Houston Music

Little Joe Washington Could Use A Hand, Perhaps A Home

Treasured Houston bluesman Little Joe Washington, who will play a happy-hour set at the Continental Friday, may be on the verge of becoming homeless again.

Washington, who was in the hospital for an extended stay last year for emergency intestinal surgery, has lived for some years with his childhood friend, Mary. But according to our sources and Washington himself, circumstances have arisen that are forcing her to let her home go and move in with a sister who is fighting cancer and needs a full-time caregiver.

Rocks Off Sr. ran into Washington last night near the McGowen rail stop in Midtown and found him to be somewhat disoriented.


Washington, 73, is one of the last of the old-school Third Ward bluesmen. He literally grew up playing with Houston blues legends Albert "Ice Man" Collins and Joe "Guitar" Hughes. Washington was playing drums in Collins' band when he was only 13, before moving to guitar "because the ladies seemed to always like the guitar players."

While Washington spent years living in an abandoned car on the lot where his childhood home stood until it mysteriously caught fire, and later lived above the Continental Club in a room provided by owner Pete Gordon, for the past several years his life has been fairly stable. He has held down a Tuesday-night residency at Boondocks and continues to travel occasionally.

A man known for having a taste for a shot of Jack Daniels, but who says these days his only addiction "is KFC," Washington has actually been in a good mental state for some time and made a full recovery from the intestinal blockage that almost killed him last year.

At Leon's Lounge last Friday, Joe dropped by and told Rocks Off he hopes to move in with a cousin, but wasn't certain that would happen.

Hopefully some solution to Washington's housing issues can be found, because it would be a shame for one of the last true Houston musical treasures to be living on the streets again.

His happy-hour set tomorrow starts around 7 p.m.. No cover, but donations are always welcome.

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William Michael Smith