Billy Williams (singer)

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Billy Williams
Born Wilfred Williams
December 28, 1910
Waco, Texas
Died July 16, 1984 (aged 73)
New York City
Resting place Burr Oak Cemetery[1]

Wilfred Williams (December 28, 1910 – July 16, 1984) was an African-American singer. He had a successful cover recording of Fats Waller's "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" in 1957. The record sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[2] His trademark hook for his songs was to shout "Oh, Yeah" at the end of lyrics.[citation needed]

Early years[edit]

A Methodist minister's son, Williams was born in Waco, Texas. His early youth was spent in Texas, before the family moved to Ohio. Growing up, he sang in choirs at churches where his father was the pastor, with his mother often serving as choir director. He was often a soloist, and he also learned to help her arrange music.[3]

Military service[edit]

Williams served in the Army during World War II; he received a medical discharge in 1944.[4]


While he was a student at Wilberforce College,[3] Williams became the lead singer of the Charioteers;[5] he went on to sing with the group from 1930 to 1950, when he formed his own Billy Williams Quartet with Eugene Dixon, Claude Riddick and John Ball. Many television appearances followed, including appearances on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar.[6]

On April 5, 1959, the Billy Williams Quartet appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed a rousing version of "Goodnight Irene".

Williams also headed the Billy Williams Revue, "a complete show package of dancers, singers, musicians and comedians." The troupe performed in Canada, in the Caribbean, and across the United States.[7]

Later years[edit]

By the early 1960s Williams struggled to retain his voice due to complications of diabetes. He subsequently moved to Chicago and sang on WGN-TV's "All Time Hits" TV show (for which videotape exists).[citation needed] In the years before his death, Williams worked in New York City with a program to help homeless men.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Williams was married to the former Louis Traverse,[3] and they had two children, Sharon and Leslie. In 1957, Mrs. Williams had charges of desertion and non-support against him dismissed after the two reached a financial support agreement. The case was heard in Bergen County, New Jersey.[9]


On July 16, 1984, Williams died in New York City after having a heart attack. He was 74 years old.[8] [10]


Charted singles[edit]

Year Single US Pop
1947 "My Adobe Hacienda" 13
1951 "(Why Did I Tell You I Was Going To) Shanghai" 20
"(It's No) Sin" 28
1953 "Pour Me a Glass of Teardrops" 30
1954 "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)" 21
1956 "A Crazy Little Palace (That's My Home)" 49
1957 "The Pied Piper" 50
"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" 3
"Date with the Blues"
"Got a Date with an Angel" 78
1958 "Baby, Baby" 78
"I'll Get By (As Long as I Have You)" 87
1959 "Nola" 39
"Goodnight, Irene" 75
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


  1. ^ Acacia Lawn, lot 32A, grave 5, Burr Oak Cemetery, Alsip (sw Chicago), IL., Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 50996-50997). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  2. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 97. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  3. ^ a b c "Billy Williams Started Career In M.E. Church". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Missouri, St. Louis. 18 November 1951. p. 4 C. Retrieved January 2, 2018 – via  open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ "Five-Way Pickup". Billboard. July 1, 1944. p. 8. Retrieved 2 January 2018. 
  5. ^ "Famed Charioteers To Hit Onyx Friday". The Pittsburgh Courier. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. 14 February 1948. p. 15. Retrieved January 2, 2018 – via  open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1992). The Billboard Book of USA Top 40 Hits (5th ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Publishing Limited. p. 494. ISBN 0-85112-528-X. 
  7. ^ "Song Lyric Tells Story Of Singer". The Pittsburgh Courier. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. 8 April 1967. p. 13. Retrieved January 2, 2018 – via  open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ a b "Singer Wilfred (Billy) Williams, 74". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. 28 July 1984. p. 57. Retrieved January 2, 2018 – via  open access publication – free to read
  9. ^ "Charges Dropped, Singer Release". The Courier-News. New Jersey, Bridgewater. Associated Press. 11 May 1957. p. 7. Retrieved January 2, 2018 – via  open access publication – free to read
  10. ^ "Billy Williams, Singer, 74; On 50's Caesar-Coca Show," New York Times, July 25, 1984 [1]
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Pop Memories: 1890-1954. Record Research. 
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1994). Pop Hits: 1940-1954. Record Research. 
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2007). Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006. Record Research. 

External links[edit]