egroj world: Andre Williams & The New Orleans Hellhounds • Can You Deal With

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Andre Williams & The New Orleans Hellhounds • Can You Deal With


by Andrew Hamilton
Multi-talented Zephire "Andre" Williams wore many musical hats during his long career: recording artist, songwriter, producer, road manager, and so on. The Father of Rap was born November 1, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois and was raised in a housing project by his mother, who died when Williams was six years old. Thereafter, Williams' aunts raised the precocious lad, who had already become quite the character. The R&B legend is best known for co-writing and producing "Twine Time" for Alvin Cash & the Crawlers, "Shake a Tail Feather" by the Five Dutones, and a greasy solo recording, "Bacon Fat," where Williams talked over a funky, crude rhythm.

A slick, street-smart, dapper Dan, music was one of Williams' hustles. He ventured to Detroit in his late teens and befriended Jack and Devora Brown, the owners of Fortune Records. He started singing with the Don Juans, a group in which the Browns titled their 45s according to who sang lead, something Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis later did with the Voicemasters. At Fortune, Williams became adept at putting songs together. To date, he has more than 230 compositions registered with BMI. In 1956, Fortune issued seven singles by Williams, all but two co-billed with the Don Juans: "Going Down to Tia Juana," "It's All Over," "Bacon Fat," "Mean Jean," "Jail Bait," "The Greasy Chicken," and "Country Girl." "Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait" were solo shots; the former got a boost from Epic Records, which took over the distribution when the demand got too great for Fortune to handle. Fortune also released "Ooh Ooh Those Eyes" by Don Lake & the Don Juans, and two by pianist Joe Weaver & the Don Juans, "Baby I Love You" and "Baby Child," in 1956. Little Eddie & the Don Juans recorded the first Don Juans record on Fortune, "This Is a Miracle" b/w "Calypso Beat," in 1955. Williams later sang with the Five Dollars, who released records on Fortune from 1956 to 1957, and were billed as Andre Williams & the Five Dollars on a 1960 release.

Doing his Fortune stint, Williams kept busy playing the popular clubs in Detroit and other locales, including the Flamingo Club in Memphis, Tennessee. His biggest solo hit, "Bacon Fat," was created during a drive to the Flamingo. When he got back to Detroit he persuaded Devora Brown to book a session. Fortune's recording studio was in the back room of a record shop the Browns owned. "Bacon Fat" was Williams' third single for Fortune; he didn't even have the lyrics written, but hurried and did so on a napkin while Devora busied herself setting up the studio mikes. Thank God for DJ Frantic Eddie Durham, who observed the session. He was the only one who understood what was going on. Everyone else, including Joe Weaver, thought Williams was wasting time and money with this talk-singing. Williams and Durham proved them wrong when "Bacon Fat" took off, becoming, with "The Wind" by Nolan Strong & the Diablos, Fortune's most popular record. Williams started talking instead of singing because he knew he couldn't compete vocally with Nolan Strong, Clyde McPhatter, Little Willie John, Jackie Wilson, and others. He created a new style that was later adapted by Harvey Fuqua ("Any Way You Wanna"), Jerry-O, Shorty Long, Bootsy Collins, and others.

After Fortune, Williams languished with Berry Gordy and Motown from 1961 to 1965. He signed as an artist, producer, and writer. His only 45, "Rosa Lee" b/w "Shoo Ooo," was scheduled for release on Gordy's short-lived Miracle label, but was never issued. Gina Parks, a friend from the Don Juans, enjoyed a couple more solo releases on Motown labels but none scored. Williams co-wrote Little Stevie Wonder's first record, "Thank You for Loving Me"; "Oh Little Boy What You Do to Me," the flip of Mary Wells' "My Guy"; an early Eddie Holland single, "If Cleopatra Took a Chance," and "Mojo Hannah," recorded first by Henry Lumpkin, then Marvin Gaye (outside of Motown it's been remade by Tami Lynn, the Ideals, the Neville Brothers, and others).

