January 23, 2015

Joe Ramsey


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


  1. Tom Allen

    Bravo Sean.

  2. jamie hunting

    I grew up in Pasadena, CA , and one of the first bands I saw out on the local club scene back in the later seventies was the Cyclones at a place called the Marquee West. Of course I was under age but it doesn’t surprise me that Joe had something to do with running the place. He was as good of a business man as he was a musician. Joe, Carl, and the guys, Gary, were the most talented guys around. Not hot shots, just very creative musically. I’ve played countless shows with them over the years and have seen the transformation from beginning up to DZ.
    I am an accomplished bassist and a friend of Joe’s. I always loved what he did the way he did it. These days I am with Roger Daltrey and am proud of my accomplishments as a bassist, but those guys, Joe’s guys were always, to me, the best there was to offer in the area. Hands down.
    When they were the Prime Movers, we were doing a show at Pasadena City College and the drummer was late for sound check so I jumped up and played drums with them and it worked. It just was effortless to make music with them. I don’t consider myself a drummer but all it was was a simple beat to make it sound full. They were kind and played around me!
    I last saw Joe a little less than a year ago and as always he had that look on his face, like he was going to tell me a joke. He had a great sense of humor and was also very serious about the music he played. I will miss Joe, but Will never forget the first time I saw him in the Cyclones. They blew me away. Joe was a cutting edge guy that deserved way more success than he ever got.

  3. Lance Glover

    Wonderful tribute, Sean.

  4. Wow..What a beautiful tribute…Well crafted just like a good song. I just loved being around Joe and talking to him about music especially. When he brought The Prime Movers back in the early 2000’s I was blown away by the sounds coming out of the practice room at Robin Houde’s house…His take on these covers they were playing blew my mind….He was The Real Deal and I feel blessed to have known him and lucky enough to play onstage with him a number of times…even though I live in Northern Ca. for the last 10 years seeing his posts on FB kept me in touch with him and his very active mind and his UN-Hof page…Always at the center of great discussions or telling great stories…I truly feel the void without his commentary on life. I will miss him….

  5. ric ealy

    Very nice sean, the first time I saw joe ramsey was at the golden west ballroom, my brother and I were providing the lighting for a gig and the fabulous cyclones were a last minute replacement, I was floored by how great this band was, came really close to blowing away the headlining act from the appreciation they received, the next time I saw joe was at marquee west, my brother and I brought in the lighting for the gigs there and we formed a friendship that lasted many decades, and through joe I met many amazing people who I am still friends with to this day, every band that joe played in you could tell that he just flat out loved to play music, I think I went to every gig in whatever band he was in, so it was a very sad day when I had hear he was ailing, I had seen him like 3 weeks before he went home, I could not believe it, sometimes life is just not fair, but now he is in the rock and roll heaven band along some the greats he admired, so all that being said I wish him smooth sailing and this gig is for you joe—

  6. Dana Madore

    Thank you so much for remembering our beloved friend and fellow musician… JOE RAMSEY !

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