Willmer "Little Ax" Broadnax
|Willmer M. Broadnax|
28 December 1916|
|Died||June 1, 1992(aged 75)|
After moving to southern California in the mid-1940s, he and his brother, William, joined the Southern Gospel Singers, a group which performed primarily on weekends. The Broadnax brothers soon formed their own quartet, the Golden Echoes. William eventually left for Atlanta, where he joined the Five Trumpets, but Willmer stayed on as lead singer. In 1949 the group, augmented by future Soul Stirrer Paul Foster, recorded a single of "When the Saints Go Marching In" for Specialty Records. Label chief Art Rupe decided to drop them before they could record a follow-up, and shortly thereafter the Golden Echoes disbanded.
In 1950, Broadnax joined the Spirit of Memphis Quartet. Along with Broadnax, the group featured two other leads -- Jethro "Jet" Bledsoe, a bluesy crooner, and Silas Steele, an overpowering baritone. The Spirit of Memphis Quartet recorded for King Records, and Broadnax appeared on their releases at least until 1952. Shortly after that, he moved on, working with the Fairfield Four, and in the early 1960s as one of the replacements for Archie Brownlee in the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Until 1965 he headed a quartet called "Little Ax and the Golden Echoes," which released some singles on Peacock Records. By then, quartet singing was fading in commercial viability, and Broadnax retired from touring.
Later years and death
In retirement, Broadnax continued to record new material occasionally with the Blind Boys into the 70s and 80s.
- Carpenter, Bil & Kip Lornell. "Willmer Broadnax". Allmusic.
- Anthony Heilbut, liner notes to "Kings of the Gospel Highway," Shanatchie 2000 (discusses Broadnax's gender)