Born Birrell Josef Mendelson on July 30th, 1944 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Joe taught himself to play his sister’s Gibson guitar at age eleven. His musical idols were Little Richard, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
In 1964, at age nineteen, Joe Mendelson became a professional singer-songwriter-musician. His debut was at The Depression coffee-house in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Four years later, he formed a bluesy rock band with Toronto guitarist Michael McKenna. They made five albums under the banner Mainline. In 1972, Joe recorded his first of many solo albums. Mr. Middle of the Road (on GRT label) was very much a solo effort, in that he played all the instruments, sang, and wrote the songs.
1975 marked the beginning of Joe’s career as a painter. He recorded two more albums, Sophisto, and a reunion LP with Mike McKenna entitled No Substitute. He also became Mendelson Joe.
From 1979 to 1981, Mendelson recorded three more albums for the Stompin' Tom-owned Canadian label Boot Records – Not Homogenized, Jack Frost, and the controversial Let’s Party. In 1984 Stony Plain Records released Some of the Best of Mendelson Joe – The Name of the Game Ain’t Schmaltz. Several of Joe’s songs have been covered by the likes of guitar-genius Amos Garrett, crooner Noel Harrison, and the characters of Sesame Street.
By 1988, Mr. Joe was becoming very skilled at producing his own records. When singer Geddy Lee of Rush heard Joe’s latest master tape, Lee encouraged his label, Anthem, to release Born To Cuddle. In 1991, Anthem released the hard edged bluesy Addicted LP, along with the support video Passion.
Boutique label Pacemaker released Mendelson Joe’s Everyone Needs A Pimp CD in June 2007. Joe’s work reflects his passions and convictions as reflected in the albums Live at Sixty-Five (2009), Spoiled Bratland (2010), Women Are The Only Hope (2012) and Canuckian (2012).
Mendelson Joe is a Canadian icon. And, like his musical recordings, his paintings are internationally recognized as exceptional examples of original uncompromising art.