His relationship with Berry Gordy was one of mutual respect, but stormy. He never conformed to Gordy's way of doing things, and the four years he spent at Motown weren't consecutive. When Williams got under Gordy's skin, Gordy fired him; Williams would leave for a few months and produce a hit for someone on another label, and Gordy would invite him back. Williams was still associating with Motown when he masterminded "Shake a Tail Feather" for the Five Dutones and "Twine Time" for Alvin Cash & the Crawlers, on George Leaner's Onederful Records in Chicago. Williams cut a lot of tracks for the Contours; by his estimate he supervised at least two albums' worth of material for the wild, raucous, dancing group, but few were released. During this time Williams co-wrote "Girls Are Getting Prettier," a non-hit for Edwin Starr on Ric Tic Records. At one point, Williams was Starr's road manager.

By 1965, Williams left Motown for good to sign with Chicago's Chess Records and had a string of R&B releases including "The Stroke," "Girdle Up," "Humpin' Bumpin' & Thumpin'," and "Cadillac Jack." His legend grew. A nefarious character but a good entertainer, Williams wore lavender suits, and continued to entertain crowds at bucket-of-blood-type establishments. He produced and wrote for more acts than he remembers, including "The Funky Judge" by Bull & the Matadors on Toddlin' Town Records. An 18-month stint with Ike Turner led to Williams' hitting rock bottom; after the experience he returned to Chicago a full-blown street junkie and was on the verge of self-destruction for years. His biggest period as an artist came around 1960 when Fortune released the LP Jail Bait. He contributed to many sessions, including some for Parliament, Jesse James, Funkadelic, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Spinners, Trey Lewd (George Clinton's son), and Amos Milburn. He produced tracks for Mary Wells when she left Motown for 20th Century Fox Records.

Williams moved to Queens, New York, and again became active in the business of music. He performed at much better venues then he did during his Jail Bait years, dazzling audiences with his swagger and loud, pimpish wardrobe. He released more albums in the '90s than he did during the first 40 years of his career, including Silky and Directly from the Streets. The Black Godfather and Fat Back & Corn Liquor followed in 2000. He paired with the New Orleans Hellhounds for 2008's Can You Deal with It? on Bloodshot Records. For 2010's That's All I Need, also on Bloodshot Records, Williams worked with Detroit musicians, including members of the Dirtbombs, the Witches, and the Volebeats, as well as the Funk Brothers' Dennis Coffey. Not slowing down one bit, Williams teamed with Coffey again, along with guitarist Matt Smith and guests Jim White, Greasy Carlisi, Jim Diamond, and Don Was for a funky psychedelic-folk-rock-garage-R&B romp, Hoods and Shades, which appeared on Bloodshot early in 2012.

Night & Day was his second full-length release of 2012, and second collaborative LP with Toronto alt-country act the Sadies (following 1999's Red Dirt). Sessions for Night & Day were begun in 2008 amid Williams' troubles with drugs and the law, but rounded out a few years later when he returned to the studio clean and sober. It was finally released in the spring of 2012. Williams, sober and free of legal problems, was on a creative roll. Life, recorded in Detroit, and led by the controversial (and very tongue-in-cheek) single "Blame It on Obama," appeared in October that same year. After an uncharacteristically long layoff of four years, Williams returned with an album celebrating his former hometown, 2016's I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City. Released a few months before Williams' 80th birthday, the album included contributions from Dennis Coffey, Matthew Smith, and Dan Kroha. Before 2016 was out, Williams dropped a second album, Don't Ever Give Up. The title proved to be sadly ironic; it was the last album Williams would release before his death on March 17, 2019.


por Andrew Hamilton
El polifacético Zephire "Andre" Williams tuvo muchas facetas musicales a lo largo de su dilatada carrera: artista, compositor, productor, road manager, etcétera. El padre del rap nació el 1 de noviembre de 1936 en Chicago (Illinois) y fue criado en un proyecto de viviendas por su madre, que murió cuando Williams tenía seis años. A partir de entonces, las tías de Williams criaron al precoz muchacho, que ya se había convertido en todo un personaje. La leyenda del R&B es más conocida por haber coescrito y producido "Twine Time" para Alvin Cash & the Crawlers, "Shake a Tail Feather" de los Five Dutones, y una grasienta grabación en solitario, "Bacon Fat", en la que Williams hablaba sobre un ritmo funky y crudo.

