Big Joe Williams was a wandering troubadour, a hoboing songster, a lover of life, teller of tales, and author of the immortal blues classic, Baby Please Don’t Go. He was often in and out of Chicago, and for a time he lived in the basement of the Jazz Record Mart, Bob Koester’s old store at 7 West Grand (present site of the Rock Bottom Brewery). Big Joe’s Piney Woods Blues (1958) was the rst Delmark album to feature a guitarist. Delmark ultimately released four more Big Joe albums.


What remains of Big Joe’s weathered arch top nine-string guitar is still somewhere on the Delmark premises or at Koester’s new record store on Irving Park Road. While fellow guitarist and Mississippian Jimmy Burns came along too late to lead a lifestyle quite like Big Joe’s, he has written songs that echo it. In fact, his most memorable number (and the title of his first Delmark CD), Leaving Here Walking, could have been the title—and soundtrack—to a Big Joe Williams biography.

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