Check out these new and used Big Joe Williams vinyl records LPs for sale. Big Joe Williams certainly was a curmudgeon but was also an amazing blues musician and an exceptional guitarist. He was well known as a fighter, and sometimes other musicians chose not to play with him because he was so strict and a control freak. He, along with Charles Musselwhite, kicked off the great Chicago blues revival of the 1960s. Big Joe was very experimental and his guitar playing, and would dangle a pie plate and beer cans on his amp to get it very interesting buzzing, rattling sound. This seems like something that Jack White would be very into today. Big Joe Williams would also use his guitar as a percussion instrument by beating and banging on it. We recommend starting your collection with his exceptional albums Blues on Highway 49 from 1961 and Stavin’ Chain Blues from 1966. Our inventory is often changing, so check back again, or browse our list of vinyl from blues musicians.
Big Joe Williams: The Nine-String Blues Maestro
Big Joe Williams, born Joseph Lee Williams on October 16, 1903, in Crawford, Mississippi, was a larger-than-life figure in the world of blues music. Renowned for his commanding stage presence and unique nine-string guitar, he left an indelible mark on the blues genre. With a career that spanned several decades, Big Joe Williams’ contribution to the blues world and his influence on subsequent generations of musicians cannot be overstated.
Early Life and Musical Beginnings
Joe Williams’ early life was rooted in the deep south of Mississippi, immersed in the rich musical traditions of the region. He learned to play the guitar at an early age and was influenced by the Delta blues sound that surrounded him. His rural upbringing provided the foundation for his distinctive style and musical storytelling.
Nine-String Guitar and Unconventional Tuning
Big Joe Williams is best known for his unconventional nine-string guitar. This unique instrument featured three drone strings, in addition to the standard six, which gave his music a distinctive, resonant sound. He also used a non-standard open tuning, further contributing to his signature style. This combination of the nine-string guitar and unusual tuning created a deep, almost hypnotic quality in his playing.
Career Beginnings and Traveling Musician
Williams began his professional music career in the 1920s, initially as a busker and street performer. He traveled extensively, performing at street corners, juke joints, and any venue that would have him. His itinerant lifestyle exposed him to a wide range of blues styles and allowed him to develop a unique and eclectic approach to the genre.
Chicago and Recordings
In the 1930s, Big Joe Williams made his way to Chicago, where he recorded some of his early work. His 1935 recording “Baby, Please Don’t Go” is one of his most famous and enduring songs. This recording would go on to become a blues standard, covered by numerous artists and leaving an indelible mark on the blues repertoire.
Post-War Revival and Influence
After a period of relative obscurity, Big Joe Williams experienced a revival of his career in the post-World War II blues boom. His raw, stripped-down style resonated with the emerging folk and blues revivalists, and he gained recognition for his traditional approach to the blues. He was seen as an authentic link to the roots of the genre.
Mentoring and Collaboration
Throughout his career, Big Joe Williams mentored and collaborated with younger musicians, passing down his knowledge and contributing to the continuity of the blues tradition. Artists like Muddy Waters and Honeyboy Edwards benefited from his guidance and influence.
Later Career and Recordings
Williams continued to record and perform throughout his life, producing a significant body of work. His music often touched on themes of hardship, love, and social issues. His later career saw him adapting to changing musical trends while maintaining the authenticity and integrity of his blues roots.
Legacy and Passing
Big Joe Williams passed away on December 17, 1982, in Macon, Mississippi, but his legacy lives on. He is remembered as a master of the nine-string guitar, a blues trailblazer, and a storyteller through his music. His influence can be heard in the work of countless blues and folk musicians who were inspired by his unorthodox approach and deep connection to the roots of the genre.
Big Joe Williams’ contribution to the blues world is characterized by his distinctive nine-string guitar, unique open tuning, and raw, emotionally charged performances. His dedication to preserving the authenticity of the blues tradition, while also adapting to changing times, showcases the enduring power and influence of this blues maestro. Big Joe Williams left behind a remarkable body of work that continues to captivate and inspire both musicians and blues enthusiasts around the world.