Larry Williams

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Larry Williams
Larry Williams.jpg
Background information
Birth nameLawrence Eugene Williams
Born(1935-05-10)May 10, 1935
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States[1]
OriginNew Orleans
DiedJanuary 7, 1980(1980-01-07) (aged 44)
Los Angeles, California Interment Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California.[1]
GenresRock and roll
Rhythm and blues
Funk
Soul
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, musician, producer
InstrumentsVocals, piano
Years active1954–1979
LabelsSpecialty, London, Chess, Okeh, Fantasy

Larry Williams (born Lawrence Eugene[citation needed] Williams, a.k.a. Lawrence Edward 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", "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 recorded several of his songs.

Williams' life mixed tremendous success with violence and drug addiction. He was a longtime friend of Little Richard, with whom his life intertwined in life and music from their meeting in 1955 to Williams passing in 1980.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Born in New Orleans on May 10, 1935, Williams moved west with his family early in his childhood. He spent some time with relatives in Chicago before relocating to Oakland, California in 1945.[4] He learned how to play piano at a young age, and when he was a teen, he joined the Lemon Drops, an R&B group.[1]

Williams returned to New Orleans in 1954 and began working for his cousin, singer Lloyd Price, as a valet. He played in the bands of Price, Roy Brown, and Percy Mayfield.[1] In 1955, Williams met and developed a friendship with Little Richard, who was recording at the time in New Orleans.[5] Price and Little Richard were both recording for Specialty Records. He was introduced to Robert Blackwell, Specialty's house producer, and was signed to the label.[1]

In 1957, Little Richard was Specialty's biggest star, but bolted from rock and roll to pursue the ministry. Williams quickly was 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][5]

Williams' three biggest successes were "Short Fat Fannie", which was his bestseller, reaching No. 5 in Billboard's pop chart, "Bony Moronie", which peaked at No. 14, and its flip "You Bug Me Baby" which made it to No. 45. "Short Fat Fannie" and "Bony Moronie" each sold over one million copies.[6]

After 1957, Williams did not have much success selling records. He recorded a number of songs in 1958 and 1959, including "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy," which charted at No. 69 on Billboard's Pop chart in 1958. "Heebie Jeebies" was recorded with band members such as Plas Johnson on tenor saxophone and Jewel Grant on baritone, René Hall and Howard Roberts on guitars, Gerald Wilson on trumpet, Ernie Freeman or Williams himself on piano, and Earl Palmer on drums. After he was arrested for possession of narcotics and guns in 1959, he was dropped from Specialty.[7][8] He recorded for Chess Records but no hits were produced. Williams then 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 of Little Richard's albums for Okeh Records in 1966 and 1967, which returned Little Richard to the Billboard album chart for the first time in 10 years and spawned the hit single "Poor Dog".[9] He also acted as the music director for Little Richard's live performances at the Okeh Club. Bookings for Little Richard during this period skyrocketed.[9] Williams also recorded and released material of his own and with Watson, with some moderate chart success. "Too Late", the B-side of 1967 single "Two For The Price Of One" became one of the biggest songs on the Northern Soul scene in England, and remains prized due to its rarity as the single failed commercially.

Williams also began acting in the 1960s, appearing on film in Just for the Hell of It (1968), The Klansman (1974), and Drum (1976).[10]

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 Little Richard, over a drug debt. He hunted him down, but showed compassion for his longtime friend after Little Richard repaid the debt.[11] This, with other factors, led to Little Richard's return to born again Christianity and the ministry.[8]

Death[edit]

On January 7, 1980, Williams was found dead by his mother at his home in Los Angeles, California from a gunshot wound to the head.[1] He was 44 years old, and survived by his estranged wife Ina Marie Williams.[12] His death was deemed suicide, though there was speculation that he was murdered because of his involvement in drugs and allegedly prostitution.[1] No suspects were arrested or charged.

Martin Allbritton as Larry Williams[edit]

An Illinois drummer and blues singer named Martin Allbritton claimed to be Larry Williams, alive and well. This claim originated at about the time Larry Williams was found dead.[citation needed] He recorded and performed as a drummer for Bobby "Blue" Bland in the 1960s.[13] Albritton toured the country performing under the moniker of "Big" Larry Williams, and claimed that he recorded the hits "Bony Moronie" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy." He recorded an album in 1990 called Street Party with the Mellow Fellows, previously headed by Big Twist (né Lawrence Millard Nolan; 1937–1990).[13] While touring with the Mellow Fellows in Chicago, Allbritton was confronted by singer Etta James, who knew the real Williams.[14]

Williams' family asked Allbritton to cease billing himself as "Larry Williams".[14] Allbritton died on August 24, 2017.

Legacy[edit]

Several of Williams' songs achieved 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").

