Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Joe Seneca - Bluesman


I was watching an old Matlock the other night when I heard a familiar guitar sound. Looking at the credits I saw the name Joe Seneca and this old re-run became instantly of more interest to me. For lovers of the blues Joe Seneca is a legendary name. Many people will be familiar with his work in the film “Crossroads”, and some even with his guest appearance on “Matlock” with Andy Griffith. 

In the 3rd season episode titled “The Blues Singer”, Mr. Seneca plays an old guitar picking legend named Eddie Haynes, who has fallen on hard times, and finds himself accused of a murder he did not commit. When Ben Matlock takes the case he gets Joe released to his custody and they share Ben’s house for the duration of the trial. Naturally, the two wind up doing a bit of picking together, to the delight of the viewer. At the end of the show there is actually a little “jam” session with Andy, Joe, and Brownie McGhee.

Coincidentally, Joe Seneca was born Joel McGhee, but apparently changed his name, possibly to avoid confusion with the legendary Brownie. Also of note is that they both passed away in 1996, within 6 months of one another. Brownie passed away in February, and Joe Seneca in August. 

One of the hallmarks of The Andy Griffith Show, and later the Matlock series, is the presence of music in so many of the shows. Andy was a very gifted guitar player and singer whose tastes ran from gospel to folk and even some jazz. And he never lost an opportunity to showcase other musical talents on his show.

The Darlings, who in real life were the Dillard’s, are a perfect example of the tradition Mr. Griffith started on his first show while playing Sheriff Andy Taylor. That group enjoyed several decades of success in real life after the Andy Griffith Show ended its run in the 1960’s.

I was a stranger to the Matlock series until recently, but have found them to be well written and full of surprises. In many of the shows Mr. Griffith manages to feature some of his old buddies from The Andy Griffith Show, and in several episodes even plays the role of his own father in flashbacks.

Joe Seneca was an original member of the group The Three Riffs, and wrote “Talk to Me” in the late 1950’s. The record was performed by Little Willie John. Joe Seneca drifted more and more towards television and film roles in his later years, but always kept up with his music. 

3 comments:

  1. I just finished watching this very episode... love love love Andy Griffith! Also love Joe Seneca...was a great episode...so glad DVRs are here so we can keep our favorites... would hate to still be recording on an old VHS! Now what we need is for Opie/Richie/Ron Howard to write a book, "Andy and Barney Were Lawmen," and life would be complete��

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  2. Great episode which featured Joe Seneca. I have been a fan of Andy Griffith since in was a young girl.

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  3. Big fan of Andy. Enjoy all his shows.

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