GLENOLDEN — Joe Staffieri’s name has been synonymous with the Delaware County music scene for more than half a century. The musician-singer has performed at venues across the tri-state area, most recently creating “An Evening with the Legends,” bringing imitators to the stage at the Oaks Ballroom in Glenolden. The next best thing to seeing “the real deal” in concert, Staffieri’s “Legends” events feature performers who look, sound and “have the move” just like their famous superstar counterparts.
The next “An Evening with Legends” will take place at the Oaks Ballroom in Glenolden, at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 13. The evening of entertainment includes a deluxe buffet dinner prepared by Anthony’s Ristorante. The event will feature Rob Cabella as Dean Martin, Jeff Krick, Jr. as “Elvis”, Connie McGuirk as “Patsy Cline”, Scott McConnell as “The Voice”, singing Tom Jones and Irish songs, and Greg Martiello as “Man of Many Voices,” singing everything from Lou Rawls and Barry White to impersonating Louis Armstrong and Rodney Dangerfield. Staffieri will host the event and play Johnny Cash, a role that he knows well.
“I am pleased to provide the people of this region with top-notch entertainment with a delicious dinner at a reasonable price,” Staffieri said. “I want people to have a really good time at my shows. We hope to rekindle good memories for the public, while bringing them together to create new ones!
Artist Joe Staffieri was only 9 years old when he first approached his father, asking him for an accordion. Young Joe, then living in North Philadelphia, had attended a party and was fascinated by the squeezebox instrument and the music it created. His father tried to persuade his son to learn the guitar instead, since the Beatles were top of the charts at the time, but that didn’t change the child’s mind. Young Joe had a natural rhythm and often played dummy drums with hairbrushes he found around his house, while listening to WFIL radio. His father recognized the talent when he saw it.
Mr. Staffieri saved his money, bought his son an accordion, paid for lessons, and the rest is now part of the musical history of the tri-state area.
Staffieri mastered the accordion under the guidance of world renowned accordionist Daniel Desiderio who required his young student to practice 4-5 hours a day. When his family moved to West Philadelphia in 1970, the teenager began playing professional gigs at the age of 15. Johnny Pignotti, leader of the Johnny Pal Quartet, came to pick up Staffieri one evening a week to play in a hall.
He auditioned to play with the “Patty and Angelo Duo” who played at the Log Cabin in Middletown. He was still in high school and only 17 years old. Patty said he was too young for the role, but changed his mind immediately after hearing him play. He not only landed the gig at the Log Cabin, but he also performed at Top of the Mark in Cape May. That same year, he also won first place in the American Accordion Association’s Virtuoso category.
As a member of the St. Thomas More Class of 1975, Staffieri also honed his musical skills in the school band and its jazz rock ensemble led by Mike DiBenedetto.
“It was a cool set – we played songs from Chicago and other popular bands of the day,” Staffieri recalls. “All my life, I’ve had music in my head!”
After high school, Staffieri’s accordion playing evolved into a rapid mastery of the keys of a keyboard and piano. He joined Sal Massey and the Untouchables, playing all over the shore points.
Upon his return to the county, he landed a gig seven nights a week at the old Alpine Inn in Springfield. He formed a band, “Crystal Clear”, playing keyboards and singing, with Joe Petrella on drums and vocals and Phil Chick on guitar. From then on, the gigs never stopped. The talented musical artist made an impression with his keyboard and his voice everywhere he went, which led to more and more gigs.
Staffieri was playing at the old Media Inn seven nights a week in his heyday. From there he played at the Buckeye Club and Torino’s in South Philadelphia. In 1987 he entertained at Devine’s, which was located on the former site of The Shack in Upper Darby, seven nights a week for five years. At this time Staffieri left town and settled in Broomall. He is the father of two sons, Joey and Vincent.
In 1993 Staffieri landed a permanent job at Sam’s Saloon in Glenolden, where he remained for 20 years. It was there that he met Debby Feeser, hostess at Sam’s, who has been his companion and soul mate for 25 years. The couple live in the Briarcliffe section of Darby Township. While at Sam’s, Staffieri would team up with different artists to switch numbers. One of them, Scott McConnell, still plays often with Staffieri and will appear in his upcoming Legends show.
Early in his career, Staffieri realized he had a real knack for impersonating Johnny Cash. Since the age of 20, while training his singing voice, Staffieri discovered that his voice bore an uncanny resemblance to Cash’s. Beginning in 2004, the singer began training to not only recreate Cash’s signature voice, but also his mannerisms and performance style. The musician/singer completely nailed the impersonation and formed a show, “Revisiting the Legend of Johnny Cash.” By now Staffieri was also proficient with the guitar, which helped make the transition to Johnny Cash even easier. For more than 20 years, Staffieri has fascinated audiences with his impersonation of Cash, often accompanied by Debbie Feeser, the talented sister-in-law of his partner Debby, who plays the role of June Carter Cash.
With his Johnny Cash repertoire now part of his musical entertainment portfolio, Staffieri has entered the big leagues, with shows at Delaware Park and Atlantic City Legends shows at Tropicana, Resorts, Trump Plaza, The Hilton and Caesar’s Casinos. He also made himself available to play private parties, senior residences and local nightlife venues. Staffieri also wrote several original songs.
“I had a great musical career,” Staffieri said. “From 1973 to today, I have been able to make a living from my music and I have always loved it. It’s the easiest job in the world because I love it so much. I have been so blessed and I hope I can continue doing what I do forever!
Staffieri’s new show “An Evening with the Legends” features new talent every time. Old shows featured impersonators impersonating Roy Orbison, Neil Diamond, Michael Buble, Cher, Frankie Valli and others. The upcoming March date is her third show. He’s already working on a fourth for June 26 that will star Lori St. Martin as Olivia Newton John and Debbie Feeser as Barbra Streisand.
“I’m very passionate about these shows because I know there’s a need for quality entertainment, especially now after the past two years,” Staffieri said. “My shows are about reminiscing, rewinding and creating good feelings from old songs that bring back happy memories.”
TO GO: Tickets are available for “An Evening with the Legends” at the Oaks Ballroom, 511 W. Oak Lane, on Sunday, March 13. Doors open at 3:30 p.m., with dinner by Anthony’s Caterers at 4 p.m. and the show at 5 p.m. pm Cost is $55 which includes buffet dinner and cash bar. For tickets or to reserve Staffieri for a private or public event, call him at 610-745-2672. For more information on “An Evening with the Legends”, visit http://www.anenightwiththelegends.com.