About Joey

In the beginning


Joey Cee’s professional career started at 4 o’clock in the afternoon of January 9th, 1963 in Toronto in a small dance hall at Euclid Ave. and College Street, in the area that is now known as Little Italy. It was the heyday of rock “n” roll and the advent of American pop extreme. With the introduction of the Motown sound devouring the charts, the British invasion led by The Beatles was staking solid ground. R&B was still an underground phenomenon in Toronto clubs, and Canadian music as we know it was practically non-existent. The radio stations of the day were CHUM and CKEY – and the radio signals from across the border – and it was all AM radio – not FM! The hottest ticket on TV was American Bandstand where most of the boomers got to see their favourite recording artists for the first time unless they were featured on the Ed Sullivan Show and it’s where we learned all the new dance steps.

Born in Malta, his family moved to Canada after the war when Joey was just a year old. Joey grew up in Toronto as a downtown kid. His playground was what is now known as the Entertainment District. From the age of one to ten, he grew up in an area that was surrounded by row houses and factories of all kinds. He spent a lot of time rummaging through the back bins of comic book factories and taffy makers. On Saturdays he would deliver coffees for a Duncan Street restaurant to the surrounding factories and stores which also included the original headquarters of CHUM Radio on Adelaide Street. He was a choirboy and alterboy from the age of four (decorated twice as the best in Toronto by the Cardinal at St. Michael’s Cathedral) at St. Patrick’s Church on McCaul and went to St. Patrick’s School on Beverly Street. Every day he would make the trek from home to school and back, through the streets of Queen Street West (now the trendy Queen West) past St. Joseph’s Press (now CITY-TV), and along the residential street towards the Church (now the Grange). His dad worked as the daily caretaker at Jones and Moore Electric, which was until recently Alice Fazooli’s. His memoirs as a downtown kid are filled with interesting and historical bits of information that have somehow involved him at one time or another. From his backyard, he saw the famous Forbes Car Wash at King and John being built and attended the grand opening. He also saw it demolished before the end of the last century to make way for the TIFF Bell Lightbox building. He remembers the morning of the big Church blaze at Grange Park that saw the sky light up, leaving only the steeple at the top of John Street as a reminder. He witnessed the AGO being built as he walked by it every day, on the way to school. At the age of ten they moved from the Widmer Street rowhousing to a house on Denison Avenue in the Bathurst and Dundas area while still going to St. Pats. Only this time he maneuvered and experienced another area of the city now known as Chinatown. Then it was all Jewish – even his new playground Kensington Market was known as the Jewish Market. He spent a lot of Saturday afternoons at the Victory Theatre and chowing down at Shopsy’s next door.

During this period, his mom worked at the cafeteria at Woolworth’s at Queen and Yonge where, while waiting for her to finish work, he would rummage through the record department and buy his first singles for 19 cents. That’s where the music bug began! This was in the mid-fifties when Elvis ruled and the sound of Johnny Preston’s “Running Bear” was making waves. It may have started out as a hobby, but the record collection kept getting bigger and his interest in music stronger. Then came the move to the west end where he lived in the Junction at Keele & Dundas while going to St. Michael’s College School and Western Tech & Commerce. These two schools, although academic, became the breeding grounds for what was to follow in years to come. While in Grade 9 Joey represented CHUM radio as the designated High School Hit Picker, giving him his first taste of music involvement and recognition. He attended Hit Picker parties and distributed the CHUM Chart in his school. It was 1959 and this was his first introduction to Canadian recording artists such as Bobby Curtola, The Beau Marks and of course Paul Anka – and he was still known as Joseph Camilleri. During his high school teens he spent most of his time deejaying at the local church dances and later at high school dances. The bug got out of control. As the sixties were coming into their own – so was Joey Cee. The new Joey Cee pseudonym was appropriate for the time because it was easy to say and remember. He was not content in just watching the developing trends but wanted to be part of them.

Although he was a good student with high grades, he was being distracted by the desire to be involved “hands on” knowing that the Canadian music business was about to boom. He was, and still is, a visionary.

With this in mind, he mastered a plan that would eventually take him out of high school and thrust him into the working world – part employee, part entrepreneur – and head into the music business. Joey perceived the notion that giving students a mid-week break of sorts would be welcomed – like watching American Bandstand on TV. Then why not emulate the show “Canadian-style” and let students come and dance and have a good time after school. With $80 laid down for the hall rental and $40 in printing costs, Joey posted flyers throughout the whole downtown area. The key to his madness was to have a convenient location that would serve as many high schools in walking distance as possible. With the Three Star Club Hall located at the corner of Euclid and College Street (now Starbucks), he was positioned to draw audiences from Harbord Collegiate, Central Tech and St. Joseph’s (all-girl) Catholic schools, not to mention U of T. He chose Wednesday afternoons (hump day) at 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to host what became known as “CANADIAN BANDSTAND ‘63”. He linked up with deejay/announcer J.P. Finnegan on CKEY radio and formed a promotional partnership. With his schoolmate and electronics whiz David “The Professor” Alexander, they formed a deejay duet ” dressed in complete trekky-type outfits that would provide the recorded music for the after-school affair. Not to shortchange themselves, they made sure they had secured up-and-coming new recording artists lined up to appear each week, lip sync and sign autographs. Needless to say the pickings were slim. Joey wanted to provide a full slate of entertainment for his patrons who paid a whopping 35 cents admission price. Armed with confidence and a lot of nerve to test the unknown, the doors of the Three Star Hall opened on a cold wintery evening and was quickly filled to capacity within minutes leaving blocks of lineups outside in the cold – literally. Those inside were treated to non-stop dance music under a huge centre mirror-ball accented with front panel stage lighting effects (specially built by The Professor. It was also the first-time appearance by a yet unknown recording artist who lip-synced his first single on Chateau records titled ” Remember Me I’m The One” and signed autographs. As Joey recalls sentimentally “Yeah, I remember him – he was the one – Gordon Lightfoot”.

As they say the rest is history!

Contact Joey

JCO Communications Inc.
P.O. Box 816
Mississauga, ON L5M 2C4
Phone: 905-593-1608
Fax: 905-820-9512
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About Joey Cee

Joey Cee's professional career started at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of January 9th, 1963 in Toronto in a small dance hall at Euclid Ave. and College Street, in the area that is now known as Little Italy. It was the heyday of rock "n" roll and the advent of American pop extreme. With the introduction of the Motown sound... Read More

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