Cousin Joe- New York And New Orleans Blues, 1945-1951
"Few blues legends have the presence of mind to write autobiographies. Fortunately, Pleasant Joseph did, spinning fascinating tales of a career in his 1987 tome Cousin Joe: Blues from New Orleans that spanned more than half a century.
Growing up in New Orleans, Pleasant began singing in church before crossing over to the blues. Guitar and ukulele were his first axes. He eventually prioritized the piano instead, playing Crescent City clubs and riverboats. He moved to New York in 1942, gaining entry into the city's thriving jazz scene (where he played with Dizzy Gillespie, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and a host of other luminaries).
He recorded for King, Gotham, Philo (in 1945), Savoy, and Decca along the way, doing well on the latter logo with "Box Car Shorty and Peter Blue" in 1947. After returning to New Orleans in 1948, he recorded for DeLuxe and cut a two-part "ABCs" for Imperial in 1954 as Smilin' Joe under Dave Bartholomew's supervision. But by then, his recording career had faded.
The pianist was booked on a 1964 Blues and Gospel Train tour of England, sharing stages with Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and appearing on BBC-TV with the all-star troupe. He cut a 1971 album for the French Black & Blue label, Bad Luck Blues, that paired him with guitarists Gatemouth Brown and Jimmy Dawkins and a Chicago rhythm section -- hardly the ideal situation, but still a reasonably effective showcase for the ebullient entertainer (it was reissued in 1994 by Evidence)."
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