Bongo Joe Coleman marched to the beat of a different drum

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a man who marched to the beat of a very different drum.

George Coleman was born on November 28, 1923, in Haines City, Florida. By the 1940s, Coleman had relocated to Houston and was playing as a percussionist in local jazz bands. Since he didn’t own a drum kit, Coleman fashioned a set from some 55-gallon oil barrels. Over the next four decades, he became a very popular street musician performing at tourist sites throughout the state, including San Antonio’s Hemisfair and Galveston’s Seawall. Nicknamed Bongo Joe by his fans, George Coleman played his oil barrel drums with hammer handles, chair legs, and cans filled with buckshot.

With his unique rhythmic style and often humorous song lyrics, Bongo Joe Coleman built a large following. In 1968, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records recorded Bongo Joe in San Antonio, helping introduce his distinct sound to a national audience.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll go slippin’ around with a honky-tonk legend.

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