Guest Author - Chris Curtis
This year marks the 21st Joe Val Music festival honoring the late Joe Val. Massachusetts born, Joe is remembered as New England's first bluegrass musician. Bluegrass captured Joe's interest when the music scene in and around Boston was influenced by the Southern Sailor's stationed on the naval base. Taking up a Scruggs-style banjo and mandolin complimented by his remarkable high tenor voice, Joe began his lifelong journey in Bluegrass. In 1954, Joe formed his first bluegrass band, the Berkshire Mountain Boys and in 1963 branched out by joining the Charles River Valley Boys. While the experience with the Charles River Valley Boys gave Joe a wider audience, he didn't relate well with the band's lifestyle; thus, breaking away in 1969 he formed the New England Bluegrass Boys. Over the next 15 years, the New England Bluegrass Boys became legendary in New England but national recognition was cut short in 1985 when Joe Val was felled by cancer at the age of 59.
Not only was Joe a fabulous musician, he endeared his peers and fans alike so it wasn't a surprise when they rallied around him as his health failed. The Joe Val festival was born from a fundraising concert organized by Joe's fellow musicians to help defray Joe's medical expenses in June of 1985. Unfortunately, Joe, lost his battle with cancer shortly after the event took place. Beginning in 1986, the organizers decided to make it an annual bluegrass event in honor of him. The Boston Bluegrass Union assumed responsibility for the festival in 1992 and expanded it to a three day winter festival.