Joe said that the first blues he remembered hearing was Charles Brown's smokey hit from 1946.
Joe heard plenty of country music growing up and as a DJ on KREL in Baytown, Texas. Like many country singers Joe took the name of his state to the stage. Tex Ritter's 1945 country No.1 featured the kind of smart word play that was a feature of many a JT lyric.
A 1954 Houston talent show gave Joe his start when he beat Johnny Nash, Hubert Laws and others and won a trip to New York. Joe triumphed performing It's in the book; his version of Johnny Standley's comic parody of revivalist preachers, a pop no.1 in 1952.