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
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
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
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
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.