Rumour has it that variety is the spice of life. And if like Jo, you have the fortune, or misfortune - depending how you look at it - of being born into a family of successful Variety performers, a spicy life has got to be on the cards. Some would even go so far as to say it's practically ordained!
Nobody could be surprised, therefore, that given his upbringing in such a theatrical and musical family, Jo's first foray into showbusiness came at the tender age of five, when he and his cousin, David (now a successful actor in London's West End) were wheeled out at parties to sit on the grand piano and sing showtunes for the guests.
The cousins lived on separate floors in the same large house in West Byfleet, with their fathers - The Burt Twins - identical twin brothers who worked the Variety and Radio circuit as an exceptional piano playing duo. Both twins had married dancers and the families toured together extensively. With the arrival of television, the brothers and other members of the family were seconded to the new medium, and the stage, so to speak, was set.
With such an extraordinary and talented family, it was inevitable that Jo would embrace showbusiness - just how it would manifest itself became clear in 1961, the day a 7 year old Jo can be seen sitting in the front row watching his aunt Pip co-present the popular children's TV programme 'Crackerjack' with Lesley Crowther. (Both images courtesy of BBC archives). That was the day he first saw Adam Faith and The Roulettes perform live - and Jo's Rock 'n' Roll bug was born.
Not surprisingly with a professional pianist for a father, Jo was already learning to play the piano, and so for a year or two a tennis racket in front of the mirror sufficed in place of a real guitar. However, the bug continued to grow and at the age of 12 Jo received his first guitar as a much anticipated Christmas present.
Incredibly enough, Jo is entirely self-taught. Painstakingly practising playing along to his favourite tunes, he methodically, yet instinctively taught himself to play rhythm guitar - and ultimately the bass. Taking his inspiration from artists such as McCartney and Entwhistle, Jo began the development of his unique style. Singing bass players back then, as now, were in demand, yet the fact that Jo could sing in perfect harmony as naturally as breathing still hadn't registered as significant for him.
From the moment he got his hands on his first guitar, Jo worked hard, teaching himself classical and rock styles before forming a school band with his friends at the age of 13. 'Mint' played at all the school concerts and due to an outrageous stroke of luck - the band played their first paid gig as the support to an established club circuit band soon afterwards. All the band members were just 14 years old. Countless youth club performances and college gigs followed but when the band members were offered places at different and distant universities - inevitably, they called it a day.
If he hadn't realised it before, by the time Jo arrived at Bristol University it was blindingly obvious that he had a vocation. On walking into the local music store one day, where he was already a familiar fixture, Jo stumbled on a conversation between the proprietor and a guitar player from an established semi-pro band. The band were seeking a singing bass player - which, for someone who just wanted to play, was impossible to resist. Jo switched instruments without batting an eyelid.
'Swealter' were one of the primary local bands, but still they only played about once a month - not nearly enough for Jo. Already making waves as a natural and talented bass player, Jo's growing reputation led him to be approached to join a 'jobbing' covers band, gigging regularly in and around Bristol City. Lucky enough to be the recipient of a full student grant - all of £15 per week - Jo was now earning a regular weekly wage of £75. Nice!
By now well ensconced in the vibrant music scene in Bristol, sessions and gigs were plentiful. Already in demand due to his ability not only to play outstandingly, but also to sing - it wasn't long before Jo was invited to audition for The Dragons. In the enviable position of already having serious record company interest, The Dragons could cherry pick from the best. Jo's audition was short and sweet and resulted in him joining the band and subsequently securing his first record deal.
As if that wasn't enough, the work was coming in thick and fast, not least bass guitar sessions for Andy Roberts (of Scaffold / Grimms / Floyd fame) and an album session for a band called 'Kind Hearts and English' which has since seemed to vanish into space.
At this point, life consisted of countless trips to London playing the live music circuit - on one occasion opening for Tom Robinson's Cafe Society at the legendary Nashville Rooms. Signed to DJM Records, The Dragons dutifully recorded the tracks for an album which the record company never released. In the classic, age old story - once the band had signed on the dotted line, the label tried to mould them. Naturally, it didn't work and eventually DJM gave up and dropped the band like a hot rock. Frustratingly, due to Jo's debut published songwriting credit on the B-side of the single, it would take a further 18 months before he was released from a ball and chain publishing deal. (Anyone who kept up with the Elton John / DJM debacle will know how lucky Jo was to have escaped at all!). The album tracks recorded by The Dragons have remained on the shelf until recently, when Jo apparently got his sticky mitts on them - so who knows - anything could happen!
Jo's love affair with Bristol had to end with an inevitable move to London. Three days in, Jo had all his equipment stolen from his bedsit - including his beloved Rickenbacker bass - and was ready to run back to Bristol when a call from fellow Bristolian, Graham Smith, offered him a bass guitar - and a gig - with his band, Daphne & The Tenderspots. Ex-Dragon, Alan Wilder joined within months and Jo remained in the band for about a year.
