Joe Houston

Joe Houston, a honking R&B saxman of wallpaper-peeling potency, recorded for virtually every major independent R&B label in Los Angeles during the 1950s. When the jump blues tradition faded, he segued right into rock & roll, even cutting budget Twist and surf albums for Crown that didn't sound very different from what he was doing a decade before. Houston played around Houston, Texas with the bands of Amos Milburn and Joe Turner during the late '40s. It was Turner who got the young saxist his first deal with Freedom Records in 1949. Houston found his way to the West Coast in 1952 and commenced recording for labels big and small: Modern, RPM, Lucky, Imperial, Dootone, Recorded in Hollywood, Cash, and Money (as well as the considerably better-financed Mercury, where he scored his only national R&B hit, "Worry, Worry, Worry," in 1952). Houston's formula was simple and savagely direct -- he'd honk and wail as hard as he could, from any conceivable position: on his knees, lying on his back, walking the bar, etc. His output for the Bihari Brothers' Crown label (where he was billed as "Wild Man of the Tenor Sax") is positively exhilarating: "All Nite Long," "Blow Joe Blow," and "Joe's Gone" are herculean examples of single-minded sax blasting. Joe Houston remained active musically into the 2000s, emphasizing his blues vocal talent more than previously, until suffering a stroke in 2005. He re-emerged and began playing again for a period of time thereafter, but then retreated from the public and to the company of family and friends. ~ Bill Dahl

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