Billy Wright (musician)

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Billy Wright
Billy Wright publicity photo for Peacock Records.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Wright
Also known asPrince of the Blues
Born(1918-05-21)May 21, 1918 or 1928 or 1932
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Died(1991-10-28)October 28, 1991 (aged 59/63/73)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Years active1930s or 1940s–1991

William Wright (May 21, 1918,[1] or 1932 – October 28, 1991)[2] was an American singer. He is considered one of Little Richard's greatest influences in his formative years.


Wright was born in Atlanta, Georgia. There is uncertainty over his year of birth. He claimed to have been born in 1932, but the researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc have stated that he was born in 1918, on the basis of official records and a newspaper obituary;[1] other sources suggest 1928.[3]

As a child, Wright excelled at singing gospel music in his local church. In his youth, he worked as a dancer[3] and as a female impersonator[4] but developed as a singer when he began performing at Atlanta's 81 Theater. The saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams saw Wright's performance when the two shared a bill with Charles Brown and Wynonie Harris. Williams recommended him to Herman Lubinsky of Savoy Records.[5][6]

His first record, "Blues for My Baby", recorded with Howard Collander's orchestra, rose to number 3 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1949. He had three more records on the R&B chart: "You Satisfy" (number 9, 1949), "Stacked Deck" (number 9, 1951), and "Hey, Little Girl" (number 10, 1951).[3] A flamboyant performer, he was known as the "Prince of the Blues" throughout his career.[2] He was a key figure in Atlanta blues after World War II and had a major influence on the rock-and-roll pioneer Little Richard, whom he helped get his first recording contract in 1951.[7] In the early 1950s, the openly gay Wright also helped in establishing Richard's look, advising him to use pancake makeup on his face and wear his hair in a long-haired pompadour style similar to his.[7]

In 1954, Wright signed a contract with Peacock Records, owned by Don Robey, in Houston, Texas.[6] He made his last recordings in 1959. He primarily worked as an MC in Atlanta[6] but continued to perform until he suffered a stroke. He died of a pulmonary embolism[2] just before his 1991 Halloween show at the Royal Peacock in Atlanta.



  • "Blues for My Baby" / "You Satisfy" (Savoy 710), 11/1949
  • "Man’s Brand Boogie" / "Beg-a-Dog" (Atlanta 6000), 1950
  • "I Keep Drinkin'" / "Billy’s Boogie Blues" (Savoy 715),1950
  • "Back Biting Woman" / "Thinkin' Blues" (Savoy 733), 1950
  • "After Dark Blues" / "Heavy Hearted Blues" (Savoy 741), 1951
  • "'Fore Day Blues" / "Empty Hands" (Savoy 761), 1951
  • "Mean Old Wine" / "Keep Your Hands on Your Heart" (Savoy 776), 11/1951
  • "Stacked Deck" / "Mercy Mercy" (Savoy 781), 1951
  • "Hey Little Girl" / "Gotta Find My Baby" (Savoy 810), 1951
  • "New Kind of Lovin'" / "When the Wagon Comes" (Savoy 819), 1952
  • "Turn Your Lamps Down Low" / "Drinkin' and Thinkin'" (Savoy 827), 1952
  • "Married Woman’s Boogie" / "Every Evening" (Savoy 837), 1952
  • "If I Didn’t Love You" / "Goin' Down Slow" (Savoy 870), 12/1952
  • "After Awhile" / "Four Cold Cold Walls" (Savoy 1100), 5/1953
  • "Live the Life" / "I Remember" (Savoy 1127), 4/1954
  • "Bad Luck, Heartaches, and Trouble" / "The Question" (Peacock 1657), 7/1955
  • "Have Mercy Baby" / "I Love You Sweetheart" (Carrollton 801), 1959

Other recordings[edit]

  • "Walking the Blues" (Savoy), unreleased, 9/23/1949
  • "Ride on Little Girl" (Savoy), unreleased, 1/7/1950
  • "Misfortune Blues" (Savoy), unreleased, 4/24/1950
  • "Restless Blues" (Savoy), unreleased, 1951 (included on Savoy LP-1146)
  • "This Love of Mine" (Savoy), unreleased, 1951 (included on Savoy LP-1146)
  • "If I Had My Life to Live Over" (Savoy), unreleased, 1952 (included on Savoy LP-1146)
  • "Sad Hour Blues" (Savoy), unreleased, 1952 (included on Savoy LP-1146)
  • "Do Something for Me", recorded live at the Harlem Theater, Atlanta, Georgia, 1952 (included on the album Stacked Deck)
  • "Keep Your Hand on Your Heart and Your Mind on Me" (Savoy), 1953 (included on Savoy LP-2255)
  • "Will You Need Me" (Savoy), unreleased, 1954 (included on Savoy LP-1146)
  • "Baby Don't You Want a Man Like Me" (Peacock), unreleased, 1955
  • "Let's Be Friends" (Peacock), unreleased, 1955
  • Titles unknown (Fury/Fire), unreleased, 1959


  • Stacked Deck (Route 66), 1980
  • Goin Down Slow (Savoy LP-1146), 1984
  • Various artists, Southern Blues: Roots of Rock and Roll Volume 11 (Savoy LP-2255), 1985
  • Billy Wright/Little Richard: Baby Don’t You Want a Man Like Me (Ace 193), 1987
  • Billy Wright (Savoy Jazz), 1994
  • Classics 1949-1951 (Melodie Jazz Classics), 2003
  • Billy Wright (Savoy Jazz), 1994
  • Have Mercy Baby (Blue City BCCD-810), including his Peacock, Carrollton, and Atlanta recordings


  1. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 272. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ a b c Doc Rock. The Dead Rock Stars Club: 1990–1991. Accessed July 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995. Record Research. p. 495.
  4. ^ "The REAL Tent Show Queens: What Was on Their Mind?" Archived 2016-11-06 at the Wayback Machine Corey @ I'll Keep You Posted, April 5, 2011]. Retrieved 27 October 2016.
  5. ^ Dahl, Bill. "Bill Wright: Biography". Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Marion, J. C. (2004). "Prince of the Blues: Billy Wright" Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. Jamm Up. Retrieved 27 October 2016
  7. ^ a b White, Charles. (2003). The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography. Omnibus Press. P. 25.

External links[edit]