SIX NATIONS – After six years of soul searching, hard work and the love of a caring wife, Joe Sharrow, better known in these parts simply as “Big Joe” is returning to the stage.
Big Joe is using this year’s Fall Fair Kick-off on Sept 7, at the Fair Grounds to reignite his flame.
The front man of more than 25 years for the popular blues band The Breeze, Joe left the stage six years ago determined to battle his demons or die. The Breeze changed its name to the Healers and moved on without him.
“Most people didn’t know it, but I was really hooked on crack and I could not do anything about it while I was still playing and living the ‘Rock Star’ life,” he reveals.
Maybe it was Joe’s drug problem, but Sharrow and the Breeze parted company and Joe thought his singing days were over.
Sharrow was born and raised in Fort Erie and Buffalo New York where he began singing with his family at church and when they would get together and sing. When he was about 10 years old, people started to recognize his range and his voice and encouraged him to sing.
The Sharrows moved to Six Nations when Joe was still young and insecure, trying his best to fit in with new friends in his new community.
He would take whatever opportunities he could to sing. That was the one thing he knew he could do and had confidence in doing it. Eventually he met up with some local Six Nations musicians and the Breeze Band was born almost 30-years ago.
Too many years and too many beers took a toll on the big man and it began to show, especially at home where his wife Val hoped for a day when Joe would be clean again.
“I just knew I was in trouble,” recalls Big Joe. “And one day Val told me I had to clean up or get out.”
Sharrow counted the cost and decided it was time to get out of the music scene and to get straight.
Fate brought Big Joe and retired Football player Alvin Powell, who was traveling as a motivational speaker at the time, talking about his addictions and how he escaped its hold.
Immediately Joe and Powell connected and soon they were hanging out like best friends and had each other on speed dial.
“He was the one who really influenced me and helped me get straight,” says Joe.
Others helped as well but Joe was still not strong enough in his new lifestyle.
A year after Joe first left the stage he missed it so much that he tried to get another act together, but inside, he knew he wasn’t ready yet.
“We started working on stuff and it was really starting to sound good, but I remember sitting in my room singing along with a tape when it struck me that I was not ready to go back into that atmosphere,” he says. “I felt really bad for the guys I was working with but they were gracious and respected my situation.”
Val was diagnosed with cancer during this time and needed him more than ever before. “She was there for me and now I had to be there for her,” says Sharrow.
Happily, Val has been in remission for two years and is fully supportive of Joes return to the stage.
After five years, Sharrow is now clean, strong and ready to get back on the stage. He spoke with one of the guys from the aborted band and Big Joe was back in business.
Big Joe has also been working on another of his demons, food, and he is winning. With the help of the Warton Clinic in Hamilton, Joe is boasting the loss of 102 lbs from his frame and although he still has a ways to go, he now knows he can do it.
This summer has been spent working on material and getting to know each other in the band better and Big Joe fans, old and new, can catch a glimpse of Big Joe’s Blues Band when he debuts with Junkhouse at the Six Nations Fair Grounds, Sept. 7, along with several other local name acts.