One Man Band: Blues of Joe Hill Louis

One Man Band Blues of Joe Hill Louis

During the forties and fifties Memphis developed into a city with one of the best music scenes around the world.  The city where Rock ‘n Roll was born, soul and funk established worldwide sales, and  Beale Street was the musical entertainment center of it all. The city was growing because  the migration from Mississippi to Memphis developed and among the talented musicians that came along I recently came across Joe Hill Louis.

Joe Hill Louis on Beale Street

In Memphis Joe Hill would travel around the circuit of Beale Street clubs, performing in places as Haney’s Big House alongside other Memphis Blues musicians. Haney’s Big House was a wooden club owned by Big Will Haney and the only club that allowed white and black people. It was the place the best bluesman would go to.

Nickname: Be-Bop Boy

He had like many other bluesmen different nicknames my favourite is Be-Bop-Boy. Many musicians recall: Be-Bop Boy was an excellent performer together with Docter Ross he was the best one-man band in town. Imagine: Joe  Hill Louis would sit behind his drum-kit, playing guitar switching over to harmonica and swing the boogie woogie while Big Will Haney’s club goes crazy.

Joe Hill Louis has a great voice that is perfect in line with his music, the guitar the harmonica and a steady primitive beat. Listen to songs like “Chocolate Blonde’ or ‘Goodmorning Little Angel’ and you wonder how the hell he can do that all by himself.

Heavyweight Champion

He had a famous namesake Joe Louis the Heavyweight champion from 1937 till 1949 one of the greatest of all time, 66 wins, 52 by knockout. I wonder if Joe Louis was the reason for be-bop boy’s final stage name Joe Hill Louis.

Joe Hill Louis with Sam Phillips at Sun

Sun Studio Memphis Photo David Jones
Sun Studio Memphis Photo David Jones

When Joe Hill Louis made fame in Memphis with his one-man band another music legend Sam Phillips was spinning record as a DJ. By the time Sam Phillips decided to record records one of the first artist he worked with would be Joe Hill Louis. It was July 1950 when Phillips and Louis recorded songs in Memphis. In first instance Phillips would send the samples to Modern records in LA but later recalled it. In august 1950 ‘boogie in the park’ and ‘Gotta Let You Go’ where released. Unfortunately It didn’t do well and Phillips tried to sell Joe Hill Louis to Modern again.

Joe Hill Louis was a successful musicians at Sun, a hip DJ at WDIA with his show Wheelin’ on Beale but he never seemed to get out of the Ghetto in Memphis it is the blues of a legendary musician. I bet a lot of musical greats from Memphis were inspired by Be-Bop Boy.  Remember Joe Hill Louis as the one man band, performing slow Delta Blues with Fast Boogie.

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