This extraordinary life history is the result of more than fifteen years of recorded conversations, pieced together into a narrative of a uniquely American experience. Pleasant “Cousin Joe” Joseph’s colorful portrayals of the characters that parade through his life document more than seventy years of changing relationships between blacks and whites. In his own words, he describes growing up in Louisiana, working a rice plantation, and how Gospel music put him on a career path. His candid remarks underscore the economic struggles prevalent in a musician’s life.
Within the tales of gigs, card games, and romantic exploits are intimate glimpses of legendary figures, including Billie Holiday and Muddy Waters. His descriptions of performing in New Orleans, New York, and Europe are especially revealing, filled with life experiences as rich as the rhythm and lyrics of the blues he played.
About the Authors
Pleasant “Cousin Joe” Joseph was born in Wallace, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans in 1907. He was a self-taught musician who got his start in gospel singing. His album Bad Luck Blues
was named 1972 Blues Album of the Year in France. He died in New Orleans in 1989.
Harriet J. Ottenheimer is emerita professor of anthropology and American ethnic studies for Kansas State University. She is focusing on writing and research.