Today: The late Big Joe Williams was born in 1903, 110 years ago

big joe williams

Baby, please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Baby, please don’t go
Down to New Orleans
You know I love you so
Baby, please don’t go

“The way I think about the blues, comes from what I learned from Big Joe Williams.”
~Bob Dylan (“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” Liner Notes)

From Wikipedia

Birth name Joseph Lee Williams
Born October 16, 1903
Crawford, Mississippi, United States
Died December 17, 1982 (aged 79)
Macon, Mississippi, United States
Genres Delta blues
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Labels Bluebird, Delmark, Okeh, Prestige, Vocalion Records

Joseph Lee Williams (October 16, 1903 – December 17, 1982), billed throughout his career as Big Joe Williams, was an American Delta blues guitarist, singer and songwriter,  notable for the distinctive sound of his nine-string guitar. Performing over four decades, he recorded such songs as “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Crawlin’ King Snake” and “Peach Orchard Mama” for a variety of record labels, including Bluebird, Delmark, Okeh, Prestige and Vocalion. Williams was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame on October 4, 1992.

Blues historian Barry Lee Pearson (Sounds Good to Me: The Bluesman’s StoryVirginia Piedmont Blues) attempted to document the gritty intensity of the Williams persona in this description:

“When I saw him playing at Mike Bloomfield’s “blues night” at the Fickle Pickle, Williams was playing an electric nine-string guitar through a small ramshackle amp with a pie plate nailed to it and a beer can dangling against that. When he played, everything rattled but Big Joe himself. The total effect of this incredible apparatus produced the most buzzing, sizzling, African-sounding music I have ever heard”.


Big Joe Williams may have been the most cantankerous human being who ever walked the earth with guitar in hand. At the same time, he was an incredible blues musician: a gifted songwriter, a powerhouse vocalist, and an exceptionally idiosyncratic guitarist. Despite his deserved reputation as a fighter (documented in Michael Bloomfield’s bizarre booklet Me and Big Joe), artists who knew him well treated him as a respected elder statesman. Even so, they may not have chosen to play with him, because — as with other older Delta artists — if you played with him you played by his rules.
~Barry Lee Pearson (

big joe williams

Here are 2 great videos from youtube with BJW playing live:

Album of the day – The Very Best Of Big Joe Williams

the very best big joe williams


Other October 16

  • Arthur “Art” Blakey (October 11, 1919 – October 16, 1990), known later as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, was an American Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer and bandleader.
    Check out our earlier post here
  • The Cannonball Adderley Quintet at the Lighthouse is a live album by jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley released on the Riverside label featuring a performance by Adderley with Nat Adderley, Victor Feldman, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow awarded the album 4 stars and states “a fine all-around set from the Cannonball Adderley Quintet… finds his band in top form… It’s a strong introduction to the music of this classic hard bop group”.adderley-cannonball-quintet-10-l
    Released 1960
    Recorded October 16, 1960
    Genre Jazz
    Length 52:30
    Label Riverside
    Producer Orrin Keepnews

  • Leonard Chess (March 12, 1917 – October 16, 1969) was a record company executive and the founder of Chess Records. He was influential in the development of electric blues.