Josefus was one of the first American bands to bridge late-'60s hard rock with early-'70s heavy metal. Their two albums, both released in 1970, were extremely influenced by early Led Zeppelin, and to a lesser degree other heavy British and American rock groups from the end of the '60s. Blues-rock formed much of the base; Pete Bailey's high tortured vocals owed much to the Robert Plant school, and the songs were built around crunching riffs. But the songs and riffs, mostly in a downbeat foreboding posture, weren't all that good. If Josefus was a pioneer, it was in the sense that the band was one of the first models for the blunt sound of Texas hard rock and heavy metal, to be expounded upon with much greater success by the likes of ZZ Top.
Josefus' lead guitarist, Dave Mitchell, and bassist, Ray Turner, had played together in the high-school band Rip West (a couple of Rip West tracks appear on the three-CD Josefus box, Dead Box). Mitchell, Turner, and drummer Doug Tull later played together in a pre-Josefus band whose demo, "I Love You," can also be heard on Dead Box. Mitchell, Turner, and Tull changed their name to Josefus when singer Pete Bailey joined. Although Phillip White was in the first Josefus lineup as a second lead guitarist (and is heard on three early live tracks on Dead Box), he dropped out in late 1969.
Shortly afterward, in December 1969, Josefus recorded an album's worth of material in Phoenix. The producer, Jim Musil, wanted the band to change its name to Come before the album came out, against the group's wishes, although the band did perform as Come for a few weeks. A single,"Crazy Man"/"Country Boy," from those sessions was released on the Dandelion label. But the album remained unissued, though it came out many years later under the name Get Off My Case. Frustrated by its non-appearance, the bandmembers went back to the same studio to record Dead Man, which combined re-recordings of songs they'd done in the December 1969 sessions with new material. Dead Man was recorded in one day in March 1970, and issued in a pressing of 3,000 on the band's own Hookah label for distribution in Texas.
Josefus was a popular concert act throughout Texas in 1970, and recorded a second, self-titled album for Mainstream in Miami that came out later that year. This second album was a little less derivative of Led Zeppelin, and a little more wide-ranging in style, than the debut had been. The bandmembers were disappointed in it, though, and gave their final concert in December of 1970 at a Houston auto show. Josefus did reunite in the late '70s for some shows and recordings, putting out two singles on the Hookah label. These too appear on the three-CD Dead Man box, which combines the Dead Man and Josefus albums with a CD of live and studio rarities. ~ Richie Unterberger