Award-winning blues rock star, singer-songwriter and upstate New York native Joe Bonamassa opened for blues legend B.B. King at Westbury Music Fair when he was only 12 years old. Since then he’s debuted eight albums at the number one spot on the Billboard Blues Chart and played with legendary guitar greats from Buddy Guy to Eric Clapton.
“I had no back-up plan,” Bonamassa tells the Press, laughing. “My dad still owns a guitar shop, he played and that’s how it all kind of started.”
His father, who owns Bonamassa Guitars in New Hartford, put a guitar in his son’s hands when he was four years old, Bonamassa says. By the age of seven he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan solos.
“I was self-taught, I took some lessons, did some classical lessons and stuff like that,” he says.
Bonamassa’s recording career began in the early ’90s with Bloodline, a rock-blues group also featuring Robby Krieger’s son Waylon and Miles Davis’ son Erin. His solo debut was in 2000 with the Tom Dowd-produced A New Day Yesterday.
Besides his solo work, Bonamassa has kept himself busy with the formation of the band Black Country Communion with Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple), Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin, Foreigner) and Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Billy Idol). Just in the past year, Bonamassa has put out two records and a DVD, and started a world tour.
“I never get tired of it,” Bonamassa tells the Press. “I enjoy it, I’ve been doing this for 20 years at this point. It’s been a blessing and a real privilege.”
In 2009, Bonamassa played London’s Royal Albert Hall and the show sold out in less than a week. During it, Bonamassa played the first song he ever learned on guitar, “Further on up the Road,” with one of his heroes, Eric Clapton.
“It was a really big moment in my career,” he says. “That gig alone was responsible for a lot of doors opening up.”
During his 2011 tour, Bonamassa played two sold-out shows at the Beacon Theatre. Now, he returns to Long Island.
“It’s great that we’ve been able to find an audience everywhere we go,” says Bonamassa, who adds that he’s even found a female audience—not very common in the world of blues. “I think it’s starting to go in that direction. Out of 2,500 people on average it’s 2,000 dudes and 500 girls, I’ll take those odds.”
Tilles Center, Friday, 11.23.