Joe Sample: One of the Coolest Guys in Music

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 9/16/2014, 8:02 p.m. | Updated on 9/16/2014, 8:02 p.m.
Though he rose to fame some 50 years ago Joe Sample was still one of the coolest guys in music ...

The piano was cool for Joe but what made him the coolest cat was when he tickled on the electric keyboard. He adapted to the instrument before it became widely popular making him a pioneer of electric music in jazz. His skills helped the Crusaders with the crossover into more modernize music for them to make such hits as “Street Life” featuring Randy Crawford and be the first instrumental band to open up for the Rolling Stones tour.

Joe was a constant musician always working and entertaining. Before his death Joe had reunited with the remaining Crusades and started yet another ensemble known as the Creole Joe Band that honed in on his Creole roots. The band played lively Louisiana style Zydeco music. Joe also was working on a collaboration with Jonatha Brooke and Marc Mantell for the musical “Quadroon” that had a reading this summer at The Ensemble Theatre.

Joe had a huge heart for music and even bigger heart for his community. When he moved back to Houston he saw how run down his old stomping grounds had gotten and decided to do something. He held a fundraising concert at Galveston’s Grand 1894 Opera House to benefit his childhood school, Our Mother of Mercy, and other inner city Catholic schools. From that first concert birth the Joe Sample Youth Organization, Inc. and the annual JSYO Henriette Delille Legacy Concert.

Joe once said of JSYO, “ I saw that something needed to be done and decided I couldn’t wait around while others talked.” In the first three years of JSYO, Joe and volunteers were able to raise over $150,000 for schools to replace out dated textbooks, heating system, playground equipment, and library furniture.

Despite two heart attacks and a bout with Epstein-Barr Joe kept trucking. It was music that fueled his soul with the love of his family. Sadly, although he put up a brave fight, Joe would succumb to complications of lung cancer. The music world has a lost a legendary pianist, keyboard player, and composer.

Cherishing Joe’s memory is his wife, Yolanda; son, Nicklas; 3 stepsons; 6 grandchildren; 1 sister; and a host of fans.

Houston Style Magazine extends our deepest sympathy to the Sample family.

A public wake and viewing will be held for Joe on Friday, September 19, 2014 from 6:00-9:00pm at Our Mother of Mercy Church, 4000 Sumpter St., Houston, TX 77020. Joe will be funeralized and laid to rest in a private ceremony. In lieu of flowers, etc., the family asks to make donations to the Joe Sample Youth Organization, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit. Contributions can be made via paypal/credit card using the following link: or via check to the following address: Joe Sample Youth Organization, P.O. Box 590254, Houston, TX 77259.