Posted 1/10/15 – (Editor’s Note: I’ll be doing a more comprehensive and personal look back at Joe Ramsey’s life in the near future, but wanted to post this in the interim…)
Joseph Jack Ramsey, 11/1/56 – 12/29/14
Joseph “Joe” Jack Ramsey passed away Dec. 29th, 2014 at Arcadia Methodist Hospital. Joe Ramsey, son of Jack S. Ramsey and Helen L. Ramsey, was a father, a husband, and a friend, loved and respected by many. He was also a musician, a record producer, and a small business owner.
Joe was born at City of Angels Medical Center in Los Angeles. He spent his first three years living in Altadena, then moved to Arcadia, where he attended Dana Middle School, Arcadia High School and Pasadena City College. In the mid-1970s, Joe moved to Sierra Madre where he (mostly) lived until he moved to Monrovia in 2011.
Joe’s early jobs were at Licorice Pizza and the Wherehouse, record stores where he could indulge himself with his first great love, music. These jobs were a natural progression following his entry into performing, appearing with bands as early as middle school. Joe went on to perform with numerous bands, including HiFi, Chance, Foul Play, The Item, The Cyclones and many others. His greatest musical success came with The Prime Movers from 1983 to 1988, which was signed to Island Records and toured the UK, opening for Big Country, as well as domestically, and Dread Zeppelin, with whom he performed more than 900 gigs during several world tours. Dread Zeppelin’s first album, Un-Led-Ed, sold a million copies, and the band appeared on television and portrayed themselves in the motion picture National Lampoon’s Last Resort. Ramsey performed under the stage name Severs Ramsey with The Prime Movers and Jah Paul Joh in Dread Zeppelin.
In his later years, Joe’s life went full circle, as he went back into the work force selling vinyl records during its recent resurgence in popularity, first at Berdan Records in Monrovia and then partnering with Sean Sprinkel to open Resistor Records, also in Monrovia. But he hadn’t given up performing, organizing a concert at Matt Denny’s in Arcadia that featured many of his old bandmates from both his school days and throughout his career.
In the late 70s, Joe partnered with several friends to open Marquee West, a rock and roll club in Arcadia. In 1983, he opened his own independent record label, Birdcage Records, home to such acts as not only his own Prime Movers and Dread Zeppelin, but artists such as Stan Ridgway, Ron Asheton, and Pietra Wexstun, In Vivo, The Mystery Band and others.
In 2002, Joe met and began dating Allison Koester-Martinez. The two were married, and had two daughters, Mika, 6 and Kaiya Jo, 4. And Joe loved being their daddy…according to Allison: “Joe’s sole passion in life was creating music. He lived and breathed it. After we had our babies, his focus shifted and he only had eyes for them. He still had that musical fire burning in him, but all he wanted was to make sure these little girls were happy, secure, and loved like crazy.”
Joe is survived by his wife, Allison, his two daughters, Mika and Kaiya Jo, and a sister, Elizabeth Brierty. Members of the family gathered on Jan. 2nd to say goodbye prior to Joe’s cremation at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Plans are in the works for a memorial gathering/concert possibly in February or early March with several bands that Joe had discussed bringing together for a concert. An announcement will be made when the details are worked out, you will be able to find the information on line at the website referenced below.
Joe’s passing was the result of a decade long battle with medical problems consisting of a heart attack, cancer, and a recent stroke. Some of Joe’s legion of friends and fans have created a website to help the family with the bills incurred by these issues, and if you’d like to donate you can do so by visiting www.JoeRamseyFamilyFund.com. From the website: This fundraiser is initiated and supported by the many people who have known and loved Joe Ramsey and his family over the years. Donations to this fund will go to help defray medical costs as well as funeral expenses, costs of living for Allison and the children, and future needs of the little ones.