Forest City JoeForest City Joe was born on 10/07/1926 in Hughes, Arkansas, near Forrest City. His full birth name was Joe Bennie Pugh. He was raised on a cotton food and was uneducated. He taught himself the harmonica and other instruments. His style was influenced by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. Whilst a young boy, he helped entertainers and played at local venues.
In the early 1940s, Pugh started to tour further around the state. Later in the 1940s, Pugh met Big Joe Williams and they performed together around St. Louis.
In 1947, Pugh moved to Chicago to perform and went under the stage name Forrest City Joe.
On 02/12/1948, Joe recorded a single in a session for Aristocrat Records. Other songs were recorded at the session, but it was felt that the session guitarist J.C Coles had not performed well enough on them. Originally Muddy Waters was meant to be the guitarist in the session. Waters and Joe had previously worked together in a band and Waters had been impressed by Joe's harmonica playing.
Joe briefly moved to Memphis to appear with Howlin' Wolf and Rice Miller. He also got a job with Willie Love's Three Aces.
In 1949, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson had died and Forest City Joe's single "Memory of Sonny Boy" was released. It didn't sell well. Still, in 1949, Joe returned to Chicago.
Joe worked in a band headed by Otis Spann. The band would be together for four years until Spann left to join Muddy Water's new band.
In 1955, Joe moved back to Arkansas and largely retired from the music scene. He would still do occasional gigs though with Willie Cob in small venues.
In 1959, Joe was rediscovered by Alan Lomax and he recorded for the Atlantic label. Joe was starting to perform more and was planning on returning to Chicago.
On 03/04/1960, Joe died when his truck flipped over after returning from a dance in Horseshoe Lake, Arizona.