In the late '50s, Big Joe began a career as a folk blues artist. He performed widely at coffeehouses and festivals and recorded many albums for Delmark, Arhoolie, Testament, and Bluesville. He was particularly popular in Chicago, where he lived in the basement of the Jazz Record Mart, and his legendary travels and cantankerous personality were captured in guitarist Mike Bloomfield's memoir, Me and Big Joe. Williams died in Macon on December 17, 1982, and is buried about six miles west of town in Oktibbeha County. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1992.