Latin guitar great Jose Feliciano returns to Australia in March 2018. AM’s Greg Phillips was honoured to chat with the amiable singer, songwriter and 9 time Grammy Award winning legend.

“I’m so happy to be coming back. Australia has been developing so much in front of my eyes,” the jovial, blind latin guitar legend tells me. Jose Feliciano has toured Australia many times, his first memory is a gig at the Silver Spade room of Melbourne’s Chevron hotel following Welsh vocal great Tom Jones. Feliciano also has great affection for many of Australia’s recording artists and has on occasion called on them for inspiration. “I enjoy being in the studio and expanding my ideas,” he says. “I like using some of the influences in the studio for example one of my favourite bands from Australia was Little River Band. I like their music and The Bee Gees of course … Savage Garden, liked their music and I also like Men At Work.”

Jose has made a career out of reinterpreting other artist’s songs, two of his biggest hits being The Doors’ Light My Fire and The Mamas And The Papas’ California Dreamin’. He also enjoys performing with other musicians on stage. Jose tells me that he has great admiration for Australia’s greatest finger picker too. “I love Tommy Emmanuel. I think he is a great guitarist and we are very good friends. We’ve played together before and maybe I’ll run into him again when I’m down there!”

Inspiration comes to Jose in many forms but initially it was from early soul and folk heroes. “I was inspired by Ray Charles piano playing and also I liked the folk musicians like Peter Paul and Mary, the Weavers, Pete Seger … Earl Scruggs too, he played a great banjo. I’ve had a lot of influences. It’s very important to be open to many influences because it will keep you in touch with the public forever.”

Jose Feliciano began his recording career in the early 60’s. He was signed to RCA records after an executive had witnessed him performing around the Greenwich Village music scene, also frequented at the time by folk legends like Dylan and Joan Baez. It was a rare honour for a latin musician to be signed to the mainstream label at the time, however Jose was oblivious to the fact that he had begun to pave the way for so many other latin musicians. “I never gave it a thought, ” the humble Feliciano said of his influence on the latin music community. “I just happened to be an artist who happened to be latin, so I didn’t pay attention to it in that regard.”

Once his 1967 single Light My Fire took off, the offers came thick and fast and Jose found himself performing with iconic artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Did one superstar impress Jose more than the other? “I think they are all great in their own individual way,” said Jose in his usual diplomatic manner. “Bob Dylan with his poetry … Elvis was a pioneer of rock n roll. He was the first totally white artist who was doing blues and gospel.”

Jose’s journey to the guitar began via the ukulele, which he started playing as an 8 year old. A guitar came into his possession a year or so later. The nylon string guitar in particular has remained his signature instrument. “Well for one thing the nylon strings last longer than steel and I like their sound,” he says of his preferred style of guitar. “The sound is a lot more tender It doesn’t mean I don’t like steel string guitars, I like those too. I like guitars you know. I play electric and I enjoy that as well but mainly it’s the nylon strings. I am travelling with two guitars right now. I only brought two because travel is very tough these days. At home I have a few that I can select from and I take them from time to time to give the ones that have been on the road a rest.”

Recently Jose released a series of 5 albums to coincide with his 50th anniversary in the music business. One of those is Happy Birthday Les, a tribute to Les Paul, recorded live at the Iridium in New York with Les Paul’s trio. Another is Djangoizing, a tribute to Jose’s childhood hero Django Reinhardt. A third album is called My Latin Street, a consummate anthology of his musical roots, featuring much of what’s defined Feliciano as an artist for so many years. There’s also Feliz Navidad, an update on his original Christmas album and rounding out the series is Mozart’s Castrato Arias. Jose promises that at least some, if not all of these albums will be available to purchase at his upcoming Australian shows.

For an artist who has received so many awards from all over the world, it’s not surprising to know which accolade he appreciates the most. “I would have to say the award the public has given me by still wanting me out there, where I am still performing… still travelling. That’s my best award,” he says. As for unfulfilled ambitions?
“I’d like to visit China some day but really I’m so happy to be coming to Australia next year. Some of the best red wines come from Australia. My favourite beer is Coopers Ale from Adelaide.”

Special Guest WENDY MATTHEWS will be featured on the same bill alongside JOSE FELICIANO’s SYDNEY, MELBOURNE and GOLD COAST Concerts. 

Wednesday 7th March, 2018 – SOUTHERN CROSS CLUB, CANBERRA – Bookings: (02) 6283 7200
Friday 9th March, 2018 – STATE THEATRE, SYDNEY with Special Guest WENDY MATTHEWS – Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 139 588
Saturday 10th March, 2018 – PALAIS THEATRE, MELBOURNE with Special Guest WENDY MATTHEWS – Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 139 588
Wednesday 14th March, 2018 – REGAL THEATRE, PERTH – Bookings: (08) 9388 2066 or Ticketek 132 849
Friday 16th March, 2018 – THE GOV, ADELAIDE – Bookings: 1300 762 545 or
Saturday 17th March, 2018 – THE STAR, GOLD COAST with Special Guest WENDY MATTHEWS – Bookings: Ticketek