Joe Mancuso is an award winning, classically trained vocalist turned jazz singer. He studied classical voice, audio production and jazz at Webster University; where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music.
Joe has a powerful baritone voice with some tenor range. He sings with an abundance of passion and intensity; whether performing a ballad, bossa nova, blues or swing tune, he takes his audience on a dynamic and emotional ride every time. Mancuso’s phrasing is one of his best features. He is a master at placing notes with the most tasteful use of syncopation. Simply put, he swings!
The Early Years
Joe began his love affair with music at the very beginning of his life (born in 1966) as Elvis, Sinatra, The Beatles, and the sounds of many other top recording artists of the day where wafting through the air from the record player on a daily basis; thanks to his music loving parents.
Mancuso comes from a strong Italian heritage. His great grandparents immigrated to the U.S.A. from Sicily near the turn of the century. His father Joseph Vincent Mancuso and mother Judy Ann Sanfilippo both grew up working for their families’ businesses at Soulard Farmer’s Market in St. Louis Missouri, where many Italian immigrants made their living in the produce business.
At the of age seven, Joe sang in his very first talent show at Shaw School “On The Hill”. The Hill is the “Little Italy” of St. Louis, where Joe grew up. He performed an Italian folk song “Luna Mezz’o Mare” that he learned from his grandmother Augustine “Gussie” Mancuso. This led to several other performances at neighborhood venues as well as performances at St. Ambrose Catholic Church and School, where Joe attended grade school.
At the age of 10, Joe was given a guitar as a gift from his Aunt Josephine “Skipper” Mancuso. Aunt Skipper, also know as Laura Tracy and later as Laura Williams, was a beautiful and vivacious jazz and pop singer that performed in several USO world tours as well as at various night clubs throughout the United States from the mid 1960’s through the early 1970’s. She was the major driving force behind Joe’s choice to pursue music and an education in music.
After getting his guitar and a few lessons from Aunt Skipper, Joe began to perform with his guitar and voice in local talent shows. As a pre-teen he began to write his own songs and perform them in public as well. As he grew older, he put together a rock band and began to perform at school dances and clubs.
One day Aunt skipper she asked Joe, at the time a 17 year old high school student and garage band front man, “What do you want to study in college?” Joe replied, “I want to study medicine and become a doctor, because doctors make a lot of money!” She then asked, “What if you had all the money you needed, would you still want to be a doctor?” Joe thought for a second and said “Hell no… I would write songs and be a musician!”
As a direct result of that 2 minute conversation in the kitchen with his Aunt Skipper, Joe found himself graduating nearly 5 years later with a bachelor’s degree in music from Webster University – St. Louis Campus; and the rest is… here it comes… History! Well its not quite history yet, we’ll just say its still history in the making.
Shortly after graduation from Webster University (where he studied jazz & audio production), Joe founded Audio Arts Recording & Duplication. Audio Arts was a small recording studio where Joe and his partners, Sal Mancuso and Pete Knobbe recorded and produced music demos for local St. Louis, MO bands, radio commercials and nationally syndicated radio shows (1990 – 1996).
In the summer of 1996, Joe got his first regular gig as a Jazz Singer with the Todd Mosby Group. Joe performed with Todd on only 3 occasions at C.J. Muggs in Clayton, Missouri. Soon after this time, Joe and his wife Carla and their 18 month old daughter Chela moved to Portland, Oregon. Mancuso sold his recording business to his biggest client, The NBG Radio Network of Portland, Oregon and the family moved across the country. Joe would not sing professionally again until February of 2011.
After only 2 years in Portland, Joe and Carla got homesick and decided to come back home. Here is a quote from Joe about his decision to move back home. “One very profound moment of my life occurred in Portland. I was videotaping my daughter’s 3rd birthday and as I looked through the view finder, it really hit me; I panned from right to left; there was my daughter and then my wife. We where singing happy birthday… and there was no one else there. No brothers, no sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, no mom and dad; I started to tear up and decided at that moment that I would need to get my family back home soon”.
