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He lived with his mother and sister and daughter in the suburb of Bastrop. He studied trumpet in school and changed to saxophone later. As a teen he began emulating a touring band by buying a red suit with white pants. One night in 1941 a saxophone player did not show for a gig with the band and Houston took his place. Between 1943 and 1946, Houston toured with that band through Kansas City and Chicago and throughout the Mid-West. After World War II Houston returned to Texas, and recorded with the pianist Amos Milburn and singer Big Joe Turner. Turner got Houston his first recording contract on Freedom Records in 1949. Houston moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and played with King Kolax, Betty Roche and Wynonie Harris.
Eventually, Houston formed his own band The Rockets, and moved to Los Angeles in 1952. He scored his only two chart hit singles in 1952 with "Worry, Worry, Worry", and "Hard Time Baby" both which peaked at #10 on Billboard's R&B singles chart.
Houston was based out of Los Angeles throughout most of his career. He toured and recorded with his band the Defrosterz, started by the bassist Mark St. John, who acted as his bassist and manager almost 20 years, plus the keyboardist Mike Malone. They toured North America and recorded throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The band was signed to the Shattered Records label.
Houston has not remained musically active since suffering a stroke in 2005.
|1952||"Worry, Worry, Worry"||Rock & Roll with Joe Houston & Rockers||10|
|1952||"Hard Time Baby"||Rock & Roll with Joe Houston & Rockers||10|
- Dahl, Bill. "Joe Houston: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
- Joe Houston discography scans of Houston's vinyl albums