It was a chance encounter with the late, great Chicago bluesman Earl Hooker, who the young Joe Price caught in performance at a home town record store, that really sealed the deal for the blues. “He was unbelievable, that guy—he really flipped me out,” Price remembers. “He told me to cut the end of a bicycle handlebar off to make a good slide.”
Joe’s music is a crazy elastic form of old-school guitar blues that sounds like nothing else. At times, it sounds like two or three guitars at once. It’s all just Joe slapping and hammering those strings and layering vibrations and tones over each other into this heady cocktail of joyous musical energy. Crazy tunings, the breakneck rhythms and the growling, dancing bass notes work together to weave a unique and utterly uncopyable sound and tone.
In 1971 Joe had made the move to Iowa City. It was a fertile time and place for the blues. Located on I-80, Iowa City was a natural stop for national touring artists connecting Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City. Beginning with the Rocket 88’s (through 1974) and continuing with the legendary Mother Blues (an edgy, three-headed beast featuring Patrick Hazell, Bo Ramsey and Price) from ‘75 till ’81, Joe played virtually non-stop. During that stretch, the band worked almost nightly, crisscrossing Midwestern bars and serving as the openers of choice at high-profile shows by Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Clifton Chenier, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, James Cotton and more.
In 1982 Joe escaped to Lansing in northeast Iowa. The picturesque burg happens to be near Waukon, the hometown of a pretty young blues belter, Vicki Ewing, who had captured his attention during a 1981 solo gig.
Vicki might be Iowa's answer to early Maria Muldaur (when she was Maria d'Amato) with strong currents of the likes of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, the Mississippi River vocal twang, but rooted more solidly in the blues than they. With a more disciplined and structural guitar style providing a comping background spine to Joe's slide and lead work, the two styles dovetailed into a coherent convincing whole.
Joe and Vicki married in 1987, after having toured together for five years. Over their 27 years together they have opened for such notables as Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Pine Top Perkins, Homesick James, Honeyboy Edwards, Louisiana Red, Al Green, Greg Brown and Iris DeMent. Joe is a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame, The Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and was a finalist in the International Blues Challenge in 2008. They won the Independent Music Award for Best Blues CD 2010. The couple was awarded an official showcase at the Far West Folk Alliance Music Conference 2011.
The couple worked with Iowa’s Trailer Records from 1996 to 2007. Sadly, in 2007 Trailer Records shut its’ doors. Taking the initiative the couple released two CD’s on their home-grown label Blues Acres Productions; in October of 2008 A Brand New Place which features 10 new tunes penned by Vicki and in March of 2009 Joe’s collection of original songs Rain or Shine. Both releases made the top 100 CD’s of 2009 in Real Blues Magazine. A Brand New Place was nominated for Best independent release at the International Blues Challenge in 2008, Rain or Shine was nominated for 2009. Rain or Shine won an Independent Music Award for Best Blues CD 2010 and also won the IMA Vox Pop People’s Choice Award 2010. “Rain or Shine” has received rave reviews in major publications including Vintage Guitar Magazine, DownBeat Magazine, The American Music Guide, Blues Revue and the Chicago Sun Times.
Joe and Vicki appear regularly at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. From coast to coast, and from concerts, to clubs, to outdoor festivals, the Price's singular vision and dazzling, irresistible live performances continue to etch a steady, upward arc.