Jo Monk Obituary – When Jo Monk took his place behind the drum kit during jam nights, he possessed an innate understanding of the songs the other musicians were about to play. His friend Bob Davis reminisced, “If he was playing with someone new, they’d ask him, ‘Hey, do you know this particular song?’ Jo’s response would always be, ‘Just play it.'” He never needed to inquire further. Regardless of the song, he would flawlessly perform it. Monk, originally named Michael Wayne Caesar, tragically passed away on Wednesday afternoon at the age of 69. He was widely regarded as one of Baton Rouge’s most exceptional and cherished drummers. A constant fixture at jam nights throughout the city, he was known for his raspy voice, warm smile, and above all, his extraordinary talent.
Born on Christmas Day in 1954 in Plaquemine, it is likely that he began playing the drums during his time at Iberville High School, where he accompanied his sister, who played the clarinet. During the 1980s, Monk was a member of LA. Connection, is an eight-piece funk group that caught the attention of Larry Blackmon from Cameo (a band that, interestingly, shared similarities with LA. Connection). LA. Connection embarked on tours across the United States and even internationally, reportedly performing as far as Japan. However, their self-titled debut in 1982 failed to leave a lasting impact. Throughout the years, Monk collaborated with numerous local musicians, including renowned figures such as Henry Gray, Tabby Thomas, and various members of the Neal family. On a national scale, he worked with soul stars Joe Simon and Teddy Pendergrass. In 2022, Monk, alongside several other longstanding members of the Baton Rouge music community, received a Pioneer Award at the Slim Harpo Music Awards ceremony.
“Initially, I had planned to host a jam session featuring another Baton Rouge artist named Jackie Neal, but unfortunately, she passed away the week before we were scheduled to begin,” recalled Henderson. “I tried reaching out to several other individuals, but it didn’t work out. Jo approached me and expressed his willingness to take on the role. Despite lacking experience in promotion or similar endeavors, he wanted the opportunity to prove himself. So, I entrusted him with the task.” Although the attendance at the jam nights was not always overwhelming, the musical atmosphere was always vibrant and filled with passion.