Willmer "Little Ax" Broadnax

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Willmer M. Broadnax
Born (1916-12-28)28 December 1916
Houston, Texas
Died June 1, 1992(1992-06-01) (aged 75)
Occupation Singer

Willmer M. Broadnax (December 28, 1916[1] – June 1, 1992),[2] also known as "Little Ax", "Wilbur", "Willie", and "Wilmer", was a transgender American hard gospel quartet singer.[3]

Early life[edit]

Broadnax was born in Houston, Texas in 1916, son of William Broadnax and Gussie Frazier.

Career[edit]

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.[1]

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[edit]

In retirement, Broadnax continued to record new material occasionally with the Blind Boys into the 70s and 80s.

Upon his death in 1992, it was discovered that Broadnax was assigned female at birth.[4]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Jason Ankeny, "The Golden Echoes", Allmusic.com; accessed December 9, 2014.
  • Liner notes to Detroiters/Golden Echoes "Old Time Religion", Specialty 1992
  • For year of death, see Archived February 4, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  • For pictures of Broadnax with the Spirit of Memphis, see [1]