Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Joe Hill Louis - The One Man Band
One of the greatest, though most obscure Sun records acts, Joe Hill Louis, the Be-Bop Boy was one of the One Man Band giants! Unlike some of the more refined, ambidextrous One Man band Blues artists, Louis was a raw, wild performer who didn't display particular expertise on the drums, guitar or harmonica, but displayed an amazing talent to make the wild mess of his simultaneous playing hold together just enough to get through the song. He is much more of a father of raucous contemporary acts like Bob Log III and King Louie than the more contained Dr. Ross or Jesse Fuller. Leslie Hill was born in Raines, TN in 1921. As a youth of 14 he left home to hobo around, busking with harmonica and Jew's harp before settling with a well-heeled Memphis family. A spirited kid, his brawling earned him the"Joe Louis" nickname. From his busking street serenades he developed his One Man Band act, and renamed himself "Joe Hill Louis The Be-Bop Boy And His One Man Band." By the late '40s, he was a popular attraction in Handy Park and he got his own 15 minute radio show on WDIA, the ground breaking Memphis radio station where he was billed as The Pepticon Boy. He also cut some sides for Columbia in 1949. In 1950 Louis was signed by Sun records founder Sam Phillips, when his label was still called Phillips. He recorded with him until Sam sold Louis' contract to RPM-Modern, where he remained through '53, recording raw, primitive Blues and boogie records. He had cups of coffee with Checker, Meteor, Big Town and House of Sound. He returned to Sun where he recorded as solo artist and session man, and at his best he recorded blistering, ugly music as wild as the best Sun hits. Louis was only 35 when he tragically died of tetanus, contracted when a deep gash on his thumb became infected in 1957.