Andre Williams Biography

Zeffrey Williams, 1 November 1936, Bessemer, Alabama, but raised in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Williams has made his lasting mark in the R&B industry as a recording artist, songwriter, and producer of the first doo-wop vocal groups and then soul acts. He is noted for his sly streetwise songs in which he basically talks (with a rhythmic feel) the lyrics rather than sings them, earning him the unofficial title ‘The Father Of Rap’.

Like many African-American artists, Williams began his career in the church, singing in the Cobbs Baptist Church choir in the 40s. He began singing in vocal groups in the early 50s, forming the Cavaliers. He later moved to Detroit and recorded several singles with the Don Juans for the Fortune Records label. Williams soon disengaged himself to establish a solo career on Fortune, making his biggest impact with two jokey records, ‘Jail Bait’ and ‘Bacon Fat’ (number 9 R&B) in 1957. He also concurrently sang with the Five Dollars who released several singles on Fortune. By the early 60s Williams was back in Chicago working as a producer and songwriter for various labels, including several spells with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records where he worked with Mary Wells, Stevie Wonder and Eddie Holland. He produced Joyce Kennedy for Blue Rock, JoAnn Garrett for Checker Records and Duo, and co-wrote and produced two perennial dance classics, ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ for the Five Duotones and ‘Twine Time’ for Alvin Cash. Meanwhile, he recorded some solo tracks for Checker, obtaining a modest chart entry with ‘Cadillac Jack’ (number 46 R&B) in 1968. He also recorded some singles for Avin in Detroit and worked with Ike Turner.

In the early 70s Williams went down to Texas to produce for Duke Records, but after the label was sold to ABC Records in 1974 he returned to Chicago. Williams continued to work as an artist manager and independent producer although personal problems and addictions sidelined him for a long spell. In a burst of productivity he released several albums in the late 90s to the present day, which revealed that his salacious wit was still in perfect working order. These albums also included contributions from several contemporary bands, including the Sadies and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who professed their admiration for the raw sexuality of Williams’ songs.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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