Tenor sax star Joe Marillo was instrumental to many in the baby-boom generation of San Diego jazz fans. Originally from Niagara Falls, New York, Marillo's career began playing R&B on the East Coast, serving for a time with the house band at the Apollo Theatre. He can be seen in the 1956 Alan Freed movie Rock Rock Rock! performing the title track.
After spending ten years in Las Vegas playing in show bands and small jazz groups, Marillo moved to San Diego in 1974, and found the local scene threadbare. Marillo didn’t just bitch about the lack of opportunity; he virtually kick-started the scene by himself. The horn player started booking national jazz stars at the Catamaran Hotel, often performing with them as well.
He got jazz started at places like Chuck’s Steak House in La Jolla, and helped keep it going at the Crossroads on Market Street. Frequent bandmates in the 1970s included Butch Lacy on piano, John Leftwich on bass, and Jim Plank on drums. In 1978, Marillo released “Lady Caroline,” which became a local favorite, with a band that included pianist Rob Schneiderman. He also played piano and flute, appearing around town with his Joe Marillo Quartet.
He passed away in March 2016, at the age of 83.