Houston Music

UPDATED: Little Joe Washington Passes Away at Age 75

UPDATED: According to Jomonica Phoenix's Facebook page, updated about 4:10 p.m., Washington has passed away. Rocks Off will have a longer obituary and information on memorial services as soon as we possibly can.

Original Post:

As of Wednesday afternoon, beloved local musician Little Joe Washington was clinging to life in the ICU of St. Joseph's Hospital. According to Jomonica Phoenix, who helps look after the impish Houston bluesman, Washington's sister told her that the elderly musician was not expected to live through the night.

Washington had been in the hospital since Monday and had been improving, so much so that he had been "raring to play" his regular Tuesday-night gig at Boondocks as recently as 24 hours ago, Phoenix said. He turned 75 this past March, is diabetic and has had a number of health scares in the past few years, including surgery in 2010 for a partially obstructed bowel and another hospitalization for kidney trouble around Labor Day Weekend 2013.

But his health had been improving and he had even been back to playing selected gigs, most often Boondocks and every-other-Friday happy hours at the Continental Club.


The 75-year-old musician's fortunes had been looking up on another front as well. According to Phoenix, he had been days from being evicted from his apartment before a crowdfunding campaign she started through youcaring.com raised enough to make his monthly rent several times over. As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, she had raised more than $2,800, more than ten times the amount needed.

"I cried when I saw all the donations," she said Tuesday.

Before Washington's conditioned worsened overnight, Phoenix relayed, "I find him to be very frail - but still amazing with his drive to survive and play the blues."

Washington was hospitalized after Phoenix planned to take him a plate of food from this past Sunday's Blues for Food drive at the Shakespeare Pub. When she arrived at his apartment, she found him on the floor and called paramedics, she said.

His turn for the worse Tuesday came as a surprise to Phoenix, who Tuesday afternoon was hoping the musician would be released in time to play his weekly gig at Boondocks that evening. But Wednesday morning she emailed that doctors had since found him unresponsive and rushed him to the ICU.


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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray