Ralph Willis

Genres: Blues
Decades: 1970s 1980s 1990s


1910, Alabama, USA, d. 1957, New York City, New York, USA. Ralph Willis moved to North Carolina in the 30s, and met Blind Boy Fuller, Eugene ‘Buddy’ Moss and Brownie McGhee; he was closely associated with McGhee in New York after he relocated there in 1944, and his recordings often have McGhee on second guitar. They range from delicate guitar duets to driving dance music, with a nice line in bawdy humour, although he could also be lazily wistful, as on his solo cover of Luke Jordan’s ‘Church Bells’. Despite his connection with McGhee and Sonny Terry, Willis did not capitalize on the burgeoning folk revival. He was known as ‘Bama’ for his rural ways; he perhaps lacked the drive or the self-confidence to achieve mainstream success.

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