Blues singer and guitarist "Big Joe" Williams was one of music's most respected players; one of its most traveled, too. He started out as a "walking musician", performing on the streets, and in work camps and bars as he rambled from his home in Crawford, Mississippi, to New Orleans and Chicago. Williams recorded dozens of albums before his death in 1982.
A new CD of "Big Joe's" best recordings, including the blues classic "Baby, Please Don't Go." "Big Joe" Williams first recorded "Baby, Please Don't Go" for the Bluebird label in 1935. It became a staple, first in the blues world, and later in rock, with versions by John Lennon, Van Morrison and others.
"Big Joe" Williams was born in 1903, the first of 16 children. Instead of entering his family's farming business, he chose music.
Williams made his own nine-string guitar, which after years of abuse was held together by adhesive tape. His amplifier was attached to an aluminum pie plate with an empty beer can dangling from the power switch.
Williams was a favorite of rural audiences during the Great Depression Era of the 1930s, when he was known as "Poor Joe." His rambling took him to the lumber camps and barrelhouses of the American South. He even toured with the famed Rabbit Foot Minstrels and the Birmingham Jug Band.
"Big Joe" Williams' "Cottage Grove" is one of nine previously-unreleased tracks from his new CD, Absolutely The Best.
Williams recorded for Bluebird Records between 1935 and 1945. Some of his best sessions featured blues greats "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
"Chain Gang Blues" teamed "Big Joe" Williams with guitarist Lightnin' Hopkins and famed blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. The recording was made during a so-called blues "supersession" in 1960.
The blues revival of the 1960s kept "Big Joe" Williams busy. In addition to his many studio dates, he performed in clubs and festivals around the world. College students were some of his biggest fans. "Big Joe" Williams returned to his home in Crawford, Mississippi, where he died in 1982, at age 79.