A GREENOCK musician who played with Van Morrison during the swinging 60s is still playing and performing seven decades on.

Greenock Telegraph: Joe Baldi

Joe Baldi, one of the only remaining founding members of Inverclyde's much-loved Capitol Big Band, still plays with them every week at the Loreto Club.

His lifelong passion for big band music first started while listening to the radio as a child.

Growing up in Greenock's east end, Joe could be found behind the counter of his family's fish and chip shop.

Greenock Telegraph: Joe BaldiGreenock Telegraph: Joe Baldi

After getting his first drum kit aged 15, his life went in a whole new direction.

Now aged 80, the former owner of the legendary Ad Lib music shop in Jamaica Street is determined to keep big band music alive in Inverclyde.

Greenock Telegraph: Joe BaldiGreenock Telegraph: Joe Baldi

Joe, who lives in Bawhirley Road, said: "There was no tradition of music in my family, so I don't know where it came from. I just always loved listening to jazz music and I wanted to play. I first started learning the drums when I was 15.

"I love going every Tuesday to the Loreto and playing. I've been in the band for 50 years, I just love the camaraderie among the members.

In the 1960s Joe, like many teens at the time, decided to move to London aged 17 to experience the cultural revolution for himself.

He said: "It was a very exciting time in London with The Beatles. I even played guitar with Van Morrison for nine months. The 60s were happening in London and it was a great experience."

But when his dad Amadeo took ill and passed away Joe came home in 1966 to help his mum and brother Aldo run the family fish and chip shop.

It was at that time he met his soulmate of 54 years, Margaret. They married in 1969 and went on to bring up their three daughters Angela, Emma and Serena.

Greenock Telegraph: Joe Baldi

Growing up in Greenock's east end a young Joe would be found behind the counter of his mother Maddalena and father Amadeo's popular chippy.

The couple from Italy had moved to Greenock in 1924 and set up home and a business in Belville Street, becoming part of the town's closely-knit Italian community.

When war broke out in 1939 Joe's dad was sent along with many Italians living in Britain at the time to a prisoner of war camp on the Isle of Man.

During that spell their shop was bombed to the ground, during the Blitz in May 1941.

After his release the family moved back to their home country, where Joe was born in 1945.

But the family decided to return to Greenock and the council found them new premises in Glenbrae as Inverclyde began to rebuild after the war years.

Greenock Telegraph: Joe BaldiGreenock Telegraph: Joe Baldi

His family, along with others in the Italian community, played a prominent part in life in Greenock, helping bring the town back to life in the years that followed with their businesses and social clubs.

Joe set up the Capitol Big Band in 1976 in the Hastie Club with original members including trumpeter Roy Whiteford, whose daughter Heather still sings in the band.

Down the years they have played at many venues, as the likes of the Cragburn Hall and Palladium made way for The Dockers Club, the Greenock Rangers' Supporters' Club and the Port Glasgow Town Hall.

Away from his music Joe ran restaurants, firstly The Kopper Kettle in Clyde Square with his brother Aldo, during a successful business partnership that would last until his older brother's death in 2001.

As a young man bringing up his family Joe had decided that the late nights working in the fish and chip shop weren't for him.

He said: "I wanted a different life for my family. In the restaurant business you start in the morning and don't get home until midnight or 1am."

The brothers then opened AdLib, firstly in Roxburgh Street, and then Jamaica Street, and Joe looked after them while his brother continued with the traditional Italian cafe restaurants.

The shop helped keep the music scene alive in Greenock and Joe was sad when it finally closed down in 2018.

To this day Joe and his wife Margaret still live in the family home in Bawhirley Road.

Since stepping away from work in 2017 Joe has continued with his music through the big band, while also looking after his grandchildren.

He said: "When we play every week in the Loreto it is just brilliant to be together. The musicians come from all over the west of Scotland to play here."