Joe Williams Biography

Joseph Goreed, 12 December 1918, Cordele, Georgia, USA, d. 29 March 1999, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Williams began his musical career singing in a gospel group in Chicago and by the late 30s was performing regularly as a solo singer. He had short-lived jobs with bands led by Jimmie Noone and others, was encouraged by Lionel Hampton, who employed him briefly in 1943, and in 1950 was with Count Basie for a short spell. In 1951 he had a record success with ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’, but he did not make his breakthrough into the big time until he rejoined Basie in 1954. For the next few years, records by the band with Williams in powerful voice were hugely successful and, coming at a period when Basie’s band was at a low commercial ebb, it is hard to say with any certainty who needed whom the most. By the time Williams moved on, in 1961, both the band and the singer had reached new heights of popularity, and they continued to make occasional concert appearances together during the following decades. In the 60s Williams worked mostly as a solo artist, often accompanied by top-flight jazzmen, including Harry Edison, Clark Terry, George Shearing and Cannonball Adderley. He toured and recorded throughout the 70s and 80s, his stature growing as he matured and his voice seemingly growing stronger and more mellow with age.

A highly sophisticated artist, whose blues singing had a burnished glow which contrasted vividly with the harsh edge of the lyrics he sung, Williams built a substantial and devoted audience. His later appearances, with bands such as the Capp-Pierce Juggernaut, frequently contained popular songs which he performed with more than a tinge of blues feeling. He also favoured material which allowed him to display the good humour which was a characteristic of the man himself. He died in March 1999 shortly after discharging himself from hospital, where he was being treated for a respiratory disorder.

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

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