b. 10 July 1926, Hughes, Arkansas, USA, d. 3 April 1960, Horseshoe Lake, Arkansas, USA. An admirer of John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson, Joe Pugh aka Forest City Joe only recorded two sessions 11 years apart, but these were enough to create a significant reputation. He lived most of his life in Crittenden County, which encompasses the sites of his birth and death. Like many other harmonica players growing up in the 30s, his idolization of Williamson led to an imitation not only of his instrumental style but also of the speech impediment that affected his ‘tongue-tied’ vocals. In the late 40s he travelled north to Chicago several times, earning a reputation in the clubs where he played. On 2 December 1948, six months after Williamson had been murdered with an ice pick, Pugh recorded eight titles for Aristocrat with a guitarist tentatively identified as J.C. Cole. Only one single was issued at the time, combining ‘Memory Of Sonny Boy’ and ‘A Woman On Every Street’. The complete session was released in the late 80s. Returning to Arkansas, nothing was heard of him until August 1959, when Alan Lomax recorded him for the Southern Folk Heritage series, both solo and with a band including guitarist Sonny Boy Rodgers, performing Williamson songs and ‘Red Cross Store’, a piano blues. Nine months later, he died when the lorry in which he was travelling home from a dance overturned, killing him instantly.
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