Larry Williams

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For other people named Larry Williams, see Larry Williams (disambiguation).
Larry Williams
Larry Williams.jpg
Background information
Birth name Lawrence Eugene Williams
Born (1935-05-10)May 10, 1935
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States[1]
Origin New Orleans
Died January 7, 1980(1980-01-07) (aged 44)
Los Angeles, California Interment Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood California.[1]
Genres Rock and roll
Rhythm and blues
Funk
Soul
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, pianist, producer
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1954–1979
Labels Specialty, Okeh

Lawrence Eugene "Larry" Williams (May 10, 1935 – January 7, 1980[1]) was an American rhythm and blues and rock and roll singer, songwriter, producer, and pianist from New Orleans, Louisiana. Williams is best known for writing and recording some rock and roll classics from 1957 to 1959 for Specialty Records, including "Bony Moronie", "Short Fat Fannie", "High School Dance" (1957), "Slow Down", "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (1958), "Bad Boy" and "She Said Yeah" (1959).[2] John Lennon was a fan, and the Beatles and several other British Invasion groups covered several of his songs.

Williams' life mixed tremendous success with violence and drug addiction. He was a long-time friend of Little Richard.[3]

Career[edit]

Williams learned how to play piano at a young age.[1] The family moved to Oakland, California when he was a teen, and there he joined the Lemon Drops, a R&B group.[1] Williams returned to New Orleans in 1954 and began working as Lloyd Price's valet[1] and played in the bands of Price, Roy Brown and Percy Mayfield. In 1955, Williams met and developed a friendship with Little Richard, who was recording at the time in New Orleans.[4] Price and Penniman were both recording for Specialty Records. Williams was introduced to Specialty's house producer, Robert Blackwell, and was signed to record.[1]

In 1957, Little Richard was Specialty's biggest star, but bolted from rock and roll to pursue the ministry. Williams was quickly groomed by Blackwell to try to replicate his success. Using the same raw, shouting vocals and piano-driven intensity, Williams scored with a number of hit singles.[1][4]

Williams' three biggest successes were "Short Fat Fannie", which was his biggest seller, reaching #5 in Billboard's pop chart, "Bony Moronie", which peaked at #14, and its flip "You Bug Me Baby" which made it to #45. "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" charted at #69 on Billboard the following year. Both "Short Fat Fannie" and "Bony Moronie" sold over one million copies, gaining gold discs.[5]

Several of his songs achieved later success as revivals, by The Beatles ("Bad Boy", "Slow Down", and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"), The Rolling Stones ("She Said Yeah") and John Lennon ("Bony Moronie" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy").

After 1957 Williams did not have much success selling records. He recorded a number of songs in 1958 and 1959, including "Heebie Jeebies", with band members such as Plas Johnson on tenor sax and Jewel Grant on baritone, Rene Hall on guitar, Gerald Wilson on trumpet, Ernie Freeman or Williams himself on piano, and Earl Palmer on drums. He was convicted of dealing narcotics in 1960 and served a three-year jail term, setting back his career considerably.[1]

Williams made a comeback in the mid-1960s with a funky soul band that included Johnny "Guitar" Watson, which paired him musically with Little Richard who had been lured back into secular music. He produced two Little Richard albums for Okeh Records in 1966 and 1967, which returned Little Richard to the Billboard album chart for the first time in ten years and spawned the hit single "Poor Dog".[6] He also acted as the music director for the Little Richard's live performances at the Okeh Club. Bookings for Little Richard during this period skyrocketed.[6] Williams also recorded and released material of his own and with Watson, with some moderate chart success. This period may have garnered few hits but produced some of his best and most original work.

Williams also began acting in the 1960s, appearing on film in Just for the Hell of It (1968), The Klansman (1974), and Drum (1976).[7]

In the 1970s, there was also a brief dalliance with disco, but Williams' wild lifestyle continued. By the middle of the decade, the drug abuse and violence were taking their toll. In 1977, Williams pulled a gun on and threatened to kill his long-time friend, Little Richard, over a drug debt. They were both living in Los Angeles and addicted to cocaine and heroin. Little Richard had bought drugs from Williams, arranged to pay him later, but did not show up because he was high. Williams was furious. He hunted him down but ended up showing compassion for his long-time friend after Little Richard repaid the debt.[8] This, along with other factors, led to Little Richard's return to born again Christianity and the ministry, but Williams did not escape LA's seedy underworld.

Death[edit]

Williams died in his Los Angeles, California home of a gunshot wound to the head on January 7, 1980.[1] He was 44 years old. The death was deemed suicide, though there was much speculation otherwise.[1] No suspects were ever arrested or charged.

Martin Allbritton as Larry Williams[edit]

A Southern Illinois drummer and blues singer by the name of Martin Allbritton claims to be Larry Williams, alive and well. This claim originated at about the time Larry Williams was found dead. He recorded and performed as a drummer for Bobby "Blue" Bland in the 1960s.[9] Albritton has toured the country performing under the moniker of "Big" Larry Williams, and claims that he recorded the hits "Bony Moronie" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy". He recorded an album in 1990 called Street Party with the Mellow Fellows band, previously headed by Big Twist.[9] While touring with the Mellow Fellows in Chicago, Allbritton was confronted by Etta James, who knew Larry Williams.

Williams' family members have asked him to cease any future reference to "Larry Williams". Allbritton has so far refused, and presently continues to use the name.

Selective list of recorded cover versions[edit]

Discography[edit]

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[10] US
R&B
[11]
UK[12]
1957 "Just Because" - 11 -
"Short Fat Fannie" /
"High School Dance"
5 1 21
"Bony Moronie" /
"You Bug Me, Baby"
14
45
4 11
1958 "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" 69 - -
1967 "Mercy. Mercy, Mercy"
with Johnny Watson
96 23 -
1968 "Nobody"
with Johnny Watson and The Kaleidoscope
- 40 -

Okeh singles[edit]

  • 1966 "This Old Heart (Is So Lonely)" / "I'd Rather Fight Than Switch" (Okeh#7259)
  • 1967 Johnny Watson and Larry Williams - "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" / "A Quitter Never Wins" (Okeh#7274)
  • 1967 "You Ask For One Good Reason / "I Am The One" (Okeh#7280)
  • 1967 Johnny Watson and Larry Williams - "Too Late" / "Two For The Price Of One" (Okeh#7281)
  • 1967 "Just Because" / "Just Because" (Okeh#7294)
  • 1967 Johnny Watson and Larry Williams - "Find Yourself Someone To Love" / "Nobody" (Okeh#7300)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 16 December 2008. 
  2. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "Larry Williams". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  3. ^ Charles A. White, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorized Biography, Omnibus Press, 2003, page 186
  4. ^ a b White (2003), p. 77-78.
  5. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 97. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  6. ^ a b White (2003), p. 268.
  7. ^ "Larry Williams (II) (1935–1980)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  8. ^ White (2003), p. 186.
  9. ^ a b "With Twist gone they're not Mellow". Highbeam.com. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 767. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 483. 
  12. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 850. ISBN 0-00-717931-6. 

External links[edit]