Saying goodbye to the founding member of Dread Zeppelin: a music lover, co-owner of Resistor Records and devoted family man
by Sean Sprinkel
It is not surprising that in times of loss we so often turn to song, both for comfort and expression. Few things are more life affirming than music. And, if music can indeed be considered a language unto itself, then few people have ever spoken it as fluently, and with as much wit and eloquence as my friend, Joseph Jack Ramsey. On December 29th, after nearly six decades of musical life, Joe, as he was known by friends, passed away peacefully after a hard fought battle with cancer. He was 58 years old, but his song, and his spirit remain ageless.
As a fan, music entered Joe’s life at an early age. Like so many of us his fondest memories of childhood seemed to revolve around trips to the record store, saving up whatever money he could scrape together to buy Beatles records, The Stones, Buffalo Springfield. He would often recount the day he went to a friend’s house and heard Blue Cheer for the first time. As he described it, he was floored. He couldn’t believe that a guitar could sound that way. He devoured music, be it The Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators, or his beloved The Move.
At the age of thirteen Joe got his first guitar and so began a life, not only as a fan, but as a creator of music himself. Often the ringleader, he pulled friends together to form bands, cranking out covers, until evolving into a songwriter in his own right. Locally he became a fixture on the scene, cutting his teeth in bands like The Cyclones, The Item, and the Prime Movers. As Jah Paul Jo, founding member of the band Dread Zeppelin, Joe traveled the world, making fans and forging friendships seemingly in every town he passed through. His energy was boundless, and the joy he exhibited infectious.
I got to know Joe many years after the success he realized as a musician. After the tours, and record deals… backstage, if you will. I knew Joe the family man, a role that he cherished more than any other. We often talked about music, but our friendship was forged during quiet conversations about our kids. As devoted as he was to making music, it couldn’t touch the love he had for his two beautiful daughters. They were the bridge that made the whole song work, a song he co-wrote with his loving wife, Allison. In the fall of 2013 Joe and I opened Resistor Records, and the fact that it was family owned and operated meant a lot to him. He worked tirelessly to give his community a place to come and find music, to hear and discuss it. A place much like the stores he frequented in his youth, where a love of music was born, and flourished. In a long list of accomplishments the shop was his last great endeavor. I feel honored to have been a part of that. For Joe, the records will keep playing and the song will be re-worked by all of us, in our own time, until we get it right. And that’s the way he would have wanted it.
Sean Sprinkel was a friend, and is co-owner of Resistor Records