Wet Willie Biography

Unusual among Southern boogie band of the 70s, Wet Willie included a strong R&B element in its music. The group was founded as Fox in 1970 in Mobile, Alabama by Jimmy Hall (vocals, saxophone, harmonica) and his brother Jack (bass). Other members were Ricky Hirsch (guitar), John Anthony (keyboards) and Lewis Ross (drums). Wet Willie was signed by Phil Walden to his Macon, Georgia-based Capricorn label, for whom it made seven albums before moving to Epic Records in 1978. The second album included Jimmy Hall’s creditable version of Otis Redding’s ‘Shout Bamalama’ but the first hit was the live recording Drippin’ Wet, for which they added female singers Donna Hall and Ella Brown, who had made solo records for Capricorn. This was followed by a Top 10 hit with the title track of Keep On Smilin’ which was produced by veteran Tom Dowd. The addition of keyboards player Michael Duke in 1976 brought another lead vocalist into the group, heard to advantage on the hard rocking ‘Teaser’ from The Wetter The Better. In 1978 Ross and Hirsch (who joined Gregg Allman’s band) were replaced by guitarists Larry Bernwald and Marshall Smith (27 June 1949, d. 14 October 2005) plus Theophilus Lievely (drums). With Gary Lyons producing, Wet Willie had Top 30 hits in 1978-9 with ‘Street Corner Serenade’ and ‘Weekend’. The group split in 1980, with Jimmy Hall going on to a solo career. He also recorded with the Allman Brothers Band.

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

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