|Little Joey Brennan spent his childhood from 1945 on listening primarily to the traditional Irish music his immigrant parents had brought over from their homeland. His later experiences on the streets of Kearny, N.J., brought teen-age Joey an appreciation for the distinctly American sounds of Motown and jazz. He honed these influences while drumming for his first band, Rick Martin and the Showmen, which featured bassist Tim Bogert and organist Mark Stein. This trio continued playing together in the Pigeons, which also reined in guitarist Vince Martell to complete a powerful foursome that worked clubs in the New York area. The Pigeons' home bases were the Headliner Bar on 9th Avenue and West 43rd Street, and the Choo Choo Club in Garfield, N.J., where the band would often jam with Rascals singer Eddie Brigati.
The struggling Pigeons lineup would soon become an obscure footnote in rock history as a change in musical direction resulted in the need for a more heavy-handed drummer. That's when Joey graciously stepped aside, allowing Carmine Appice to be hired, and the band's name changed to the Vanilla Fudge. Joey maintained a close friendship with the group including his replacement. The Vanilla Fudge took off, being signed to a major record deal and recording several records that expanded upon its unique sound. Fortunately for Joey, an LP that the Pigeons original lineup had recorded yet never released saw the light of day in 1970, during the height of Vanilla Fudge fame. Featuring Joey's slick rhythm playing, this Pigeons LP is now treasured by collectors.
Joey teamed up with the Younger Brothers Band, the first of many groups that would see him traveling extensively throughout the United States. An offer came in from Bonnie Bramlett to have the band support her on tour in 1967. Also around this time, he spent time studying with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.
Upon the Younger Brothers Band's breakup, Joey returned east to reconnect with Phil Basile, who had managed the Pigeons and was still managing the Vanilla Fudge. Basile also operated the Action House, a successful nightclub on Long Island, where Appice worked to have Joey's latest band, the Dream Merchant, perform regularly. The group would open at Action House for many famous national acts, namely Fleetwood Mac, Sly Stone, Dr. John, Ted Nugent and a then-unknown piano player from the area, Billy Joel.
The Dream Merchant headed out to Los Angeles and hit it big, soon changing its name to Howl and then finding itself supporting acts including Aretha Franklin and, naturally, the Vanilla Fudge. But Howl was unable to acquire a recording contract and thus disbanded, allowing Joey to relocate in Boston. There, he drummed for Mocha Chip at New England's trendiest club, the Boston Tea Party, before heading out west once again to rehearse in Sherman Oaks, Calif., with members of the Blue Mountain Eagle.
Joey continued his travels, finding himself in San Francisco's thriving Haight-Ashbury hippie community and across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sausalito Artist Community. He spent the next five years with some companions on a houseboat in the famous Richardson Bay Community, where he befriended a team of musicians and formed a legendary waterfront trashband called the Red Legs. This was a totally unrestricted pre-punk explosion with an "anything goes" philosophy. They never played the same thing the same way twice. The Red Legs earned a reputation in the Bay Area as being outrageous, which was no easy feat considering how generally outrageous those times tended to be. The group became a cult favorite, appearing in two movies including Saul Roda's popular indie flick, Last Free Ride. As usual, Joey's band again failed to release an album but was successful in being nominated for induction into the Marin County Hall of Fame. Their houseboats can also be seen at the Sausolito Museum.
Despite Joey's achievements at that time, he eventually recognized his successful years with the Red Legs coincided with the peak of his alcohol and substance abuse. After four years with that band, Joe returned to New Jersey to concentrate on becoming clean and sober. This decision impacted the rest of his life.
Back in New Jersey, Joe worked briefly with the Duprees ("Have You Heard") and proceeded to some local blues bands including the Johnny Charles Band, Nasty Nen and His Famous Chile Dogs, and the Ken Gwyn Band. With the Irish entertainers Willie Lynch (the Willie Lynch Band) and Tommy Shannon (the Gypsy Rovers), Joey spread his wings for a while, then embarking on his first-ever European tour, with Tony Leofler. Tony has performed for prisoners all over the world as part of his Prison Concert Ministry. There is bootleg CD of a live performance in 1998, on which Joey appeared. Joey has also toured Israel with Reverend Charlie Rizzo and the Emmaus Road Band, and has also performed at the Montreux Jazz/Blues Festival in Switzerland.
Over the past 14 years, a big part of Joe's life has been creating and heading the CARE Ministry. This emerged out of an affliction conquered and a need to be met. Based on Christian principles, CARE Ministry members meet every Monday night, providing counseling, sharing, strength, hope and experience in Bergen County, N.J., at the Paramus Church of the Nazarene. For all people interested in recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, CARE is a source of hope. Keeping the hard work of recovery in mind, CARE also provides a venue for fun and inspiration, sponsoring retreats and fundraising concerts with Joe's well known friends from the music industry.
Fresh from a tour of Brazil, Joe spent the first half of 2009 completing a new CD featuring his old bandmate Vince Martell, of the Vanilla Fudge, with Rhett Tyler of Early Warning, Al Leone, Peg Pearl, Bob McCartin and Richie "Harps." Joe credits the grace of God for allowing him to be alive and in great spirits and in great company today. With his loving friends at his side, Joe looks forward to sharing his latest CD with the world. Enjoy.