - I'm a Wheel 1969
Link Wray & Joey Welz - Rippin' "Em Off in the Name of Love 1970*
Link Wray & Joey Welz - Jesus, Be My Friend 1970*
Link Wray & Joey Welz - Rumble '69 1970

*Keyboards and/or drums overdubbed later

Were you really a Yo-Yo Champion

I practiced yo yo from the 7th grade in grammar school to the last year in high school. I was really gone on the yo yo. I worked for the Filipino Champions, holding contests and demonstrating in dept. stores on the weekends in downtown Baltimore.

In 1957, after winning many contests, I entered into a contest between the 3 company champions; ROYAL, CHEEREO AND DUNCAN. The best man was BOB ROLA from DUNCAN YO YOS and I finally beat him in the last contest for world champion. I RECEIVED THE HIGHEST AWARD, THE DUNCAN SILVER EAGLE PATCH WHICH I STILL HAVE IN MY YO YO COLLECTION.

How did you come to settle in Pennsylvania?

I came to Lancaster in the 80s to play gigs and liked it, I opened CAPRICE RECORDING STUDIOS in Lititz in 1990 and became the owner of CAPRICE INTERNATIONAL AND CANADIAN AMERICAN RECORDS and produced many other national and local acts including JIMMY JONES, DANNY AND THE JUNIORS, FREDDY CANNON AND THE 4 TOPS....

My new album is DANCING WITH THE STARS featuring TEN YEARS LATER a memorial for the 10th anniversary of 9-11. THERE WERE 2 RELEASES OF JAY ROCKER RECORDS. AND 4 OF THE ROCKABILLIES WITH ME BACK IN THE 50S on Bat Records.

FANS AND MUSICIANS WHO REALIZED WHO I REALLY WAS WERE STARTING TO CALL ME THE LEGEND AND THE BOOGIE WOOGIE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL. WHEN I STARTED MY ROCK AND ROLL DANCE SHOW I CALLED RETRO ROCK, I CAME OUT FROM BEHIND MY EQUIPMENT AND SANG LIVE OVER MY RECORDS AND ALSO PLAYED LIVE KEYBOARDS OVER THE CLASSIC ROCK RECORDS OF MY FAVORITE BANDS. THIS WAS BEFORE KARAOKE SO I GUESS YOU COULD SAY I INVENTED IT. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE WAS, WHEN I WAS SINGING TO MY RECORDS, THEY WERE REALLY MY RECORDS AND SONGS. I WAS NOT SINGING OTHER PEOPLE'S SONGS WITH THE EXCEPTION OF WHEN I DID THE HALEY NUMBERS, WHICH I ALSO PLAYED ON....

You must have had a day job, right? What career(s) have you had outside of music (and yo-yo)?

MY OTHER JOBS WERE ALL IN MUSIC WITH THE EXCEPTION OF 6 MONTHS WHEN I WAS A PRISON GUARD IN BALTIMORE AT THE STATE PENN. I WORKED IN SALES AND DISTRIBUTION AND HAD THE TERRITORY OF DEL. MARYLAND, WASHINGTON, VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA FOR THE HANDLEMAN COMPANY, JOSEPH ZAMOISKI CO AND D&H DISTRIBUTORS. I ALSO WAS A JUKE BOX MAN FOR JACHAM MUSIC IN BALTIMORE, AND A RECORDING ENGINEER FOR MONUMENT STUDIOS IN BALTIMORE, AND A&R DIRECTOR FOR WEDGE, DOME, MONUMENTAL, MUSIC CITY, AND PALMER RECORDS IN DETROIT.

I WAS THE PRESIDENT AND OWNER OF BAT RECORDS, CAPRICE INTERNATIONAL AND CANADIAN AMERICAN RECORDS.... I RAN MY BUSINESS OUT OF MY HOME IN LITITZ UNTIL IT GREW OUT OF THE HOME AND NEEDED MORE SPACE IN THE 80S. SO I OPENED CAPRICE INTERNATIONAL RECORDS AND STUDIO AND MY MUSEUM IN THE LITTLE RED BRICK BUILDING BEHIND THE GENERAL SUTTER INN IN THE ALLEY.