La música era uno de los oficios de Williams. Se aventuró a ir a Detroit al final de su adolescencia y se hizo amigo de Jack y Devora Brown, los propietarios de Fortune Records. Empezó a cantar con los Don Juans, un grupo en el que los Brown titulaban sus 45 según quién fuera el cantante principal, algo que Gwen Gordy y Billy Davis hicieron más tarde con los Voicemasters. En Fortune, Williams se hizo experto en componer canciones. Hasta la fecha, tiene más de 230 composiciones registradas en BMI. En 1956, Fortune publicó siete sencillos de Williams, todos menos dos en colaboración con los Don Juans: "Going Down to Tia Juana", "It's All Over", "Bacon Fat", "Mean Jean", "Jail Bait", "The Greasy Chicken" y "Country Girl". "Bacon Fat" y "Jail Bait" fueron lanzamientos en solitario; el primero recibió un impulso de Epic Records, que se hizo cargo de la distribución cuando la demanda fue demasiado grande para Fortune. Fortune también publicó "Ooh Ooh Those Eyes" de Don Lake & the Don Juans, y dos del pianista Joe Weaver & the Don Juans, "Baby I Love You" y "Baby Child", en 1956. Little Eddie & the Don Juans grabaron el primer disco de los Don Juans en Fortune, "This Is a Miracle" b/w "Calypso Beat", en 1955. Más tarde, Williams cantó con los Five Dollars, que publicaron discos en Fortune de 1956 a 1957, y que en 1960 se llamaron Andre Williams & the Five Dollars.

Durante su etapa en Fortune, Williams se mantuvo ocupado tocando en los clubes populares de Detroit y otros lugares, incluido el Flamingo Club de Memphis, Tennessee. Su mayor éxito en solitario, "Bacon Fat", surgió durante un viaje al Flamingo. Cuando regresó a Detroit, convenció a Devora Brown para que le reservara una sesión. El estudio de grabación de Fortune estaba en la trastienda de una tienda de discos propiedad de los Brown. "Bacon Fat" fue el tercer sencillo de Williams para Fortune; ni siquiera tenía escrita la letra, pero se apresuró y lo hizo en una servilleta mientras Devora se afanaba en instalar los micrófonos del estudio. Gracias a Dios por DJ Frantic Eddie Durham, que observó la sesión. Era el único que entendía lo que estaba pasando. Todos los demás, incluido Joe Weaver, pensaban que Williams estaba perdiendo el tiempo y el dinero con esta charla-canción. Williams y Durham demostraron que estaban equivocados cuando "Bacon Fat" despegó, convirtiéndose, junto con "The Wind" de Nolan Strong & the Diablos, en el disco más popular de Fortune. Williams empezó a hablar en lugar de cantar porque sabía que no podía competir vocalmente con Nolan Strong, Clyde McPhatter, Little Willie John, Jackie Wilson y otros. Creó un nuevo estilo que más tarde adaptaron Harvey Fuqua ("Any Way You Wanna"), Jerry-O, Shorty Long, Bootsy Collins y otros.

Después de Fortune, Williams languideció con Berry Gordy y Motown de 1961 a 1965. Firmó como artista, productor y escritor. Su único 45, "Rosa Lee" b/w "Shoo Ooo", estaba programado para salir en el efímero sello Miracle de Gordy, pero nunca se publicó. Gina Parks, una amiga de Don Juans, disfrutó de un par de lanzamientos en solitario más en sellos Motown, pero ninguno llegó a publicarse. Williams coescribió el primer disco de Little Stevie Wonder, "Thank You for Loving Me"; "Oh Little Boy What You Do to Me", la versión de "My Guy" de Mary Wells; uno de los primeros sencillos de Eddie Holland, "If Cleopatra Took a Chance", y "Mojo Hannah", grabada primero por Henry Lumpkin y luego por Marvin Gaye (fuera de Motown ha sido versionada por Tami Lynn, The Ideals, The Neville Brothers y otros).

