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Peg Leg Howell biography



Joshua Barnes Howell, known as Peg Leg Howell (March 5, 1888 - August 11, 1966 Life and career He was born on a farm in Eatonton, Georgia, and taught himself guitar at the age of 21. Over time he became skilled in pre-Piedmont finger picking and slide guitar techniques. He continued working on the farm until he was shot in a fight, as a result of which he lost his right leg and began working full-time as a musician. In 1923 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia and began playing on street corners, but also served a period in prison for bootlegging liquor. In 1926, he was heard playing on the streets of Atlanta and was recorded for the first time by Columbia Records. They released "New Prison Blues", written whilst in prison and one of the first country blues to be issued. Over the next three years Columbia recorded him on several occasions, often accompanied by a small group including Henry Williams (guitar) and Eddie Anthony (fiddle). His recorded repertoire covered ballads, ragtime and jazz, as well as blues. Anthony's vigorous dance playing gives us a rare view of the black string-band music that was almost obliterated by the craze for recording blues guitarists. Howell continued to play around the Atlanta area for several years, but also began selling bootleg liquor again. After the mid 1930s he only performed occasionally and, in 1952, his left leg was removed as a result of diabetes, confining him to a wheelchair. Music was a thing of the past for Howell by now. In 1963 he was "rediscovered" in dire poverty in Atlanta by folklorist and field researcher (to be) George Mitchell and his high-school class-mate, Roger Brown, who recorded him at the age of 75 with the results issued on LP by Testament Records thirty-four years after his last recorded sessions, one of Mitchell's first field-recording sessions in his long career as such.