Joe was raised mostly in the southern Appalachians, in North Carolina, and absorbed the music almost from the time he could walk.
Joe is unusual for this day and age, perhaps because he has devoted himself to the music in which he was raised: the music of the Southern Appalachian and Ozark Mountains of America. In this, he follows the tradition established by such sterling performers as Grandpa Jones, Uncle Dave Macon, and others of the "Old Timey" Country Music era.
He doesn't stop at this however! He is equally at home in popular Country music, writes songs about space exploration, and plays Irish, Scots, Bluegrass and Medieval/Renaissance music with equal facility.
He began learning banjo at age 9, after he heard his maternal grandfather, C. H. Burnett, playing fiddle. His first banjo was given him by his grandfather, and was "an old S.S. Stewart." This banjo is now in the able hands of his nephew, Tom Purtill.
When his family moved to Phoenix for the final time, in 1961, Joe began learning guitar, hanging around cofeehouses, mariachi bands, bluegrass groups, and a place called "J.D.'s," where he would sneak in to listen to a local guy called Waylon Jennings. With the "folk boom" of the '60's just hitting it's stride, he found that all that music he had learned as a child stood in good stead.
His first "real pro" gig came at age 18. The Phoenix acoustic scene was active and thriving and Joe hung out with people (then unknowns) like John Denver, the Irish Rovers, and Jim Connor ("Grandma's Feather Bed") and with some of the best in Dixieland, Ragtime, and traditional Mexican musicians.
He spent a stint with a local bluegrass band, "Ma Tucker's String Band," playing with Jeff Gylkinson ("The Dillards") and Doug Haywood (keyboard player/songwriter for Jackson Browne).
He also worked with noted entertainer Dan "Igor" Glenn in several bands. Joe credits "Igor" with teaching him much about the entertainer's art.
In 1968-1969, Joe worked in L.A. as a studio musician, where he made his first record, "The Joe Bethancourt String Concert Album." It was very favourably reviewed by BILLBOARD magazine ( 28 Feb. 1970 ), and given a four star rating. He has some fascinating stories about the "name" musicians he met while he was there.
Joe came back to Phoenix, where he became influential in the original KDKB underground radio "scene," hosting his own radio show on KDKB, "Folk Music Occasional," with (the late and much lamented) Bill Compton.
He was also a regular on the Emmy award-winning "Wallace and Ladmo Show" on KPHO-TV (Ch.5) in the 1980's, and worked with children in the Arizona Commission for the Arts' "Artists in Education" program for about 6 years. He still does occasional Artist Residencies at local elementary schools.
For almost 17 years, he was the "house band" at a little restaurant at 19th Ave. and Bethany Home Rd, in Phoenix, called "Funny Fellows," playing instruments from his enormous collection of traditional ( and not so traditional ) instruments.
BIO PG 1
BIO PG 2
MPGs courtesy of S. Haskett