Su relación con Berry Gordy era de respeto mutuo, pero tormentosa. Nunca se conformó con la forma de hacer las cosas de Gordy, y los cuatro años que pasó en Motown no fueron consecutivos. Cuando Williams se metía en la piel de Gordy, éste le despedía; Williams se marchaba unos meses y producía un éxito para alguien de otro sello, y Gordy le invitaba a volver. Williams seguía colaborando con Motown cuando creó "Shake a Tail Feather" para los Five Dutones y "Twine Time" para Alvin Cash & the Crawlers, en Onederful Records de George Leaner en Chicago. Williams grabó muchos temas para los Contours; según sus estimaciones, supervisó al menos dos álbumes de material para este grupo salvaje, estridente y bailarín, pero pocos se publicaron. Durante esta época, Williams coescribió "Girls Are Getting Prettier", un tema que no fue un éxito para Edwin Starr en Ric Tic Records. En un momento dado, Williams fue el road manager de Starr.

En 1965, Williams abandonó definitivamente la Motown para firmar con Chess Records de Chicago y tuvo una serie de lanzamientos de R&B como "The Stroke", "Girdle Up", "Humpin' Bumpin' & Thumpin'" y "Cadillac Jack". Su leyenda crecía. Williams, un personaje nefasto pero un buen animador, vestía trajes color lavanda y seguía entreteniendo a multitudes en establecimientos del tipo cubo de sangre. Produjo y escribió para más actuaciones de las que recuerda, incluida "The Funky Judge" de Bull & the Matadors en Toddlin' Town Records. Una temporada de 18 meses con Ike Turner hizo que Williams tocara fondo; tras la experiencia, regresó a Chicago convertido en un auténtico yonqui callejero y estuvo al borde de la autodestrucción durante años. Su mejor época como artista llegó alrededor de 1960, cuando Fortune publicó el LP Jail Bait. Colaboró en muchas sesiones, incluidas algunas para Parliament, Jesse James, Funkadelic, los Red Hot Chili Peppers, los Spinners, Trey Lewd (hijo de George Clinton) y Amos Milburn. Produjo temas para Mary Wells cuando ésta dejó la Motown por 20th Century Fox Records.

Williams se trasladó a Queens, Nueva York, y volvió a participar activamente en el negocio de la música. Actuó en locales mucho mejores que en sus años de Jail Bait, deslumbrando al público con su fanfarronería y su vestuario chulesco y estridente. Publicó más discos en los 90 que en los primeros 40 años de su carrera, entre ellos Silky y Directly from the Streets. The Black Godfather y Fat Back & Corn Liquor le siguieron en 2000. En 2008 formó pareja con los New Orleans Hellhounds en Can You Deal with It?, de Bloodshot Records. Para That's All I Need, de 2010, también en Bloodshot Records, Williams trabajó con músicos de Detroit, incluidos miembros de los Dirtbombs, los Witches y los Volebeats, así como Dennis Coffey, de los Funk Brothers. Sin bajar el ritmo ni un ápice, Williams volvió a formar equipo con Coffey, junto con el guitarrista Matt Smith y los invitados Jim White, Greasy Carlisi, Jim Diamond y Don Was, para un disco de funky psychedelic-folk-rock-garage-R&B, Hoods and Shades, que apareció en Bloodshot a principios de 2012.

Night & Day fue su segundo álbum de larga duración de 2012 y su segundo LP en colaboración con los Sadies (tras Red Dirt, de 1999). Las sesiones para Night & Day comenzaron en 2008, en medio de los problemas de Williams con las drogas y la ley, pero se completaron unos años más tarde, cuando regresó al estudio limpio y sobrio. Finalmente se publicó en la primavera de 2012. Williams, sobrio y libre de problemas legales, estaba en racha creativa. Life, grabado en Detroit y encabezado por el polémico (y muy irónico) single "Blame It on Obama", apareció en octubre de ese mismo año. Tras un largo parón de cuatro años, Williams regresó con un álbum que celebraba su antigua ciudad natal, I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City, de 2016. Publicado unos meses antes del 80 cumpleaños de Williams, el álbum incluía colaboraciones de Dennis Coffey, Matthew Smith y Dan Kroha. Antes de que acabara 2016, Williams lanzó un segundo álbum, Don't Ever Give Up. El título resultó ser tristemente irónico; fue el último álbum que Williams lanzaría antes de su muerte el 17 de marzo de 2019.

1 - Can You Deal With It?
2 - Hear Ya Dance
3 - Never Had A Problem              
4 - Pray For You Daughter
5 - If You Leave Me
6 - Rosalie                           
7 - If It Wasn't For You
8 - Your Woman
9 - Can't Take 'em Off


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