Houston was homebase to a remarkable cadre of red-hot blues guitarists during the 1950s. Joe Hughes was not as well known as his peers Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland, but he was a solid electric bluesman with a formidable discography. Another of his Houston neighbors, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, lit a performing fire in Hughes when he was 14. Lone Star stalwarts T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown also exerted their influence on Hughes' playing. His path crossed Copeland's circa 1953 when the two shared vocal and guitar duties in a combo called the Dukes of Rhythm. Hughes served as bandleader at a local blues joint known as Shady's Playhouse from 1958 through 1963, cutting a few scattered singles of his own in his spare time ("I Can't Go on This Way," "Ants in My Pants," "Shoe Shy"). In 1963, Hughes hit the road with the Upsetters, switching to the employ of Bobby "Blue" Bland in 1965 (he also recorded behind the singer for Duke) and Al "TNT" Braggs from 1967 to 1969.
A long dry spell followed, but Hughes finally came back to the spotlight with a fine set for Black Top in 1989 with If You Want to See These Blues (by that time, he'd inserted a "Guitar" as his middle name, much like his old pal Watson). Hughes' then released Texas Guitar Slinger, (1996, Blueseye Blues), Down & Depressed: Dangerous (1997, Munich), and Stuff Like That (2001, Blues Express), which contain slashing blends of blues and soul with the ocassional tightly arranged horn section and, most importantly, enough axe to fulfill Hughes' adopted nickname. After half a century of playing the blues, Joe "Guitar" Hughes passed away on May 20, 2003 after suffering a heart attack. ~ Bill Dahl & Al Campbell