Rediscovering Andre Williams

"Look man, I'm not a liberator, I am an entertainer!"

Joss Hutton, Philippe Korpar-Migrenne and Ski Williams chewed the "Bacon Fat" with one of R&B's wildest, Andre "Mr Rhythm" Willliams. Over the past forty years, Bessamer, Alabama-born Andre Williams has written, recorded and produced some of the most ribald ("Humpin', Bumpin' & Thumpin'"), infectious ("Rib Tips") and downright bizarre ("Please Pass The Biscuits") R&B ever committed to vinyl. Andre kicked off his career with a 1956 US top ten hit, the funky "Bacon Fat", but sadly, despite a slew of gloriously salacious follow-ups - including "Jailbait " and "The Greasy Chicken" - failed to capitalise on his initial success. However, in 1961 a timely haircut saw him cross paths with the then struggling founder of Motown records, Berry Gordy for whom he produced the likes of The Contours and Mary Wells.

Following his refusal to be married-off into the Gordy clan, Andre spent the late 1960's writing, producing and performing for Chicago's Chess and Houston's Duke / Peacock labels, who released such proto-funk classics as his own "Cadillac Jack" and "The Stroke" plus such wonderful discs as "Uhuru (African Twist)" by Jomo, Jeanette William's "Hound Dog", Bobby Bland's "Spotlighting The Man" album and The Meditation Singer's "Change Is Gonna Come" set. Sadly, in the early 70's, Andre's heady lifestyle took a turn for the worst after he was asked to produce Ike Turner. The upshot of Andre's chemical-fuelled association with 'ole Ike was a heavy coke problem that led to a hand to mouth existence for most of the 1980's, during which time Andre even spent a spell begging on a bridge in Chicago.

Happily, Andre is once again the epitome of health, a recent court case has seen him finally awarded royalties from his most popular composition "Shake A Tail Feather" - a 1963 hit for The Five Du-Tones, memorably featured in the films "Hairspray" and "The Blues Brothers" - and he is currently once again electrifying crowds around the world, thanks to the acclaim garnered by such staggeringly sleazy albums as "Silky", "Red Dirt" and "The Black Godfather." However, as the man himself says "You keep jumpin' up to the dick! Let me give you guys a methodical interview, chronological, OK?" Well, you got it Andre... To be continued here

On Wikipedia
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Williams lived in a housing project with his mother until she died when he was six years of age. A sly and smart young boy, his "aunties" raised him until he was around 16. He then set out on his own and moved to Detroit, Michigan. There, he became friends with Jack and Devora Brown, owners of Fortune Records which was located at the back of a barber shop. Williams would become labels mates with fellow Fortune Records stars Nolan Strong and Nathaniel Mayer.

He then became lead singer for The 5 Dollars in 1955, which already had a contract with Fortune Records. Though most of the songs were billed as 'Andre Williams and the Don Juans' (on Epic in 1956 billed as 'Andre Mr Rhythm Williams and his New Group'), "Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait" were solo efforts. "Bacon Fat" hit #9 on the Billboard R&B Charts in 1957. "Bacon Fat" (written by Williams) was such a success that Fortune Records sold the song to Epic Records, a much larger distributor (released as Epic 5-9196 "Bacon Fat/Just because of a Kiss"). Since "Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait" were such successes, Williams figured that "talking instead of singing" was a better idea for him, for he didn't have as good a voice as some other singers from the 1950s. In 1960 Fortune released a complete LP, of all of his singles with the Don Juans, which was titled Jail Bait (rereleased in 1986). This was just the start of Williams' nationwide fame.

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