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Joe Hill Louis (September 23, 1921 – August 5, 1957), born Lester Hill, was an Americanmarker singer, guitarist, harmonica player and one-man band. He is significant, along with fellow Memphismarker bluesman Doctor Ross as one of only a small number of one-man blues bands to have recorded commercially in the 1950s, and as a session musician for Sun Records.

Early life

Louis was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill on September 23, 1921 in Raines, Tennesseemarker. His nickname “Joe Louis” arose as a result of a childhood fight with another youth. At the age of 14 he left home to work as a servant for a wealthy Memphis family; he also worked in the Peabody Hotelmarker, Memphis, in the late 1930s, and from the early 1940s onwards worked as a musician and one-man band.

Recording and radio career

Louis’ recording debut was made for Columbia in 1949, and his music was released on a variety of independent labels through the 1950s, most notably recording for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, for whom he recorded extensively as a backing musician for a wide variety of other singers as well as under his own name. His most notable recording was probably as guitarist on Rufus Thomas’s “Bear Cat”, recorded as an answer record to Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”, which reached No. 3 on the R&B chart and resulted in legal action for copyright infringement. He also shared writing credit for the song “Tiger Man”, which has been recorded by Elvis Presley, among others.

Around 1950 he took over the “Pepticon Boy” radio program on WDIA from B. B. King.

He was also known as “The Pepticon Boy” and “The Be-Bop Boy”.


Louis died on August 5, 1957 in John Gaston Hospital, Memphis, from tetanus contracted as a result of an infected cut to his thumb, sustained while working as an odd job man.


  1. Dahl, Bill: Joe Hill Louis biography,
  2. Harris, 1989 p. 337
  3. Joe Hill Louis
  4. Turner, 1985 p. 24
  5. Harris, 1989 p. 337
  6. Turner, 1985, p. 24
  7. Turner, 1985, p. 37
  8. Harris 1989, p. 337
  9. Harris, 1989, p. 337
  10. Turner, 1985, p. 24


  • Harris, S (1989). Blues Who’s Who, 5th paperback edition. New York, Da Capo Press.
  • Turner, B (1985). "The Blues in Memphis". In Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1956 [album booklet]. London: Sun Records.

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