In 1923 he begins playing house parties in and around Atlanta, a year later he continues playing at parties after his family moves to Detroit, where he becomes well known under the name Big Maceo.
Throughout the 1930's Big Maceo is a familiar figure at the piano in the clubs of Detroit's Hastings Street.
He moves to Chicago in 1941, and forms a duo with Tampa Red. Lester Melrose supervises their first recordings for the Bluebird Label. Big Maceo goes on to record several titles of his own, including 'Worried Life Blues'. The duo continue to cut further sides for Bluebird into the following year.
In 1944 Big Maceo plays dates in Georgia and Tennessee
He records with Tampa Red for Bluebird and with Sonny Boy Williamson I for the Victor label in 1945.
In Milwaukee, Big Maceo suffers a stroke in 1946 that paralyses his right side.
Big Maceo records for the Victor label with Eddie Boyd on piano in 1947.
Accompanied by Little Johnny Jones, he records for Art Rupe of Specialty Records in 1948, rising from his sick bed to do so.
He makes another tour of the southern states in 1950 and plays regularly with guitarist John Brim in the Detroit clubs, he records with Brim again in 1952 for the Fortune label.
Big Maceo dies after a heart attack on 26 February 1953. He is buried in Detroit.