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Thu, 09.23.1926

Joe Hill Louis, Instrumentalist born

Joe Hill Louis

On this date in 1921, Joe Hill Louis was born. He was a Black musician who played many instruments.

Lester (or Leslie) Hill, as he was named, was from Tennessee. He ran away from home at age 14, living instead with a wealthy Memphis family. A fight with another youth that young Hill won earned him the "Joe Louis" nickname.

Hill was a multi-instrumentalist for whom the harp came first. By the late 1940s, his one-man musical performance 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 recordings were issued on R&B independent labels large and small.  It was on the Phillips label that he cut the blistering Hydramatic Woman and House of Sound in 1953 with Walter Horton on harp, but Phillips never released it.

During the 1950s, he created quite a commotion as a popular one-man blues band around Memphis.  If not for his tragic premature demise due to poor health, his name would surely be more widely revered. Louis was only 35 when he died in Memphis in 1957 of tetanus, contracted when a deep gash on his thumb became infected.

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