Singer/songwriter Joe Val was a prominent traditional bluegrass musician and leader of the New England Bluegrass Boys. A native of Everett, Massachusetts, he was born Joseph Valiante, and his interest in bluegrass started in his early teens. He was influenced by fiddler Tex Logan, who had come north to study at MIT and wound up giving the young performer his stage name. Val started out as a guitar player, but also mastered the banjo and the mandolin. He got his professional start playing with the Radio Rangers, and later joined the Berkshire Mountain Boys; with the progressive Charles River Valley Boys, Val recorded a distinguished album of bluegrass-adapted Beatles songs in 1967. Although Val played with progressive groups, he continued to favor a more traditional bluegrass sound for himself; to this end, he founded the New England Bluegrass Boys in 1970 with guitarist Herb Applin, banjo player Bob French, and bass player Bob Tidwell. The following year, they made their debut album. Although the group underwent many personnel changes over the next decade, Val was able to produce a remarkably consistent sound over the course of numerous albums. Sadly, Joe Val was stricken with cancer in the 1980s just as his band was beginning to achieve wider recognition; his last performance was in late 1984, and he died on June 11, 1985.
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