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In 1945, McQueen and his wife, Thelma, traveled to Ogden, Utah. He was at the time in a jazz band that dissolved when its leader gambled away the troupe's earnings en route from Las Vegas. McQueen reformed the band and stayed in Ogden.
Ogden, Utah, in the near post-WWII era was a hot spot for jazz music, as it was a major stop on the railroad route west to San Francisco, California from Kansas City and beyond. The city was mentioned in the beatnik writings of Jack Kerouac, and was the hometown of trumpeter Red Nichols.
During his life, McQueen has performed in Ogden with jazz luminaries such as Charlie Parker, Chet Baker (a fellow Oklahoman), Paul Gonsalves, Lester Young, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and others. McQueen has toured as a musician in the Rocky Mountain West. He played in 1962 in Idaho Falls, Idaho with Hoagy Carmichael.
During his early years in Ogden, McQueen worked and played at the Porters and Waiters Club in Ogden. This was one of the few venues open to black Americans at the time. McQueen was the first African-American in Utah to play at previously white-only establishments and to have a mixed-race band.
McQueen has worked as a truck mechanic and automotive technology instructor at Weber State University. As of 2005, he works as a full-time volunteer elder care worker; in this capacity he assists infirm senior citizens.
In 2002, the Governor of Utah established April 18 as an official "Joe McQueen Day" for the State of Utah.
McQueen continues to perform live in clubs in Ogden and record at the age of 94.
- Primary source: "Texas Birth Certificates, 1903–1932," Texas Department of State Health Services
Secondary source: "Texas, Birth Certificates, 1903–1932" (online database), Ancestry.com (retrieved January 22, 2015)
- The Harlem Renaissance in the American West: The New Negro's Western Experience, Cary D Wintz and Bruce A. Glasrud (eds.), Taylor & Francis (2012), pg. 159; OCLC 644680054
- "Joe McQueen" (press biography), Utah Valley University (retrieved May 3, 2010)
- "Utah's Alternative Pioneers," Salt Lake City Weekly, July 22, 2009 (retrieved May 3, 2010)