In doing a bit of research, The Cottonmouth Kid had made the erroneous assumption that the old Tracy Gardens roadhouse was over here in nearby Tracy. In fact, the Gardens was over in San Jose, on Stevens Creek near Highway 17, where the big Valley Fair shopping center now stands.
Stompin’ Steve hepped us to Shorty Joe, who fronted his own outfit, The Red Rock Canyon Cowboys, which served as the house band at the Tracy Gardens for several years.
Shorty Joe — kind of a California version of Little Jimmie Dickens — also hosted Western Music radio programs for many years on San Jose’s KEEN and KLOK back in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Joe, who’s still out and about and gettin’ it done these days, was actually born Giuseppe Quartuccio Jr. in Monreale on the beautiful island of Sicily back in 1924. His family came to the United States in 1930, and worked their way to California, settling in the verdant Santa Clara Valley when Joe was 12.
He became enamored of Western-style music by listening to Dude Martin on Oakland’s KLX Radio, and eventually met Dude and made a guest appearance on his show before setting out on his own. When KEEN launched in June 1947, Shorty Joe was the first disc jockey spinning country platters on the station.
In the mid-1950s, Joe moved over to the more powerful KLOK, hosting a daily program there, while still maintaining a regular schedule of live performances with his band.
As an entrepreneur, Shorty Joe launched his own record company, San Jose-based Golden West Records, to release his tunes.
Outside of his music career, Joe was a skilled aircraft mechanic, which led to his “real life” work with NASA as it developed early space-bound vehicles at its facilities in Mountain View.
Here’s Shorty Joe and the Red Rock Canyon Cowboys performing a trio of tunes (including the swell “Ain’t Got No Gal”) for the camera at Tracy Gardens, heard live over KLOK (1170 kc.) via remote microphone:
Shorty Joe’s autobiography, detailing his long and colorful life in and out of Western Music, is available through Roots & Rhythm in El Cerrito, Calif. You can keep up to date with Shorty Joe via his Facebook page.
IMAGES: Courtesy of Steve Hathaway, via Shorty Joe.