Big Joe Shelton was born in the Black Prairie region of Northeast Mississippi. As a child growing up in a small Mississippi town he was exposed to an African-American culture, which still strongly reflected that of the early part of the twentieth century. He attended tent minstrel shows, bar-b-que picnics and heard street musicians performing authentic traditional blues.
The Black Beltregion is also the birthplace of blues legends Howlin’ Wolf, Bukka White and Big Joe Williams. As a young man he was fortunate in befriending Williams, and this association greatly influenced his musical sensibilities.