Joe Pass (born Joseph Anthony Passalaqua) January 13, 1929 – May 23, 1994) was a jazz guitarist. His extensive use of walking basslines, melodic counterpoint during improvisation, and use of a chord-melody style of play opened up new possibilities for jazz guitar and had a profound influence on future guitarists.
Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Joe Pass, the son of Mariano Passalacqua, a Sicilian-born steel mill worker, was raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Born into a non-musical family, Pass started to play the guitar after being inspired by actor Gene Autry's portrayal of a guitar playing cowboy. He received his first guitar, a Harmony model bought for $17, on his 9th birthday. Pass' father recognized early that his son had "a little something happening" and pushed him constantly to pick up tunes by ear, play pieces not written specifically for the instrument, practice scales and not to "leave any spaces" - that is, to fill in the sonic space between the notes of the melody.
As early as 14, Pass started getting gigs and was playing with bands fronted by Tony Pastor and Charlie Barnet, honing his guitar skills and learning the music business. He began traveling with small jazz groups and eventually moved from Pennsylvania to New York City. In a few years, he fell victim to drug abuse, and spent much of the 1950s in relative obscurity. Pass managed to emerge from it through a two-and-a-half-year stay at Synanon, drug rehabilitation program. During that time he played guitar non stop and further honed his skills. In 1962 he recorded The Sounds of Synanon.