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Joe Hill Louis

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Biography

Joe Hill Louis created quite a racket as a popular one-man blues band around Memphis during the 1950s. If not for his tragic premature demise, his name would surely be more widely revered. Lester (or Leslie) Hill ran away from home at age 14, living instead with a well-heeled Memphis family. A fight with another youth that was won by young Hill earned him the "Joe Louis" appellation. Harp came first for the multi-instrumentalist; by the late '40s, his one-man musical attack was a popular attraction in Handy Park and on WDIA, the groundbreaking Memphis radio station where he hosted a 15-minute program billed as The Pepticon Boy.

Also known as the Be-Bop Boy, Louis made his recording debut in 1949 for Columbia, but the remainder of his output was issued on R&B indies large and small — Phillips (Sam Phillips's first extremely short-lived logo), Modern, Sun, Checker, Meteor, Big Town (where he cut the blistering "Hydramatic Woman," a tune he'd cut previously for Sun in 1953 with Walter Horton on harp, but Phillips never released it), and House of Sound. Louis was only 35 when he died of tetanus, contracted when a deep gash on his thumb became infected.

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Birth Name:

Lester Hill

Born:

23 September 1921 in Raines, TN

Genre
Years Active:

'40s, '50s

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