Many out of the ordinary people have characterized my month of November this year. I have seen galleries of a few ascending artists all expressing themselves through an interesting painting language. I have met Nico Cirasola an Italian filmmaker whose dry story telling style is making his voice heard across Oceans. I attended the performance of The Interpreti Veneziani with their Baroque music at Le Petit Trianon and met the artists personally after the show reception. To talk to the artists is an impossible task when they perform in Italy. I spoke at the Rotary Club and met some marvelous people; some of my friends are helping schools planning for a better nutrition for their kids. These are extraordinary people who make a mark in the society and leave a sweet legacy, but I never would have imagined meeting a living legend, an Italian emigrant who made his fame playing country western music. He is the only Italian in this genre. I met him at the Capital Club in San Jose, CA when the delegation of the Patrons of Italian Culture from Los Angeles came to visit our organization the Italian American Heritage Foundation in the Silicon Valley.
The legend Giuseppe Quartuccio aka Shorty Joe, that evening received a lifetime achievement award from the Italian American Heritage Foundation for his contributions to the South Bay Musical scene in Country and Western Music.
The story of his beginning in the country western music was so fascinated that I decided to pull up a chair and sit with him at the table with his friends and wives. I let him carry me through times so far away from my age, places and famous people I had never heard until that night. Country western music is not known in Italy, it was mesmerizing to know that an Italian emigrant, coming from the land of “Bel Canto” had fallen in love with such a very regional American music and even made a famous name for himself.
The story goes that he was born in 1924 Monreale Sicily and immigrated to New York with his parents as a boy and slowly moved to the West Coast.
His parents worked as farm laborers and cannery workers. One-day Giuseppe’s father told the kids that if they would help him crack walnuts and almonds after work, he would save enough money to buy a radio set and so it happened. Giuseppe was 12 when he could finally hear his first piece of music on the radio set, but it just happened to be a country western music. Young Giuseppe fell in love with that type of music and in that moment he decided his career, as an adult, would have been to play country western music, despite the fact he didn’t even know how to play one single note on the guitar, or any other musical instruments.
He created his first country western trio band called the “cowboy band”. Shorty Joe’s idol Dude Martin and his music influenced him in the typical style of a country music from West Coast. After WWII the band grew in size and became an octet made of all Italian-American guys, called the “Red Rock Canyon Cowboys”. From then on the band recorded under the Bella and Golden West labels.
Shorty Joe and his music has accompanied famous singers in the world of country music as Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Tex Williams, Lefty Frizzel, Roy Acuff and almost every other Grand O’l Opry singer of 1940’s and 1950’s.
I learned that his band’s records are housed at the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina and they are now collectible items.
He donated his complete costume along with his original 79 rpm records, LP album and all of his printed materials to the San Jose Historical Museum where they remain on permanent display as a pioneer of Santa Clara County.
Shorty Joe, a delightful seasoned man, with pudgy face and square glasses, always smiling has been married to his wife Jennie Valenti for 65 years. What is your secret, I asked? I didn’t get an answer, his wife shrugged her shoulders.
The evening was very pleasurable. I met, among many notables, Louise Canepa, the composer of Sicilians in Monterey music CD and many of Shorty Joe’s friends too.
This, among many of my Italian people’s stories, is another successful story of lives of immigrants overcoming difficulties to realize their dreams. I cannot be any more proud of this Italian culture that has thought us to never give up and be the best in everything we do. Ciao,
Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is a trained Italian Interior Designer in business since 1990. Being Italian born and raised, Valentina’s design work has been influenced by Classicism and stylish, timeless designs. She is a designer well-known to bring originality to people’s homes. As an Italian designer and true to her origins, she provides only the best workmanship and design solutions.
She is a guest writer with her column “The Good Life” on ThePMShow:
She is also the author of two published Italian regional cuisine books, available on this site on the Books page and in various locations: