Born: September 23, 1927 | Died: March 24, 1999 Primary Instrument: Guitar, electric
Blues guitarist Mighty Joe Young had an identifiable soul drenched edge to his blues, which served him well as a premier back up guitarist, session man, and band leader in Chicago's North Side.
Born in 1927 near Shreveport, Louisiana, Young began playing in the early 1950s, working clubs in Milwaukee and then back in his native Louisiana where in 1955 he first recorded for the Jiffy label. He was already well known for his work with the harmonica-player Billy Boy Arnold, the guitarist Jimmy Rogers, and his brilliant contemporary Otis Rush, when in 1961 a manager added the Mighty sobriquet to his name for his solo albums for the little Fire label.
Young is notable in blues history for breaking out of the South Side Chicago ghetto and playing to largely white audiences on the North Side, becoming a regular on the US and European festival and university circuits and at Chicago night-clubs. He played every New Year's Eve at the Wise Fools club for 12 consecutive years, and released an album recorded there, “Live at the Wise Fools Pub,” in 1990.
Young’s playing and singing was in many ways a bridge between the sound of the Chicago blues bands which had nurtured him in his early days, and the soul music that had broken through to cross- over acceptance; his solo albums included “Blues with a Touch of Soul,” (1970) “Legacy of the Blues,” (1972), “Chicken Heads,” (1974) and “Mighty Joe Young.” (1976)
Young appeared regularly on albums by Magic Sam, Willie Dixon, Albert King, Jimmy Dawkins, and Tyrone Davis (and also on Davis's hit single, Can I Change My Mind), but it was his playing with Koko Taylor at Chicago's first Grant Park Blues Festival in 1969, which helped to establish both of them as contemporary blues artists of stature.
Between tours, in 1986 Young took his band into the studio for a self- financed album over which he would have total artistic control, a project which took over 10 years to come to fruition as “Mighty Man.” After recording only three numbers he went into hospital for surgery on a pinched nerve in his neck. That's when things started to go to hell, he recalled later. I went in on September 3 and I got back out at the end of October. I was in rehab for a year. A keen amateur boxer in his early years, he had continued to work out in the gym all his life - and especially when he strove for 10 years to learn to walk again and regain his strength after the operation which disabled him - and with his barrel chest and deep, throaty voice, he had an impressive stage presence which continued well into his 70th year.
Mighty Joe Young, Blues guitarist and singer died in Chicago on March 24, 1999. His death deprived the new generation of blues musicians and listeners the opportunity to become acquainted with an artist who was a link between the glory days of Chicago blues and the contemporary blues scene.
Source: James Nadal