Little Willy Foster
Little Willy Foster
|Also known as||Little Willie Foster|
|Born||April 20, 1922|
Dublin, Mississippi, United States
|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Died||November 25, 1987(aged 65)|
|Occupation(s)||Harmonicist, singer, songwriter|
|Instruments||Harmonica, guitar, vocals|
Foster was born in Dublin, Mississippi, to Major Foster and Rosie Brown. He was raised on a plantation about ten miles south of Clarksdale. His mother died when he was aged five, and he was raised by his father, who was a local musician. Willy worked the fields from an early age and had little formal education. His father taught him to play the family's piano, and Willy later taught himself to master both the guitar and the harmonica. By 1942, he was working in Clarksdale. Around 1943, he relocated to Chicago. He played the blues around the city and teamed up with Floyd Jones, Lazy Bill Lucas, and his cousin Leroy Foster. Having befriended Big Walter Horton, Foster learned to play the harmonica in Horton's Chicago blues style. Beginning in the mid-1940s, this led to periodic work for Foster on Maxwell Street and in clubs in the city for over a decade. He also worked during this time in a band with Homesick James, Moody Jones and Floyd Jones.
In January 1955, Foster recorded two sides for Parrot Records, his own compositions "Falling Rain Blues" and "Four Day Jump", with accompaniment by Lucas, Jones and Eddie Taylor. Foster reportedly incurred the displeasure of the record label's owner, Al Benson, for reporting him to the American Federation of Musicians for underpaid dues on the recordings. In March 1957, Foster was back in a recording studio in Chicago, where he recorded two more of his songs, "Crying the Blues" and "Little Girl". Regarding the former, AllMusic noted that it "reflected both his emotional singing and his wailing, swooping harmonica".
From this point onwards, his personal life started to degenerate. Attending a house party, Foster was accidentally shot in the head by a woman playing with a handgun. The shooting caused partial paralysis and severely affected his ability to speak. He made a slow recovery but rarely played in public thereafter. In January 1974, Foster voluntarily surrendered himself to the local police after he shot and killed his roommate. Pleading self-defense and impairment of judgement due to his brain injury, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a state hospital in 1975.
The variant spelling of his first name is due to the different spellings on his two singles.
|1955||"Falling Rain Blues"
|"Four Day Jump"
|Parrot / Blue Lake||Accompanied by Lazy Bill Lucas, Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor|
|1957||"Crying the Blues"
|Cobra||Accompanied by Lazy Bill Lucas, Floyd Jones, Eddie Taylor, Triolue High|
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 194. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- "Little Willy Foster: Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- Komara, Edward M. (2006). Blues Encyclopedia. Books.google.co.uk. p. 342. ISBN 0-415-92699-8. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-313-34423-7. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- "Little Willy Foster Discography". Wirz.de. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- "Bman's Blues Report". Bmansbluesreport.com. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
- Ford, Robert (2007). A Blues Bibliography. Books.google.co.uk. p. 356. ISBN 0-415-97887-4. Retrieved November 19, 2014.