Clarence Williams Biography

8 October 1893, Plaquemine, Louisiana, USA, d. 6 November 1965, New York City, New York, USA. Although Williams first made his mark as a pianist, singer and dancer, it was as a composer, record producer, music publisher and entrepreneur that he made a lasting impact on jazz. Before he was in his teens he had decided upon a career in showbusiness and had run away from home to work with a travelling minstrel show. By the time he was 21 he had started composing, formed his first publishing company, and was married to blues singer Eva Taylor. His early associates, as performers and/or in business, included Armand Piron and W.C. Handy. First in New Orleans, then Chicago and finally in New York City, Williams established himself as a successful publisher, an energetic record producer and a tireless accompanist to some of the finest jazz and blues artists of the day. Among Williams’ most notable recording sessions are those on which he was joined by Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet, while his sensitive accompaniment enhanced many record sessions with singers such as Bessie Smith, Beulah ‘Sippie’ Wallace and his wife.

Williams was a dedicated promoter of the music of such leading pianist-composers as James P. Johnson and Fats Waller, his name often appearing as co-composer on works to which he may have contributed little that was creative but a great deal of enthusiastic effort in their promotion. By the late 30s he had decided to concentrate upon composing and, for a while, ran a business outside music. Even an accident that robbed him of his sight did not deter him and he worked steadily until his death in 1965. Williams’ legacy to jazz includes many songs that bear his name as composer or co-composer and that became standards, among them ‘Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home’, ‘’Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do’, ‘Everybody Loves My Baby’, ‘Royal Garden Blues’, ‘West End Blues’, and ‘I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of This Jelly Roll’.

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

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