Little Joe Blue, born Joseph Valery, Jr., was a relatively late starter as a blues artist. Born in Mississippi in 1934, his musical sensibilities were heavily influenced by the work of Louis Jordan, Joe Liggins, and B.B. King, which he encountered from his teens into his 20s. He didn't turn to music as a profession until the late '50s, when he was well into his twenties, forming his band the Midnighters in Detroit at the end of the decade. By the early '60s, Valery had moved to Reno, Nevada, where he began recording as an adjunct to his performances in local clubs before moving on to Los Angeles. He recorded for various labels, including Kent and Chess' Checker Records division during the early to mid-'60s, and never entirely escaped the criticism that he was a B.B. King imitator, which dogged him right into the '80s. The style that King popularized also happened to suit Valery, however, and he gained some credibility in 1966 when he racked up a modest hit in 1966 with the song "Dirty Work Is Going On," which has since become a blues standard. He had extended stints with Jewel Records and Chess from the late '60s into the early '70s, and recorded until the end of the '80s. Valery performed throughout the south, and later Texas and California, during that decade, and later toured Europe, including performances as part of the International Jazz Fest during the '80s. There is currently one CD of his work in print, the Evejim disc Little Joe Blue's Greatest Hits, a reissue of two LPs, I'm Doing Alright and Dirty Work Going On, that he cut in the '80s. His "Standing on the Threshold," featuring a powerful vocal performance and some beautifully soaring horns behind some lean, mean guitar and piano, also appears on Jewel Spotlights the Blues, Vol. 1.
Share this page