Q & A with Joey Jem

Explain the name "Joey Jem"


The Great Joe Despagni developer of the Original Steve Vai JEM guitars named me Joey Jem in 1991 when he was building my signature " Jemster" Guitars.  Here I am 27 years later proudly known as "Joey Jem"

Who are your influences ?


Joey's Top 10 List

Eddie Van Halen, JImmy Page, Randy Rhodes, Al Dimeola, SRV, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore , BB King & just started appreciating Keith Richards. 

Your Current Touring Rig ?

Joey Jem's  signature series "316" touring rig.

My Signature Series "316" Fender Telecaster Guitars fitted with "316" Seymour Duncan pickups. Powered by SD 900 watt power amps , my very old Roland GP-8 & 4 Custom Marshall Lead 4x12 Cabinets.  Loud & Proud ! 

Your Current Project ?


 Just completed recording Road Crew's debut album " SIDE A"

Featuring Don Chaffin ( Voices of Extreme) on vocals,   Nick Troiani on Keys & special guest the master himself Billy Sheehan  on  Bass & the one & only Rod Morgenstein ( Dixie Dregs & Winger)  on the drums. 

Is there a time & place that you write music ?


Ever since my son died I dream music.  I wake up around 5 30 am  with a tune in my head.  Go to my music room, pick up my guitar  &  record it on my i phone and send it to Don Chaffin.  He brilliantly puts it all together lyrically & vocally.   We have enough material for the next 3 albums. 

What are you doing personally to improve as a guitar player ?


Practice to exhaustion with my trusty metronome featured in this picture .  Listen carefully to how other players phrase their lines & learn from them.  I challenge myself to change my style of play, take myself out of my comfort zone.  Most importantly . I don't take myself too seriously when playing live.  Its amazing what you can accomplish when you respect & have trust in the talent that God gave you.  

Joey Jem up close & personal

Music Saved My Life - Joey Jem

Q:  Can you try to make us understand that powerful statement ? 

A:  Absolutely.  I am an only child , I lost my mom to cancer when I was 12 years old & on September 2, 2017 I lost my son to a distracted driver. He was 2 1/2 years old.    My mom put a guitar in my hand at  6 years old and made me sit in her bedroom for a minimum of a 1/2 hour a day to learn how to play that guitar.  She told me that someday that guitar will be my best friend.  It will help me cope with life's challenges as well as guide me  through the good times and bad times.  It will be there when I need to express my self , cry , laugh, scream.  That guitar will help me make life long true friends.  Brothers & sisters in music.  I never turned to drugs or alcohol to bury my sorrows for my losses, instead I negated  those negative  low times by consuming myself with writing music & playing my guitar.   I still have that same guitar next to me every day . When I lost my son last year I wanted to drive off a cliff.  My life was over !   God had a different plan for me .   My musical brothers from a band I was in 20 years ago came to me and literally lifted me off the floor.  They flew in from all over the states and forced me to put my guitar back on and play a reunion show here in New York.  They visited my son's grave with me and we cried together. I never thought of driving off that cliff again. Instead of death I am celebrating life through music keeping the memory of my son & mom alive.  I have work to do on this earth.  I won't stop until every child has an instrument in their hand. I am blessed to have the ear of some wonderful  caring people over at Fender Guitars.  I want  every school to have music rooms in memory of my son Baby Rocco.  Music should be mandatory from grades 1-8.   I want to give every child around the world  the gift of music.   I am living proof that Music saves Lives. 



Road Crew

Caught In The Moment 





The Second Coming of Joey Jem



Guitarist , Songwriter , Producer & Author of his upcoming book " How Music Saved My Life."   Native New Yorker . Music is ageless , I never think about my age so don't ask. 

Which guitar players do you admire & learn from?

   Mostly my peers & every player I watch on the local stage. There is so much natural God given talent that you never read about. I am like a child in a candy store, I learn from everyone, every note I hear them play I appreciate. Without them the world would be an empty place.  

What advice do you have for younger musicians?

Are you calling me old?  (laughs) My advice to any musician…. NEVER QUIT!

What equipment do you currently use?

  My main Guitar is an off the rack Fender Telecaster upgraded w/Seymor Duncan pick ups. I’m currently working with the team at Fender to create a signature “316” Tele with a locking Floyd Rose, Seymor Duncan “316”  pickups & a custom radius neck from my older strat. Amp wise I am using the Power Stage 700 from Seymor Duncan with a very old Roland GP-8 & Marshall 1960’s stereo cabs. In the recording studio I go dry with a 1990’s Marshall Jubilee but am looking forward to recording with my Power Stage 700 as well.  


  Growing up in New York Joe was surrounded by the ultimate music scene & some of world’s best musicians. Back in 1987 he cofounded the Band No Return which went on to national success but could never land that coveted Major record deal. Through-out the 1990’s into the 2000’s Joe – self-proclaimed “mediocre” guitar player managed to have his own weekly guitar column called “ROCK GUITAR WITH JOEY JEM” as well as a Ruthless teaching, Gigging & recording career.  Joe also received artist endorsement deals from D’addario Strings , ESP Guitars, Seymor Duncan & JEM Guitars (Joe Despagni)- the genius behind the Steve Vai 777 Guitars from Ibanez. In 1991 JEM Guitars put out an entire series called the “JEMSTER” series. The Joey “Jemster” Guitar line. All fitted with ESP guitar parts, Seymors & D’addario’s. Interesting fact: Floyd Rose refused to back the line so the original Jemsters were fitted with locking Kahler Systems. The release party was called the Jem Extravaganza In New York featuring local guitar heroes Joe Cangemi, Steve Vai, Randy Coven  to name a few. Joe & No Return kept pushing as the scene turned into the Seattle Grunge Era. No Return took a back seat and eventually disbanded in the mid to late 90’s. Joe went on to individually write & work with artists such as John Gatto of The Good Rats, Rod Morgenstein of Dixie Drugs – Winger & various local artists. 


 The Second Coming of Joey Jem  is driven by the tragic loss of his 2 year old son. Baby Rocco. His musical drive is no longer of a  mortal stature however completely spiritual. “If it’s meant to be played, I am playing it”. Joe is currently in a Zeppelin Tribute Band to keep his stage chops together.   He is recording & writing new material for his band “Road Crew” featuring special guests Billy Sheehan  & Rod Morgenstein .  In His spare time he is working on his 316 guitar line with Fender Guitars, volunteering & setting up music programs for children in local schools, event coordinator for THE BABY ROCCO FOUNDATION & an advocate for  the Baby Rocco No Tolerance driving laws involving children that are hurt or killed by irresponsible drivers.