Mabon in 1976
October 24, 1925|
Hollywood, Tennessee, United States
|Died||April 19, 1985
|Genres||Rhythm and blues|
|Labels||Apollo, Aristocrat, Parrot, Chess, Federal, Mad, Formal, USA, Storyville, Blues On Blues, Black and Blue, America, Ornament, L+R|
Born Willie James Mabon and brought up in Hollywood, Memphis, Tennessee, he had become known as a singer and pianist by the time he moved to Chicago in 1942. He formed a group, the Blues Rockers, and in 1949 began recording for Aristocrat Records and then Chess Records.
His biggest success came in 1952 when his debut solo release, "I Don't Know", written by Cripple Clarence Lofton (who received no royalties), topped the Billboard R&B chart for eight weeks. It was one of the most popular releases of its era and was Chess's biggest hit in the period before the successes of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. It was also one of the first R&B hit records to be covered by a leading white artist, Tennessee Ernie Ford. Mabon's original was played on Alan Freed's early radio shows and also sold well to white audiences, crossing over markets at the start of the rock and roll era.
Mabon returned to the top R&B slot in 1953 with "I'm Mad" and had another hit in 1954 with the Mel London song "Poison Ivy". However, his career failed to maintain its momentum, and record releases in the late 1950s on various labels were largely unsuccessful. Releases in the 1960s included "I'm the Fixer" and "Got to Have Some".
He moved to Paris in 1972 and toured and recorded in Europe as part of promoter Jim Simpson's American Blues Legends tour, recording The Comeback for Simpson's Big Bear Records and an album for Ornament Records in 1977. He also performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
He died in April 1985, after a long illness, in Paris.
- "I Don't Know" was covered by Freddie King in 1970 and by the Blues Brothers in 1978.
- His song "Just Got Some" was covered by Rod Stewart.
- His song "I'm Mad" is featured in the Marv Newland 1980 animated short film, Sing Beast Sing.
- "Seventh Son", first recorded by Mabon in 1955, has been covered by various artists, including Johnny Rivers, Georgie Fame, John Mellencamp, Billy "Crash" Craddock, Mose Allison, Sting, Climax Blues Band, and Long John Baldry.
- "Willie Mabon Biography". OLDIES.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- "Willie Mabon illustrated discography". Wirz.de. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- Russell, Tony (2006). The Penguin Guide to Blues Recordings. London: Penguin Books. p. 407. ISBN 0140513841.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 139. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Wirz, Stefan (January 8, 2010). "Ornament Discography". American Music. Wirz.de. Retrieved January 30, 2010.
- "The Dead Rock Stars Club – The 1980s". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.