You've been on the edges of stardom your entire career and recorded great music with great people, but you never quite made it to the Big-Time yourself (yet). How do you feel about that? 

Bill Haley's Comets - Shake Rattle and Roll 1981

MY MUSIC, LIKE ALL ARTISTS HAVE HAD ITS GOOD RECORDS AND ITS BAD. WHEN I HAD A COUPLE OF GREAT POP RECORDS, HEY LITTLE MOONBEAM, RHAPSODY FOR A SUMMER NIGHT. HEY RATTLE SNAKE, IN MY CAR, ROCKIN'IN AMERICA, I NEVER HAD THE DISTRIBUTION OR PUSH FROM A MAJOR LABEL. AS YOU KNOW THEY HAD THE MONEY AND POWER TO BUY A RADIO HIT. I WAS NEVER PUT THROUGH THE MAJOR PUBLICITY MACHINE. I HAD TO RECORD, MANUFACTURE AND PROMOTE MY OWN RECORDS. ACTUALLY, WHEN YOU STOP AND THINK ABOUT IT, THAT MEANT I WAS MORE TALENTED THAN MANY OF THE POP STARS LIKE FABIAN AND FRANKIE AVALON WHO DIDN'T EVEN WRITE THEIR OWN SONGS.

ANYWAY, I AM THE ONLY ARTIST LIVING TODAY, THAT HAS MADE NEW MUSIC AND RELEASED NEW RECORDS EVEY YEAR SINCE 1955 TO 2013. I HAVE OVER 90 ALBUMS, MADE 75 45s AND WRITTEN OVER 1000 SONGS AND STILL ROCKIN' AROUND THE CLOCK TODAY AND SINGING ALL OF BILL HALEY'S HITS TODAY WHEN I PLAY WITH MY LONG TIME COMET FRIEND, AL RAPPA. THATS MY LEGACY AND I'LL STAND ON IT.

I GUESS IT'S BETTER TO BECOME A LIVING LEGEND THAN A DEAD POP STAR. I WILL NEVER STOP MAKING MUSIC. IT'S MY REASON FOR LIVING, AND LIVING IS THE KEY TO BECOMING A LIVING ROCK AND ROLL LEGEND.

WHEN THE ROLLING STONES DIE, I'LL BE THE ONLY ONE LEFT. OF THE 5 STAND UP 50s PIANO/SINGERS, I AM NOW THE ONLY ONE STILL PERFORMING....JERRY LEE LEWIS, AND LITTLE RICHARD AND FATS DOMINO HAVE ALL RETIRED AND RAY CHARLES UNFORTUNATELY PASSED AWAY, SO THAT LEAVES ONLY JOEY WELZ STILL DOING CONCERTS....THAT'S MY LEGACY.

BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I'M STILL ROCKIN' AROUND THE CLOCK. I STILL CAN HAVE THAT ONE BIG HIT BEFORE I DROP.......

ROCK ON---- the welz man

Joey Welz - The Ballad of Link Wray 2009


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The songs in this post represent a small fraction of the musical genres and albums that Joey has put out over the years. You can purchase them all directly from Joey Welz's expansive CD Baby site:
First Impressions
Top 12 Radio Hits of the 50s
Top 15 Radio Hits of the 60s
Legendary Rock & Roll Friends
Brothers and Legends: Link Wray and Joey Welz

A Joey Welz and the Time Machine 45 was reissued by Frog and Rabbit Records by Billy Synth who also did his own versions of You Changed and Rockin' in America.

More about Joey Welz:
JoeyWelz.com
Canadian American / Caprice International Records
The Bill Haley Who's Who

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Tom for finding the Real Joey Welz,did I really do all of that? The read Joey Welz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha, that IS the question that everyone's asking! You've earned quite a reputation over the years. This is definitely the most controversial tapewrecks post to date!

      Delete