J.W. Warren (the initials didn't stand for anything; his actual name was J.W.) was born on June 22, 1921, in Enterprise, AL, the son of John and Matilda Warren.
He spent most of his life in the Ariton, AL region, picking up and learning the guitar when he was around 16 years old, and he was soon playing blues pieces at local juke joints and barbecues. He worked at a sawmill for a time before entering the U.S. military while still a teen, serving for 14 years. After his discharge, he returned to the Ariton area, where he worked as a farmer and resumed playing at the local jukes, often splitting time with Big Mama Thornton, who was also an Ariton resident (Warren has claimed he was the "hound dog" of Thornton's biggest song, "Hound Dog," but the jury is out on that one). Warren cited Blind Boy Fuller as the biggest influence on his playing, but he had his own distinct approach to the traditional blues material he favored. Warren was recorded at his home in Ariton on September 15, 1981, and March 27, 1982, by folklorist George Mitchell, and the recordings have been released by different small labels under different titles over the years, including as Bad Luck Bound on LP from Swingmaster Records and most recently as Life Ain't Worth Livin' on CD from Fat Possum Records. Music Maker Foundation also recorded Warren in 1994 and single tracks from that session have shown up on various anthologies. Warren was always reluctant to leave his hometown, so his appearances at folk clubs and festivals were relatively rare. He died at his home in Ariton on August 5, 2003. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi