Larry Williams Biography

10 May 1935, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 2 January 1980, Los Angeles, California, USA. Williams recorded a handful of raucous rock ‘n’ roll songs for Specialty Records that later influenced, among others, John Lennon. Williams learned to play the piano while in New Orleans, and moved to Oakland, California, with his family while in his teens. There he joined a group called the Lemon Drops. In 1954, while visiting his old hometown of New Orleans, he met and was hired as a pianist by Lloyd Price, who recorded for Specialty. Price introduced Williams to producer Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell. At that time Specialty head Art Rupe signed Williams. His first record was a cover version of Price’s ‘Just Because’, which reached number 11 on the R&B chart for Williams and number 3 for Price. Backed by fellow Specialty artist Little Richard’s band, Williams recorded his own ‘Short Fat Fannie’, which reached number 1 in the R&B chart and number 5 in the pop chart during 1957. To follow up his song about a fat girl, Williams next recorded one about a skinny girl, ‘Bony Moronie’, which was almost as big a hit. Williams had one final chart single for Specialty the following year, ‘Dizzy, Miss Lizzy’, which reached number 69 (it was later covered by the Beatles, with Lennon singing - they also covered ‘Slow Down’ and ‘Bad Boy’, while Lennon later recorded ‘Bony Moronie’ and ‘Just Because’, providing Williams with a steady royalties income until his death).

A number of singles and an album were issued by Specialty up to 1959, none of which were hits. In that year, he was arrested for selling drugs and sent to jail, causing Specialty to drop him and his career to fade. He recorded later for Chess Records, Mercury Records and for Island Records and Decca Records in the mid-60s, by which time he was working with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson. In 1966 Williams became a producer for OKeh Records and recorded an album with Watson for that label. He was virtually inactive between 1967 and 1979, at which point he recorded a funk album for Fantasy Records. In January 1980, Williams was found in his Los Angeles home with a gunshot wound in the head, judged to be self-inflicted, although it was rumoured that Williams was murdered owing to his involvement with drugs and, reportedly, prostitution.

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

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