Baby Boy Warren
|Baby Boy Warren|
|Birth name||Robert Henry Warren|
|Also known as||Johnny Williams|
August 13, 1919|
Lake Providence, Louisiana, United States
|Died||July 1, 1977
Detroit, Michigan, United States
He was born Robert Henry Warren in Lake Providence, Louisiana in 1919, but moved with his parents to Memphis, Tennessee at the age of three months. He was interested in music from an early age, and was working occasionally as a musician from around 1931, when he dropped out of school, having learned to play guitar from two of his older brothers. During the 1930s he worked in W. C. Handy Park, Memphis, with Howling Wolf, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Little Buddy Doyle and others, and he appeared on the Helena, Arkansas based King Biscuit Time radio show with Sonny Boy Williamson around 1941. In 1942 he moved to Detroit, where he worked for General Motors while also performing as a musician.
Warren's first recording sessions were in 1949 and 1950 in Detroit, with the five resulting singles being released on a number of labels. Tracks recorded at a 1954 session accompanied by Sonny Boy Williamson were released on Joe Von Battle's JVB label, and on Excello Records. Further sessions the same year resulted in a single on the Blue Lake label featuring Boogie Woogie Red on piano and Calvin Frazier on guitar, and a reworking of the Robert Johnson song "Stop Breakin' Down" for the Drummond Label.
Later career and death
Warren was mostly inactive in music during the 1960s, but revived his career to play the Detroit Blues Festival in 1971 and the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1973, and to tour Europe with Boogie Woogie Red in 1972. From 1974 to 1976 he was also a featured performer, along with Willie D. Warren, with the Progressive Blues Band, a popular blues band that played in many of Detroit's best blues venues.
Warren was given the nickname "Baby Boy" by his older brothers as a child. One of 12 children himself, he married twice, in 1935 and the early 1960s, and had seven children. On the Staff, Federal and Swing Time labels he was marketed as Johnny Williams.
His chief influences were Little Buddy Doyle and Willie "61" Blackwell, especially in his approach to lyrics, and he stated that another musician he particularly admired was Memphis Minnie, who he knew in Memphis in the 1930s. The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings described him as having brought "a hip, literate humour to the blues lyric".
- Harris, S (1981): Blues Who's Who. New York, Da Capo Press, pp. 534-535
- Russell, T. and Smith, C. (2006): The Penguin guide to Blues Recordings, London: Penguin Books, p. 681
- "Baby Boy Warren: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
- Leadbitter, M. Fancourt, L. Pelletier, P. (1994): Blues Records 1943-1970, Vol 2, L-Z. London. Record Information Services p. 674-5
- Reif, Fred. "Willie D. Warren". Allmusic. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- Garon, P. and Garon, B. (1992): Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues. New York, Da Capo Press, pp. 4 & 197