You might know Joe Ferrara from his cameo in The Lost Boys, or as the Yoda figure at Atlantis Fantasyworld who knows everything about superheroes. Or maybe you know him as that guy at Shadowbrook who serenades you with Sinatra classics. The silver-haired celebrity began playing guitar at an early age, and has developed a loyal following in Santa Cruz in the last few decades. “My parents are Italian and they were pushing me towards accordion,” he recalls of his childhood. “There was a waiting list for lessons, and one day my mother said, ‘You were accepted for accordion lessons,’ and I said, ‘Ma, I want to play guitar.’”
After attending college in Santa Clara, Ferrara bounced around coffee shops in Los Angeles with his guitar in tow. But his perspective on music changed when he saw Joni Mitchell perform. “That’s when I realized that singing and playing was more than just doing your own version of something; it’s about communicating something greater than yourself,” he says. This Sunday at Kuumbwa Jazz, Ferrara will do just that at the fourth annual Songfest for Prostate Cancer Awareness, a benefit concert featuring The Breeze Babes, Constellation, The Barcellos and guitarist Steve Kritzer. A cancer survivor himself, Ferrara and members of his support group (true superheroes) have worked to open up conversation about men’s health. To get the attention of the local community in 2008, Ferrara performed 185 different songs, without sheet music, in 12 hours at Shadowbrook. “My idea was to do something splashy—a marathon—and set a world record by playing and singing nonstop and never repeating a song,” he explains. “I could do it again and sing a different 185 songs.” But instead, this year’s event will feature several acts performing on behalf of the cause. “I envisioned a hootenanny,” he says, “where different types of music joined together for a show.”
INFO: 5-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. No cover. All ages welcome.