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Thursday, May 4, 2006 08:36 pm

The return of Joe Cooke

His band plays Springfield this Friday and Saturday

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I was nearly 16 years old and heading out to the old racetrack at Clearlake and Dirksen with my sister, her boyfriend, and a few friends. Someone, probably Len Trumper, was hosting an outdoor music concert with local groups and maybe a regional headliner. I don’t remember too clearly all of those events from back in the early ’70s, but I do remember that the buzz was all about the band Sky King and Joe Cooke, the group’s lead guitarist. After all those years, Cooke is still playing music, and this weekend he returns to Springfield for a hometown reunion. Right after high school, Cooke attended the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston and lived across the dormitory hall from a soon-to-be guitar god named Al DiMeola. His local professional career began with Dean and the Sinisters, playing Saturday nights at the Grandview Municipal Building in the late ’60s. After a succession of local rock & roll bands that included Hot Ice, Rold Gold, the Plains, and Sky High, he landed the gig of a lifetime, playing guitar with blues-rocker Jerry Doucette, whose eponymous band was the owner of the No. 1 hit record “Mama Let Him Play.” In the mid-’80s, Cooke moved to Nashville and hooked up with Greg Guidry, the St. Louis-born artist behind “Goin’ Down,” a No. 8 smash on the Top 40 charts. “In the early ’90s, I took a break from music for a few years,” says Cooke, “but, in 2002, decided I couldn’t shake the music bug and got another band going.” That would be the Joe Cooke Band, which, in addition to Cooke, comprises Springfield drummer Dan Shaughnessy, Terry Fox on keyboards, and Brad Crowder on bass. Various local musicians, including bassist John Sauter and percussionist Bill Bacon, plan to sit in with Cooke during the weekend shows. “Our song list is a wide variety of blues and older ’60s-style rock, plus many originals,” says Cooke. “ I suppose the most important thing I can tell you is that now I am playing from an emotional standpoint. . . . I guess that’s why the blues.”
The Joe Cooke Band plays 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, May 5, at the Forty-Niner Bye-Bye (518 Bruns Lane, 217-787-4937) and 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday, May 6, at Knuckleheads (2000 Peoria Rd., 217-789-1488).
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