After doing a lot of travelling in the South, he settles, for a while in 1931 in St. Louis. The following years he is incarcerated in Angola state prison, but not for to long.
In 1935 Joe makes his first recordings under his own name, on the Bluebird label, and again for the same label two years later, this time with harmonica great Sonny Boy Williamson I and the accomplished guitarist Robert Lee McCoy.
Another session in 1941 produces 'Baby Please Don't Go' and 'Highway 49'. Joe also performs with the young McKinley Morganfield later to be known as Muddy Waters.
Joe makes further recordings in 1947 featuring ( Sonny Boy I )who is murdered in 1948.
Finding himself neglected by the larger record labels, in 1951 Big Joe records for the Trumpet label in Jackson, Mississippi.
Then in 1957 Bob Koester records Big Joe for his newly formed Delmar label, in 1961 his first album, Piney Woods Blues, made up from Koester's tapes, is released. Then in 1962 he receives the Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz from the Hot Club of France for the album Blues on Highway 49.
The following year Big Joe makes his first visit to Europe, with the American Folk Blues Festival. He also plays and records with Bob Dylan.
Big Joe Williams dies on 17th December 1982 in Macon, Mississippi.