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W.J. "Joe" Bethancourt III

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Bethancourt, W. J. "Joe" III
bid farewell to the mortal side of this realm on August 28th, 2014. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, his children, grandchildren, sister and extended family plus scores of fans who followed him for years as a musician, known locally and internationally. Joe was a man of immense talent, having mastered over 65 stringed instruments, ranging from the traditional banjo and guitar to historic Appalachian mouth bow, to the historical Celtic Harp and Cittern. He was masterful at playing numerous musical styles including Blue Grass, Folk, Celtic, Middle-eastern, Filk, Medieval, Baroque and traditional Western. In 2013 after a lifetime of achievement, Joe was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. He had been a musician in the Phoenix area since the coffee house days of the 1960's (learning banjo at age 9) and was talented enough to play with musicians like John Denver, Carol King, Jimi Hendrix, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Dillards, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs and the Moody Blues to name just a few. Popular country music singer Lynn Anderson called him a genius in the 2007 issue of "Western Way" magazine and his recordings are now on file at the University of East Tennessee's Appalachian Archives Folklore collection. Joe was active in the local music scene, having played at Funny Fellows Restaurant for more than 15 years. He was a regular guest of the iconic Wallace and Ladmo Show and an Artist in Residence for the Arizona Commission on the Arts where he taught and entertained countless Arizona children through that program. In addition to being an extraordinary musician, he actively participated in historical reenactment groups, including the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers and the Single Action Shooter Society. He was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Arizona (SCA) Of his personality, one thing can be sure; there were many sides to Joe. Often zany, sometimes serious, but never anything short of purely entertaining. He could bring an ear to ear smile to your face with a ridiculously short song about a murdered frog, gales of laughter with songs like "Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Sweaty" or bring mistiness to our eyes with a tender ballad sung sweetly to the gentle background of his Celtic harp. The softer, more serious side became beautifully clear when he sang "The Rose" or a dedication to "The Redhead". To his grandchildren, he has been "Papa", a teller of stories and someone who always made them laugh. To his family and closest friends, he will always just simply be Joe. To his longstanding and loyal fans, he will be the iconic minstrel extraordinaire. To all of us, he will always be a legend in his own time and one that will live on through his music for many years to come. A private memorial service will be held for immediate family. In lieu of flowers, to commemorate his love of Greyhounds, please make donations through Paypal @ or to GPA-AZ; PO Box 2365; Glendale, AZ 85311-2365.

Published in The Arizona Republic on Sept. 3, 2014
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