The family made it back home to St. Louis for the holidays in 1998, and in January of 1999 Joe’s wife gave birth to Joseph Anthony Mancuso (Joe Jr.). Around this same time, Joe and his brother Vince started an Internet marketing company, which is now know as WebChurn.com. If you need high end web design or Internet marketing… call them :)
Fast forward ten years and tragedy strikes; In February of 2009, Joe’s brother Sal, his former partner in the Recording Studio, passes away at the early age of 38 after a long battle with drug addiction. The family was devastated.
Then in October of 2010 Joe’s Godson, Vincent “VJ” Mancuso, passes away from a rare condition know as plastic bronchitis, which he contracted shortly after his third open heart surgery. VJ, the son of Joe’s brother and business partner Vincent Mancuso, suffered from a congenital heart defect know as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. He was just a few weeks shy of his 4th birthday when he passed. VJ was a sweet boy, you never would have known he had this condition unless you saw him with his shirt off. VJ’s parents, Vincent and Jennifer Mancuso have started a charity foundation in his honor. VJman.org.
As you can imagine, these family tragedies changed the courses of the lives of all those that were close to Sal and VJ, and for Joe, it made him realize that life is short, and that there was no more time to put his dream of singing professionally on hold.
Return To Music
In February of 2011, Joe received an email in response to an advertisement he placed on craigslist.com looking for a piano player to team up with. He received a call from Tim Garcia. Tim is a veteran jazz pianist who plays all around St. Louis with various groups as well as a fair amount of private parties and solo piano gigs. Tim is also an adjunct professor of music at several local universities, including Webster University, St. Louis University and Maryville University.
Tim called Joe, and they arranged to meet on a Wednesday morning, February 23rd, 2011. They met at Tim’s house that Wednesday morning and ran through several jazz standards. Tim asked Joe to join him on his gig the very next evening at a little wine bar and music venue named “The Wine Press”. That cold Thursday night (2/24/2011) marked the beginning of Mancuso’s rise to the top of the local jazz scene. He has been performing non-stop ever since.
On Thursday, September 27th, 2012, just 1 year and 7 months later, Joe was named the Best Vocalist of 2012 by the Riverfront Times Readers’ Choice Poll. That very night Joe performed to a packed house at Bill Christman’s infamous music venue “Joe’s Cafe’”. Joe did not even find out about the award until sometime in December of 2012 when an old friend and piano teacher, Anne Gerst, called to congratulate him, as she read about the award in the paper.
By this time, in just under two years, Joe had managed to get bookings at over 50 different local and regional venues, performed and collaborated with over 100 local St. Louis musicians, all while operating his internet marketing business with his brother Vince and sister-in-law Carolyn.
In late 2013 Mancuso started working on his first record which was released in February of 2014. The record, “Cut To The Chase”, received the “BEST ALBUM” award from The Riverfront Time’s Readers’ Poll of 2014. The RFT is the premier music and entertainment publication of St. Louis, Missouri. The record features 13 jazz standards performed by Joe Mancuso(voice), Jesse Gannon(piano), Willem von Hombracht(bass), Steve Davis(drums) and Christopher Braig(tenor saxophone).
Mancuso keeps very busy these days with well over 100 performances each year. He is now actively pursuing national and international bookings at festivals, house concerts and clubs as well as private and corporate functions. He started his own independent record label and is working on several new projects, including a project that will help other musicians learn how to use the internet to promote their music and create new streams of revenue.
“I am all in. I’m going all the way. Life is too short. Therefore, I dedicate the rest of my life to chasing dreams, and living life to the fullest with my family and friends. I do this in honor of my loved ones that have tragically passed; my late brother Salvatore Mancuso, my nephew Vincent “VJ” Mancuso and my Aunt Skipper… I love you all so much, the only way I can make any sense out of the hurt, is to use it in a positive way, to pursue happiness.” Joe Mancuso