I met Joey Saye on assignment for Living Blues Magazine on one of his regularly scheduled Thursday night opening gigs at Rosa’s Lounge. Great blues club, great talent. Hearing Joseph play his 30 minute acoustic set for the first time was a revelation. Saye had the chops of an early 20th Century Delta bluesman (and blues woman; Memphis Minnie is a huge inspiration to him) and the voice to boot. And he manages to weave his original material throughout the vintage repertoire as well. I’m keeping my ears open for this talented young man with such a genuine respect for early blues forms and skillset to shine on them. (Weeks later, I caught him at another club playing electric blues with a dynamic trio including venerable bassist Bob Stroger. This is a man with great taste!) His website bio below:

Joey J. Saye grew up about 45 minutes west of Chicago in Aurora, Illinois. Born to a Liberian family, he was the first of whom was born in the United States. As a result of being a part of an international family, multiple styles of music, ranging from West African music to American country music, were always near and gave him an appetite for listening to music. Even before guitar, he was always a music lover. As a child, he would spend hours exploring and discovering music in his parents’ cd cases. 

He was always attracted to guitars and would even borrow guitars from friends before getting his own. Eventually, his father bought him a First Act guitar from a Sam’s Club when he was about 12 years old. But after breaking the strings, he did not play for another two years. Then, when he was 14 years old, he and a friend started a rock duo called Mike K and Joey J. Saye. Impressed by his friend’s guitar skills, he was inspired to play again. But this time, while digging through some CDs, he stumbled upon Memphis Minnie and Muddy Waters. These sounds drove him to reimagine what the guitar was capable of doing.

Joey was introduced to the blues community at age 16 when he was out with his high school friends. He heard blues music playing in the distance and chose to follow the sound. This choice led to the meeting, befriending, and playing with the Dave Herrero band that night. Dave Herrero, the group leader, invited him back next week, and this started a cadence of mentoring for Joey J.

Since then, Joey J. Saye has played in and around Chicago, participating in the blues community. During this time, he has shared the stage with many of Chicago’s top-shelf blues musicians such as Mary Lane, Willie Buck, Billy Flynn, Bob Stroger, and more. He currently is releasing digital content, holds a residency at Rosa’s on Thursday nights in Chicago, and plays blues across the country.

– Intro and photo by Peter M. Hurley. 

Photo taken at ROSA’S LOUNGE in 2021. Photo © Peter M. Hurley.

For more info on JOSEPH J. SAYE JR, go to JJSAYEMUSIC.COM.

Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with a 6th grade dance party discovery of Bo Diddley which led to Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and so on. It continues to this day. VISIT PETER’S WEBSITE HERE.