Willie Mabon Biography

24 October 1925, Hollywood, Tennessee, USA, d. 19 April 1985, Paris, France. Accompanying himself on piano and secondly on harmonica, Mabon sang in an urbane blues style similar to Charles Brown. He moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to Chicago in 1942 and was first recorded in 1949 as a member of the Blues Rockers group. After military service he became a popular entertainer in Chicago’s Black Belt, and by the early 50s, was well established as an R&B singer with a number of successful records to his credit. Signed as a solo artist to Chess Records in 1951, Mabon immediately hit with a novelty blues, ‘I Don’t Know’ (R&B number 1, 1952), a remake of a Cripple Clarence Lofton record from 1938. Mabon had other hits with ‘I’m Mad’ (R&B number 1, 1953), ‘Poison Ivy’ (R&B Top 10, 1954) and ‘Seventh Son’ (1955).

After leaving Chess in 1956, Mabon continued to record on various small labels, achieving success on Formal in 1962 with ‘Got To Have Some’. During the 70s and 80s, he would flit back and forth between Chicago and Europe, making occasional albums for German and French labels, most of which were poorly received. He found a wider audience in Europe, playing the Montreux Jazz Festival and festivals in Berlin and Holland. A polished performer, with a measure of glossy sophistication to his singing, Mabon retained a strong affinity with the earthier aspects of the blues and was an influence upon Mose Allison.

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

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