Joshua Barnes Howell, known as Peg Leg Howell (March 5, 1888 - August 11, 1966), was an African-American blues singer and guitarist, who connected early country blues and the later 12-bar style.
Howell was born on a farm in Eatonton, Georgia. He taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 21 and became skilled in pre-Piedmont fingerpicking and slide guitar techniques. He continued working on the farm until he was shot in a fight, as a result of which he lost his right leg and began working full-time as a musician. In 1923 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and began playing on street corners. He also served time in prison for bootlegging liquor.
In 1926, Howell was heard playing on the streets of Atlanta and was recorded for the first time by Columbia Records, which released "New Prison Blues", written while he was in prison; It was the first country blues record to be issued on the label. Over the next three years Columbia recorded him on several occasions, often accompanied by a small group, with Henry Williams on guitar and Eddie Anthony on fiddle. His recorded repertoire includes ballads, ragtime, and jazz, as well as blues.
Howell continued to play in the Atlanta area for several years. He also began selling bootleg liquor again. After the mid-1930s he performed only occasionally. In 1952, his left leg was removed as a result of complications of diabetes, and he was confined to a wheelchair. A single track by Howell was issued on The Country Blues in 1959. In 1963 he was "rediscovered" in dire poverty in Atlanta by the folklorist and field researcher George Mitchell and Roger Brown. They recorded Howell at the age of 75; the recordings were issued on LP by Testament Records, thirty-four years after his last recorded sessions. It was one of Mitchell's first field-recording sessions in his long career.
Howell died in Atlanta in 1966.