One life-changing phone call later, things really took off in 1977 when Jo received an invitation to play bass guitar for the legendary Troggs on their first trip to the USA in ten years. The gigs were attended by everyone who was anyone - and Jo was thrown in the deep end with no rehearsal with the band. Arriving at Reg Presley's house on the afternoon of the first gig, Jo was told words to the effect of "you'll be fine - just don't follow Ronnie!" (raucous laughter!) In the first week, they recorded a live album at Max's New York, a studio single with Chris Spedding on guitar, and Jo picked up a co-write credit on the B-side ... and was approached by Tom Robinson to join the TRB. The association with Reg and Ronny lasted a further eighteen months before Jo left to team up with Tom.
In 1979, Jo joined Tom Robinson to write for the Sector 27 album, produced by Steve Lillywhilte. Touring soon became a two year game of Trans-Atlantic ping pong between the North American continent and Europe. The album picked up a four star review in Rolling Stone magazine while the band played Madison Square Gardens, opening for The Police on their first stadium shows in America. The album was re-released in 1996.
A second album titled 'North By Northwest', again co-written, was released in 1983. By this time, Tom had left the band and the album was released under his name. The album was re-released in the summer of 1997. Jo and Stevie B kept the Sector 27 flag flying under new management until their final gig at Wembley Stadium in the summer of 1984.
While Jo's writing and performance projects continued under the managment of John Reid, he also embarked on session work with Freddie Mercury, Melanie, and the Bryan Adams band amongst others, and vocals for Nona Hendrix. Further tours included Brian Setzer, Elton John, Bob Geldof, Kim Wilde and Black Sabbath.
With the birth of his first son in 1990, and the second in 1994, Jo chose to take a step back from touring to concentrate on being a hands-on father - a role that he thrives on to this day.
In 1995 to 2000, Jo found himself back in the Tom Robinson Band with writing credits on the 1996 album 'Having It Both Ways' and a new world-wide publishing association with LEOSONG under the guidance of Brian Justice. 'Home From Home' a live album recorded in Tokyo and Osaka in 1996 and released in Japan that same year, was released in the UK in January 2000.
In 1998, in the midst of a concentrated songwriting period - lasting six years in all - Jo was approached to co-write and record a movie soundtrack for a Channel 4 short film entitled 'Shit Happens'. This period threw up a number of collaborations - with diverse results - by far the most significant for Jo himself being the moment he figured out where he wanted to take himself and his music next.
Still, family remained his priority and it wasn't until Jo felt absolutely confident that his boys were grounded enough that he even considered accepting any offers that came his way.
Things changed in 2005 when Jo was approached to tour Sweden with The Sweet. With his family well and truly thriving - Jo accepted the offer. The tour was a great success but it confirmed in Jo's mind that what he really wanted to do was his own thing.
In 2006, Jo was approached to play a regular gig at renowned Jazz live music venue, The Bull's Head, in Barnes. Embracing Jo's developing style - mixing rock & spaced-out folk-esque tunes - The Bull broke from their 25 year tradition to entice Jo with free reign over the musical direction - and so The Jo Burt Experience was born. As a result, Jo was finally given the opportunity to expose his own songs in his own style. Bravely and openly developing his music in public was, in Jo's own words 'a cathartic experience' for him, culminating in the release of his first solo album 'Seven Seeds' in 2009, with a re-issue in 2012. The album contains a number of 'works in progress' as well as completed tracks - something which Jo acknowledges was a tough decision - but one he needed to make in order to move forward with his music.
In recent years, The Jo Burt Experience have become an outstanding live act playing festivals and venues around the UK, Europe and North America. 2012 saw Jo take his unique 'Anglicana' (a term he coined himself) sound to Canada for the first time on a hugely successful tour of British Columbia. 2013 saw two return tours to Canada, with further visits planned in the future.
Having recorded his second album 'Indestructible' (released in 2014) at Kore Studios in London under the expert guidance of iconic Producer, Chris Kimsey (Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton), Jo released his brand new album 'Spontaneous' in June 2017 with a very special launch event at The Cinema Museum in London.
He also secured a worldwide distribution deal with Cadiz Records. With lockdown interrupting work on album number four, and a full schedule of tour dates for 2020, Burt, like so many other artists, was forced to put everything on hold. During this enforced isolation he began work on his autobiography and when restrictions were relaxed was able to complete recording and production on his brand new album 'Anglicana' currently available on pre-release, with a full worldwide digital release due in December 2023.
Jo's writing style is based on his background of rock, with a southern-style influence and a very English Beatles-esque twist. He is an hypnotic performer, drawing in his listeners with tales from his recording and touring past, and telling gripping and intriguing stories through his songs themselves. His warm and enthusiastic approach never fails to endear him to his audience and the connection and friendship with his band is equally apparent as they clearly thrive on performing Jo's music. It shows - together with his band, Jo continues to electrify his audience with the mixture of honesty, intensity and humour that he brings to each performance. And he's not done yet ... !