Stories - Tobias Hounsham


Big Joe visited Tobias in 1988 while on tour.  This is his story.


I'd like to share my memories of Big Joe Duskin, who was a major influence on my career as a Boogie Woogie pianist.  I’ve only recently found out from the American Music Research Foundation (AMRF), that Big Joe was the first inductee in the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame in 1999 – yet so few people in the UK & Europe seem to have heard of him.  I remember being completely blown away listening to Big Joe Duskin when he appeared on British television in a BBC TV programme called ‘The History of Boogie Woogie’ in 1986.

I had the pleasure of meeting Big Joe in person at the age of 16 when he toured the UK in 1988 in a small jazz club (The West End Centre) in Aldershot. When Big Joe finished his set, we went up to him to ask for an autograph for me and my dad mentioned in passing how much I had been influenced by watching him play boogie woogie piano on TV.  Amazingly, Big Joe asked me to sit down and play with him. After jamming some blues and boogie woogie rifts together for well over an hour, we were politely asked to leave as the club had shut and everyone else had gone home.

As we left, Big Joe was kind enough to say that my playing ‘showed promise’ and that (time permitting on his UK tour) he would like to spend some more time with me to teach me a piece called ‘Pine Top’s Boogie’.  I received a letter from Big Joe in late March of 1988 (see scanned copy below), asking how I was getting on with my piano practice - especially the bass line he’d taught me - and suggesting that my dad should ring him to arrange for him to visit and teach me some more Boogie.

Big Joe was true to his word and his tour manager rang my dad a few weeks later and said that Big Joe had asked if he could come and visit me and maybe even stay overnight with my family.  Big Joe’s letter mentioned that he was due to fly back to the USA on 18th April 1988, so we agreed that he would visit me on the 15th.  The whole of that evening and most of the next day was just one long and glorious masterclass in how to play authentic blues and boogie woogie (see pictures below).

Big Joe was both a great musician and an extremely generous man. Thanks to his influence, I’m now a professional musician myself and I’ve recorded a track ‘Ode to Big Joe’ that I’ve included on a new EP (  It would be great if you could post this letter on Big Joe’s website as I would love to share my memories and photos of Big Joe with his many other fans.