Big Joe Duskin, the blues and boogie pianist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but grew up in Cincinnati, where he began playing piano in his early teens. His first idol was Fats Waller, whom he heard on the local radio station WLW. What turned his mind towards the intricate art of boogie woogie was hearing the celebrated pianist Pete Johnson on such records as “627 Stomp,” “Rocket 88” and Dive Bomber.”
As a young man he played in clubs in Cincinnati and across the Ohio river in Newport, Kentucky, then an open town full of casinos. In later years he would reminisce about joints such as the Bucket of Blood, where an evening's playing might earn him two or three dollars in tips. He continued to play while serving in the army in the second world war, his engagements entertaining the US forces enabling him to meet his heroes Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis, then famous as the Boogie Woogie Trio.