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The Ongoing Adventures of Little Joe Washington, Houston Blues Legend - Episode 1

by Sonny James

 

When I first heard about Little Joe Washington, it was at a jam at the Blue Iguana in Houston, Texas. Greg "skinny G" Fullman took me over to see Jay Hooks' band play. The drummer in the band was Stevie Ray Wilson, who was also the first drummer in the first band I ever had. Jay Hooks and Marie were rockin' the place out as usual with some of the best Texas blues I've heard. Greg and I got up and did a number or two and then sat down. All of a sudden, a strange little man with a funny hat came into the room and it seemed that everybody knew who he was except me. I asked Skinny G who it was and he said "Little Joe Washington man. Just hold on. You need to hear this".

Ladies and gentleman, that was it. He played that high-speed, low-down, grade-A, third-ward Texas blues. He played it with the top of his head, with his teeth, with his crotch, with his foot, and then when he wasn't using those parts of his body his fingers worked up some licks that were absolutely astonishing. After he got through with his two songs, he immediately started passing his hat. The people were already worked up. They went from a mellow blues feeling to a frantic blues feeling if you know what I mean. They went from happy to delirious! Little Joe has that affect on audiences. Few people I have ever seen can cause the kind of stir that I have seen with Little Joe Washington. He is like a blues terrorist packing lyrical explosives. He just shows up and blows up. Then he's gone.

Skinny G introduced me to him, and I was telling him how great I thought he sounds. He said "Thank you," and he wanted to get a drink . Then Little Joe was ready to go. Greg asked me if I could give Little Joe a ride home, because he had walked to the Blue Iguana. I asked Joe how far he lived, and he said "not too far", so we commenced to leave. Little joe was steady talking about how he needed to get him some favors from a woman if you know what I mean. We drove into third ward, while greg and Little Joe was steady talking, and I was trying to find the house. We drove up to his house on Beulah street, I think it was. It was a two story house with no windows, junk in the front yard and bicycles laying around.

I said to Greg "this is where he lives"? Little Joe said "Thank you" and disappeared off into the darkness of the house. This was my first introduction to the legend of Little Joe Washington.