Peg Leg Howell

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Joshua Barnes Howell, known as Peg Leg Howell (March 5, 1888 – August 11, 1966),[1] was an American blues singer and guitarist, who connected early country blues and the later 12-bar style.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Howell was born on a farm in Eatonton, Georgia. He taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 21 and became skilled in pre-Piedmont fingerpicking and slide guitar techniques. He continued working on the farm until he was shot in a fight with his brother-in-law, as a result of which he lost his right leg and began working full-time as a musician.[2][3] In 1923 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and began playing on street corners, mainly around Decatur Street. He also served time in prison for bootlegging liquor.[3]

In 1926, Howell was heard playing on the streets of Atlanta and was recorded for the first time by Columbia Records,[4] which released "New Prison Blues", written while he was in prison; It was the first country blues record to be issued on the label.[5] Over the next three years Columbia recorded him on several occasions, often accompanied by a small group, with Henry Williams on guitar and Eddie Anthony on fiddle. His recorded repertoire includes ballads, ragtime, and jazz, as well as blues.[3]

Howell continued to play in the Atlanta area for several years. He also began selling bootleg liquor again.[3] After the mid-1930s he performed only occasionally. In 1952, his left leg was removed as a result of complications of diabetes, and he was confined to a wheelchair.[3] A single track by Howell was issued on The Country Blues in 1959. In 1963, he was "rediscovered" in dire poverty in Atlanta by the folklorist and field researcher George Mitchell and Roger Brown.[3] They recorded Howell at the age of 75; the recordings were issued on LP by Testament Records, thirty-four years after his last recorded sessions. It was one of Mitchell's first field-recording sessions in his long career.[6]

Howell died in Atlanta in 1966.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Doc Rock. "The 1960s". Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  2. ^ a b [1] Archived January 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d e f Giles Oakley (1997). The Devil's Music. Da Capo Press. pp. 126/8. ISBN 978-0-306-80743-5.
  4. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 12. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  5. ^ Charters, Samuel (1975). The Country Blues. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0306800146.
  6. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason (August 11, 1966). "Peg Leg Howell: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 30, 2015.

External links[edit]