Joe Locker - Solo album


Originally from the Bronx, New York City, Joe Locker is a picker and banjoman who learned his trade in the late 1950s and early 1960s, during the now legendary Washington Square Park sessions, from the playing of people such as Roger Sprung, Eric Weissberg, Tom Paley and the New Lost City Ramblers. Having started out on the accordian aged 10, Joe was inspired to take up banjo and guitar by the records of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, and then began picking in his teens. After an initial spell teaching folk music at American children's Summer camps, he made his first visit to Europe in 1960/61. Aged just 21, he teamed up with a then little-known Alex Campbell and created a sometimes amusing eclectic mix of American and Scottish music which they touted around Europe at folk clubs and caberet performances, culminating in 5 radio sessions for the BBC and the offer of a recording contract from DECCA. Few early recordings have survived from this period, but they demonstrate the incredible influence that Scottish music was having on American artists, and that two banjomen, Derroll Adams and Joe Locker were having on the UK folk scene.

Joe, however, declined the offer from DECCA, returning instead to New York, where he continued to learn from the great Roger Sprung and from Bill Keith, in Boston, who like Joe had cultivated a melodic style of banjo picking based on bluegrass, but incorporating fiddle notes and classical banjo ideas. In 1963 Joe was invited to support Sprung on his Folkways album "Progressive Bluegrass vol.1" (FA2370) where he played 2nd guitar to a young Doc Watson. The band was completed by Bob Thomas on drums, Ollie Phillips on bass and Joe's brother Willie on mandolin. Thanks to the Folkways archive having been gifted to the Smithsonian Institute, this album and its liner notes is now available for download from, as are many fabulous albums of that time, including most of the output by the New Lost City Ramblers.

In 1966 Joe returned to the UK with his British wife, where they raised a family. He was joined by Tom Paley and together they formed the New Deal String Band, which had a variety of fiddle players until finally settling down with Tom's son Ben Paley. Alex Campbell meanwhile was having success with his legendary performances at the Cambridge Folk Festival and invited Joe to guest on his albums "This is Alex Campbell vol.1 & 2". The first of these albums (AD-Rhythm/Tepee, ARPS-1, 1971) clearly showing the influence of American banjo tunes.

New Deal String Band was also booked at Cambridge in 1968 and Joe returned to perform there, solo, in 1970 and 71, when he also joined Jean Ritchie for one of those marvellous spontaneous sessions for which CFF is legendary. In the early 1980s, Joe also featured at Tonder Folk Festival, where he put in a storming performance of Ship in the Sky, with Mike Whellans on harmonica.

Being born about the same time as Ben, and having grandparents who lived within earshot of the festival, I clearly remember the impact of Campbell, and of the great American artists of the day; and this filled me with the desire to play folk music and to take up the guitar aged 9. But it wasn't until 1979 that I heard Joe, when he was booked at Harlow Playhouse first with Tom and then with Jean Ritchie, by my late friend Bob Gale.

Over the years, Joe has contributed to several great albums including Kate Lissauer's "Aint no Grave". He has also performed in a trio with Rosie Davis and Bob Winquist. Yet, possibly because he most loves playing in a band rather than performing solo, compared say to Tom, Joe is still relatively unknown - though no less modest and talented. His creativity e.g. on Tom's album "Hard Luck Papa" with tracks such as "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train" demonstrates a most unique style of Old Time picking.

When we learned of the existence of these solo recordings, Freshwaters Music was delighted to help Joe to publish them. We know you will enjoy them, and that this will lead you to seek out Joe's live performances with the New Deal String Band.

To purchase a copy of Joe's CD for GBP 8, USD 15, or Euro 12, incl. p&p, email your name and address to:

Alternatively, buy the instant download and make your own CD for just two pounds! Click on "buy now" button. (Please also download sleeve notes.)




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Alive n' Pickin' during the 1980s
Bobby Campbell, fiddle. Robin McKidd, guitar.