Les Showmen


Le génial guitariste de JOHNNY

Joey Greco, a New York born guy, was 12 years old, when he bought his first guitar. He learnt by himself and at the college with his fellows. It did not take long before they set up their own band the Jet-tones. When Joey was 18 years old he went professional and got his first contract to play a night-club in Florida. The band was the Firelighters.

A year after in 1962, they were put on a tour in Brazil and Argentina. Dieto records a local label let them cut their first record with such rock classics as Tequila, Twist and shout, Johnny be good and Shout, and some self penned pieces. They even were promoted on the Brazilian Television. Johnny Greco still regrets not to have kept a copy of the record or the TV show. The record made good sales, but they never got a penny of it.

Then by mid 1962 they flew back to New York where they played the rock circuit with places like the Peppermint lounge, made famous by Joey Dee and the Trudi Hiller Club. At the Trudi Hiller club R & R was in, all the famous singers used to go there after their shows on Broadway, it was the place, which was in. Most of the musicians were black playing R & R and R & B too. In 1963 one evening Joey and the Firelighters played most of the spectators were black people but 5 persons, who were going to leave as they went on stage. “After their set one of these guys (Johnny Hallyday) came to me and asked me if I would like to join his backing group in France, where he was the best rock star. Another guy (Bobbie Clarke) who spoke English fluently insisted confirming this was the most famous rock star. Knowing that my band was going to loose two of his members (the pianist and the drummer) drafted for the Vietnam War, I accepted the offer with Ralph DI Pietro our bass player. In November 1963 we landed in Paris, Johnny offered me a fender Stratocaster to replace my old Fender jaguar.”

Joey Greco ‘s favourites were: Jerry Lee Lewis , Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Johnny Rivers as well as Scotty Moore, Link Wray and now Eric Clapton and Danny Gatton.

Joey and Ralph joined the former Golden Stars i.e. Marc Hemmler on piano, Jean Tosan on sax, Claude Djaoui on rhythm guitar and the former Vince Taylor’s drummer Bobbie Clarke.

They went in studio to record 8 instrumental tracks: Wow wow, surf train, cauchemar and au revoir Johnny. They spent 4 days, because as Joey recalled he was a perfectionist, at the end of the day, Marc Hemmler, the piano player, had his fingers bleeding.

Marc Hemmler was coming from the jazz scene and still belongs to the jazz scene. Ralph DI Pietro was fond of R & R, when he went back to New York in 1965; he put down his guitar and wore a three pieces suit becoming a businessman. Jean Tosan was a steady guy, sparing money, and a well-trained musician. He then joined the Orchestre de Paris. Bobbie Clarke was a genius on drums, he was an instinctive player, he has got it in the blood. He also came from the London jazz scene.

The best time with Johnny was when they made the Olympia in 1964 and also recorded the most terrific R & R, an album featuring all the great rock classics. The live album at the Olympia gives an idea of the powerful sound they got. There is on it a live instrumental version of Memphis Tennessee with Bobbie making a long lasting drum solo. Altogether they cut 33 tracks with Johnny in studio session and 18 live tracks at the Olympia.

Unofficially they also backed Vince Taylor in his Memphis Tennessee cover, which has been issued for one of his come back in 1964. The instrumental part is very similar to the one from the Olympia, and was strongly inspired by Lonnie Mack ‘s own version. Unfortunately Johnny Hallyday was drafted by the army and had to interrupt his career for 18 months in 1965. Joey Greco was 22 years old, feeling lonely in Paris, he flew back to New York and waited for Johnny Hallyday’s phone call, to make it again wild on the French stage. But the times had changed and Johnny ‘s manager hired new young and less expensive musicians from England: Tommy Brown and Micky Jones(later Foreigners) who were going to become famous.

Joey played again in the new York scene backing Bette Midler, Tony Orlando, Judy Garland, and finally joining Tommy James and the Shondells. He went back in 1992 to make a small tour with his fellow Bobbie Clarke, and played in Paris, Rouen , Geneva. When Johnny Hallyday celebrated his fifty’s birthday in the big stadium in Paris, in front of an audience of 50 000 persons, each day, the celebration lasted 4 days, he invited his old R & R fellows Joey Greco who played a powerful Carol which made the audience feel younger. Joey still regrets not having stayed in Paris, we regret it too.


Discographie (60)

  1. (Pas de titre) (Philips EP 434 823)
    Memphis / Surf train / I can’t sit down / Rinky Dink.
  2. (Pas de titre) (Philips 434 904)
    Au revoir Johnny / Cauchemar / Wow wow / Wild week-end.

Discographie (CD)

  1. Les orchestres de Johnny Hallyday (Universal Twistin the Rock 586 021)
  2. Olympia 64 (Pas de référence)
    Memphis / Surf Train / Rinky Dink / I Can’t Sit Down / Au revoir Johnny / Wow Wow Wow Wow / Wild Week-End / Cauchemar / Memphis.
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