“Big” Joe Shelton was born in the Black Belt Prairie region of northeast Mississippi in 1951. The region is the birthplace of a number of legendary blues performers and Shelton was exposed to a wide range African-American music while growing up. He saw traveling minstrel shows (he remembers attending the “Silas Green from New Orleans” show as a small child), went to barbecue picnics that featured local music, and listened to blues musicians perform on the streets of downtown Columbus.
Shelton sang in church and school choirs during his elementary school year and began playing harmonica and guitar in his teens. While attending Mississippi State University in the early 1970s, he befriended blues guitarist and vocalist “Big” Joe Williams, a native of nearby Crawford, Mississippi. Shelton helped to book Williams for a number of gigs in Starkville and the surrounding region. As part of this work, the younger musician often drove Williams to the shows and often sat in with him. Click here to see more.