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Tribute to Joel ‘Taz’ DiGregorio (Charlie Daniels Band)

The sudden piece of news has reached us, as sudden as his death in Cheatham County, TN, this wednesday 12th of October 2011 at the age of 67. Taz isn't with us anymore and joined in the world above the great southern band sadly so abundant. His body didn't resist to the injuries he sustained in a single car accident as he was going to join the Charlie Daniels Band to play some gigs. He was not wearing a seatbelt, and was ejected from the vehicle after strucking a tree. « Oak tree you're in my way... ». But who was this Taz which the death distresses all the southern rock connoisseurs ?

Half French, like he said himself, despite of his Italian-sounding name, and fan of our capital, Joel « Taz » Di Gregorio played with Charlie Daniels since... 1964 (!) first in the band the Jaguars, then from 1970 in the Charlie Daniels Band. At that time, this gifted and influenced by Ray Charles, the blues and the rhythm'n blues pianist shared in almost equal parts the lead vocals with his leader and friend. Even if his vocal influence vocale will a little decrease during the years, the role of Taz within the band was still very important, as much through his instrumental parts as through his talent as songwriter, because he co-wrote some important songs for the band, like "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". On stage, wearing an ever-present cowboy hat and always to Daniels' right, Taz was also his main support.

Outside his eminent role in the CDB, Taz released also two very singled solo albums, « Midnight in Savannah » et « Shaky Rag » both very influenced by the blues and the contribution of the black musics to the southern rock. Those two albums allowed to focus again his fabulous abilities as singer, thanks to a very expressive voice, with a little catch in it, that created marvels in the rhythm'n blues.

His knickname, Joel got it after a fitful sleep, in the beginning of the 70's, when, as seeing his spiky hair and his red eyes when he woke up, Jessie Greg, the first CDB road manager compared him with a Tasmanian devil. But don't do the mistake, this seemingly little man (particularly beside of the giant Charlie Daniels) was a great one from a musical point of view and was part of the southern rock legacy, and if his influence doesn't seem to be as clear as the one of the great leaders, it really exists and you can particularly feel it close to the musicians that play in that style. Charlie Daniels says he's in shock, we understand him very well... Taz will be impossible to really remplace : how is it possible to measure 47 years of friendship and road? His immense loss, at the same time for the band, for the southern rock in general and for the music, comes once again in a premature way.

All the members of the RTJ editorial offices send their deepest condolences to his wife, his four children and the whole family, to Charlie who feels probably very alone today, and to all the members of the band, former like present. Rest in peace, Joel our friend!

Y. Philippot-Degand