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Stories of a Sicilian Son: Joe Pass

Updated on February 20, 2018

Joe Pass was a Jazz guitar legend to many. Born in New Jersey as Joseph Anthony Passalaqua in 1929. He was the son of Mariano Passalaqua, a Sicilian-born Steel Mill worker.

Pass was idolized by another guitarist; Roy Clark. They collaborated on a Roy Clark & Joe Pass Play Hank Williams in 1994.

He's played with many people of fame including Ella Fitzgerald. My late father was a big Jazz fan. I credit him for passing along his name to me. I was always amazed at the apparent ease he would play those complicated Jazz chords. His leads were smooth and melodic. He may not be the coolest looking player, but he sure could play.

There are many other famous people of Sicilian heritage that made a meaningful contribution to the Arts, Entertainment and Sports: Frank Sinatra, Al Pacino, Ben Gazzara, Joe Mantegna, Armand Assante, Frank Zappa, Jon Bon Jovi, Tony Danza, Joe DiMaggio and Roy Campanella and are a few that come to mind.

I'm an American who's grandparents were born in Sicily. I made my pilgrimage to Sicily in 1992 and got to meet all my remaining relatives who never left the island that many refer to as the "Jewel of the Mediterranean." I am a proud American and love the song “God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood. That song was so moving to many Americans post 9/11. However, your roots are your roots. It’s meaningful and interesting to discover them.


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