Williams was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2014.[15]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Larry Williams among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[16]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Here's Larry Williams - 1959 (Specialty Records)
  • Slow Down With Larry Williams - 1960 (Specialty Records - unreleased)
  • Larry Williams On Stage! Recorded Live - 1964 (Sue Records)
  • The Larry Williams Show featuring Johnny "Guitar" Watson - 1965 (Edsel Records, France / Decca Records, UK)
  • Two For the Price of One (with Johnny "Guitar" Watson) - 1967 (Okeh Records)
  • Larry Williams' Greatest Hits - 1967 (Okeh Records - re-recordings of Specialty hits)
  • That Larry Williams: The Resurrection of Funk - 1978 (Fantasy Records)

Singles[edit]

Year Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart Positions Album
US
[17]
US R&B
[18]
UK
[19]
AUS
[20]
1957 "Just Because"
b/w "Let Me Tell You, Baby" (from Hocus Pocus!)
- 11 - - Bad Boy -- The Legends Of Specialty Series
"Short Fat Fannie"
b/w "High School Dance" (from Bad Boy -- The Legends Of Specialty Series)
5 1 21 18 Here's Larry Williams
"Bony Moronie" / 14 4 11 61
"You Bug Me, Baby" 45 - - -
1958 "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy"
b/w "Slow Down" (from Bad Boy -- The Legends Of Specialty Series)
69 - - -
"Hootchy-Koo"
b/w "The Dummy" (from Hocus Pocus!)
- - - -
"Peaches and Cream"
b/w "I Was A Fool" (from Hocus Pocus!)
- - - -
1959 "She Said Yeah"
b/w "Bad Boy" (from Bad Boy -- Legends Of Specialty Series)
- - - - The Unreleased Larry Williams
"Steal A Little Kiss"
b/w "I Can't Stop Lovin' You" (from The Unreleased Larry Williams)
- - - - Hocus Pocus!
"My Baby's Got Soul"
b/w "Everyday I Wonder"
- - - - Non-album tracks
"Teardrops"
b/w "Give Me Love"
- - - - Here's Larry Williams
"Baby, Baby"
b/w "Get Ready"
- - - - Non-album tracks
1960 "Ting-A-Ling"
b/w "Little School Girl"
- - - - Here's Larry Williams
"I Wanna Know"
b/w "Like A Gentlemen Oughta"
- - - - Non-album tracks
"I Hear My Baby"
b/w "Oh Baby" (from Bad Boy -- Legends Of Specialty Series)
- - - -
1961 "Fresh Out Of Tears"
b/w "Lawdy Mama"
- - - -
1963 "Woman"
b/w "Can't Help Myself"
- - - -
1965 "It's Beatle Time" -- Part 1
b/w Part 2
Both sides with Johnny Watson
- - - -
1966 "Boss Lovin'"
b/w "Call On Me"
- - - -
"I'd Rather Fight Than Switch"
b/w "This Old Heart (Is So Lonely)" (Non-album track)
- - - - Two For The Price Of One
1967 "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"
b/w "A Quitter Never Wins"
Both sides with Johnny Watson
96 23 - -
"I Am The One"
b/w "You Ask For One Good Reason"
- - - - Non-album tracks
"Two For The Price Of One"
b/w "Too Late"
Both sides with Johnny Watson
- - - - Two For The Price Of One
"Just Because"
b/w "Boss Lovin'"
- - - - Non-album tracks
1968 "Nobody" with The Kaleidoscope
b/w "Find Yourself Someone To Love"
Both sides with Johnny Watson
- 40 - -
"Shake Your Body Girl"
b/w "Love, I Can't Seem To Find It"
- - - -
"Wake Up"
b/w "Love, I Can't Seem To Find It"
- - - -
1969 "Can't Find No Substitute For Love"
b/w "I Could Love You Baby"
Both sides with Johnny Watson
- - - -
1977 "Doing The Best I Can"
b/w "Gimme Some"
- - - -
"One Thing Or The Other" -- Part 1
b/w Part 2
- - - - That Larry Williams
1978 "The Resurrection Of Funk"
B-side unknown
- - - -

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "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. ^ Giles, Jeff (January 7, 2015). "Why Rock Fans Should Know the Name Larry Williams". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  5. ^ a b White (2003), p. 77-78.
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 97. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ "Rock 'N' Roll Singer Faces Gun, Dope Sentence". Jet: 48. January 29, 1959.
  8. ^ a b "Larry Williams, The Beatles: Moving Way Too Fast". LikeTheDew.com. September 19, 2009. Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  9. ^ a b White (2003), p. 268.
  10. ^ "Larry Williams (II) (1935–1980)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  11. ^ White (2003), p. 186.
  12. ^ "Pioneer Rock & Roll Star Larry Williams, 44, Dies: L.A. Police Suspect Suicide". Jet: 46. January 24, 1980.
  13. ^ a b "With Twist gone they're not Mellow". Highbeam.com. Archived from the original on 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  14. ^ a b "Meet rock and roll's original bad boy, Larry Williams". Goldmine Magazine. 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  15. ^ Shepherd, Mike. "Louisiana Music Hall of Fame - LARRY WILLIAMS". Louisianamusichalloffame.org. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  16. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 767. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 483.
  19. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952-2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 850. ISBN 0-00-717931-6.
  20. ^ "Australian Chart Books". www.australianchartbooks.com.au. Retrieved 2020-07-23.

External links[edit]