I got suckered into joining…I mean, I was invited to join the band in 1975. For some inexplicable reason, we were one of the hottest bands in Dallas, playing to a packed house every Friday night. We played a mix of Irish pub and rebel songs along with the popular Waylon & Willie tunes of the day and a few of my originals tunes. Joe was not a great singer and he was a terrible guitar player. Once, he sang a song in the key of C while playing in the key of F, which in case you didn’t know, should be neurologically impossible. He was, however, one of the greatest entertainers I’ve ever seen. He enjoyed himself immensely and he was pretty sure you would enjoy him, too. More often than not, he was right. I’m not talking about ego; he just genuinely loved music and singing and couldn’t imagine that anyone felt different.
This was back when the rest of the boys in the band, me included, were young, single and a bit wild. When we finished playing, we’d drink shots of tequila and flirt with the girls while he tore down and unloaded the stage. He never complained…but he always managed to find a way to “get” us back when we least expected it. When he did, he would cackle uproariously. He was one of the most good-natured individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, but he did have a little bit of a mean streak. That’s okay, we deserved it.
We toured Ireland on three occasions and Canada twice. Those are some of the most wonderful memories I have…I wish you could have been there. Joe made friends wherever he went and it would take him thirty minutes to walk through a crowded room. Everyone wanted to talk with him and he wanted to talk with everyone. In Ireland, this resulted in our losing him with great frequency. We’d head to the van to drive to the next gig and when we looked around, he was nowhere to be found. “Where’s Joe” became our mantra. It also became a signature song of mine for the Irish Texans. Funny enough, I’ve played it for his new friends down in the Rio Grande Valley where he was a “summer Texan” (sorry Jim Wilson) and they always got it immediately.
I was already passionate about writing and singing music by the time I met Joe but I learned from him how to be passionate about entertaining people and making sure they had as good a time as we did. As a band, we weren’t particularly good, but we were a LOT of fun. Our fans sang with us, laughed with us and on occasion, cried with us. Along the way, many of them became life-long friends. We played at wakes and weddings, debutante balls and honky-tonks. As I’ve recounted before, we played in Northern Ireland and we had guns pointed at us. Through it all, Joe was there leading the way (except for when we lost him, but that never lasted long). He was probably the most decent person I’ve ever known, generous, compassionate and loving.
Sometime during the night of June 30, Joe left us. No one saw it coming. His oldest son, Kenneth, told me his dad was “making plans right up to the end.” That was Joe. He was like the energizer bunny, except with a guitar instead of a drum. I am so thankful that I spent a week this past March with Joe and two other Irish Texan stalwarts playing our music one more time for the folks down in the Rio Grande Valley. I still can’t quite grasp that he’s gone. Nobody lives forever but if anyone was going to pull it off, it would have been Joe.
Joe was a devout Catholic and while he never preached at the rest of us, he was steadfast in his beliefs. If he could speak to me now, I know he would tell me that it’s okay, that he’s with his Father. There’s a lot I don’t know…but I believe that to be true. I expect about now Joe is setting up a sound system and organizing a jam session. We always said he would sing at the drop of a hat. I figure he’s looking around to see if any of the angels is wearing hat. If one doesn’t drop pretty soon, he’s not above knocking it off. I can hear him now…“If you’re Irish, come into the parlor, there’s a welcome there for you.” RIP Joe Weisgerber. We miss you more than we can say.