Joe Camilleri, the man behind the Black Sorrows, is one of Australia's most talented artists. Camilleri started during the '60s with bands such as the King Bees and Adderley Smith Blues Band. His reputation grew during the '70s after appearing with Lipp and the Double Dekker Brothers and the Pelaco Brothers, but it wasn't until he formed Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons in 1975 that he achieved national fame. Renowned for their live performances, they released several albums and singles before breaking up in 1983. Camilleri formed the Black Sorrows the next year.
They began playing semi-acoustic sets around Melbourne and released several laid-back albums which consisted of Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker, and Ray Peterson covers, as well as originals. The album Dear Children marked a change in fortune for the Black Sorrows. After being issued independently, it was picked up by CBS and peaked at number 18 on the Australian national charts. Backing singers Vika and Linda Bull further distinguished the Black Sorrows sound, and they released Hold On to Me, which peaked at number six on the national charts in May 1989. It stayed on the Australian charts for over a year, sold over 250,000 copies and 150,000 copies when released in the U.S. and Europe. The Black Sorrows won Best Group at the 1989 Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Awards.
Harley and Rose was released in November 1990 and several overseas tours followed. During May 1992, the Black Sorrows performed at the Wizards of Oz gigs in Los Angeles with several other major Australian acts. Harley and Rose sold over 200,000 copies; a feat repeated by their next release, Better Times. In between Black Sorrows' obligations, Camilleri released Amazing Stories with his part-time band, the Revelators, later made available as a limited-edition pack with Better Times. In 1993, the Black Sorrows released the EPs Sweet Inspiration and Stir It Up before Camilleri dismantled the band and re-formed it as a solo act with supporting musicians.
In 1994, Camilleri traveled to New York to record Lucky Charm and contributed a cover of Country Radio's "Gypsy Queen" for the various artists compilation Earth Music. In December 1995, Camilleri released the EP All Saints Hotel, his first solo outing since the 1989 "Angel Dove" single. All Saints Hotel contained a zydeco reworking of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run," which had been destined to be the first Jo Jo Zep single in 1975.
In 1996, the Black Sorrows released the triple live album Radio Waves, consisting of 36 tracks. Also released was The Black Sorrows box set containing the albums Sonola, Rockin' Zydeco, Dear Children, and A Place in the World, plus Not for Production, a collection of 11 rare, never-released tracks. A new EP was released in 1997, New Craze. ~ Brendan Swift