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Williams, Joe

Joe Williams

Singer

Cleaned by Day, Sung by Night

Treated for Depression

Cemented Stature With Basie Orchestra

Selected discography

Sources

His name is not as well known to the general public as those of jazz legends Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, or Ella Fitzgerald, but Joe Williams is nevertheless counted among the masters of jazz and blues singing; he has, in fact, earned the title Emperor of the Blues. His singing style, which he developed over a long and consistently successful career, contributed to the success of the great Count Basie Orchestra and influenced the style of many younger singers. Williams has also dabbled in acting, playing the role of Claire Huxtables father, Grandpa AI, on The Cosby Show.

Williams was born Joseph Goreed in the small farming town of Cordele, deep in the heart of Georgia, on December 12, 1918. His father, Willie Goreed, left the family early on, but Williamss mother, Anne Beatrice Gilbert, who was no older than 18 when she had her only child, provided a strong emotional bond until her death in 1968.

Soon after Williams was born, his mother moved them in with his grandparents, who had enough money to support an extended family. During this time, Anne Gilbert was saving for a move to Chicago. Once she had made the movealoneshe began saving the money that she earned cooking for wealthy white Chi-cagoans so that her family could join her. By the time Williams was four, he, his grandmother, and his aunt had joined his mother in Chicago, where they would live for many years.

Probably most important to Williamss later life was the music scenefueled largely by African-American musiciansthat thrived in Chicago in the early 1920s. Years later, he recalled going to the Vendome Theatre with his mother to hear Louis Armstrong play his trumpet. Chicago also offered a host of radio stations that featured the then-rebellious sounds of jazz, exposing Williams to the stylings of Ellington, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Joe Turner, and many others. By his early teens, the budding vocalist had already taught himself to play piano and had formed a quartet, known as the Jubilee Boys, that sang at church functions.

Cleaned by Day, Sung by Night

During his mid-teens Williams began performing as a vocalist, singing solo at formal events with local bands. The most that he ever took home was five dollars a night, but that was enough to convince his family that he could make a living with his rich baritone; so, at 16, he dropped out of school. After a family conference, the name Williams was chosen as a stage name, and Joe began marketing himself in earnest to Chicago clubs and bands. His first job was a kind of compromisenot

For the Record

Born Joseph Goreed, December 12, 1918, in Cordele, GA; changed surname to Williams, c. 1934; son of Willie Goreed (a farm laborer) and Anne Beatrice Gilbert (a cook); married Wilma Cole, 1942 (divorced, 1946); married Anne Kirksey, 1946 (divorced, c. 1950); married Lemma Reid, 1951 (divorced, 1964); married Jillean Milne Hughes-DAeth, 1965; children: (third marriage) Joe, Jr., JoAnn.

Formed, and performed at church functions with, vocal quartet the Jubilee Boys, early 1930s; performed with various bands, Chicago, 1930s; performed with bands of Jimmie Noone, 1938-39, Les Hite, 1939-40, Coleman Hawkins, 1941, Lionel Hampton, 1942-43, Andy Kirk, 1946-47, and Red Saunders, 1951-53; worked briefly as Fuller Cosmetics door-to-door salesman, 1940s; performed and toured with Count Basie Orchestra, 1954-1961; began sob career, 1961; contributed to film soundtracks, including Jamboree, 1957, Cinderfella, 1960, The Moonshine War, 1969, Sharkeys Machine, 1981, City Heat, and All of Me, both 1984. Actor.

Selected awards: New Star Award, 1955; international critics poll citations for best male vocalist, 1955, 1974-78, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, and 1989-91; and readers poll citation for best male vocalist, 1955, 1956, 1990, and 1991, all from Down Beat. Rhythm and Blues plaque for top song for Every Day (I Have the Blues), 1956; Billboard disc jockeys poll citation for best male vocalist, 1959; National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Governors Award, 1983; Grammy awards, 1985, for I Just Want to Sing, and 1992, for Ballad and Blues Master; Ebony Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993.

Addresses: Agent Abby Hoffer Enterprises, 223 East 48th St., New York, NY 10017-1538.

unusual for a young singerat a club called Kitty Daviss. Hired to clean the bathrooms, Williams was allowed to sing with the band in the evening and keep the tips, which would sometimes amount to $20.

Williamss first real break came in 1938 when clarinet and saxophone master Jimmie Noone invited him to sing with his band. Less than a year later, the young singer was earning a reputation at Chicago dance halls and on a national radio station that broadcast his voice from Massachusetts to California. He toured the Midwest in 1939 and 1940 with the Les Hite band, which accompanied the likes of Armstrong and Fats Waller. A year later, he went on a more extensive tour with the band of saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.

It wasnt long before Williams found himself in the upper reaches of the musical stratosphere; in 1942 jazz great Lionel Hampton hired him to fill in for his regular vocalist, both for the Hampton orchestras home performances at the Tic Toc Club in Boston and for their crosscountry tours. Williamss work with Hampton ended when the bands former singer returned, but by that time Williams was in great demand, his fame particularly burgeoning back in Chicago.

Treated for Depression

Williamss first marriageto Wilma Cole in 1942set in motion a pattern of marital difficulties that would plague him until the 1960s. The emotional relationship quickly became painful for both partners, though the union remained legal until 1946. That year, the singer married Anne Kirksey, with whom he also had a brief and unhappy relationship; they separated in 1948 and divorced several years later. It was during his second marriage that Williams experienced a serious bout of depression. Following a breakdown in the spring of 1947, he spent a year in the Elgin State Hospital, where he received now-controversial psychiatric treatments such as electroshock therapy.

His third marriage, to Lemma Reid, survived from 1951 until 1964, and produced Williamss two children, Joe, Jr., and JoAnn. Sadly, this union, too, proved fragile; Reid returned to her mothers home in Cincinnati soon after JoAnns birth. Then, in 1957, Williams met Englishwoman Jillean Milne Hughes-DAeth. Their first meeting, which was very brief, was not followed by an opportunity for a lengthier tryst until two years later, when the Basie band was touring England. Before Williams left Europe, he knew that he was in love. In May of 1960, he and Hughes-DAeth moved into a New York apartment together, but it wasnt until January 7, 1965, that they were married, since Reid had not divorced Williams until the fall of 1964. At long last, Williams had forged a relationship that would endure.

In the early 1950s, Chicago disc jockey Daddy-O Daily secured for Williams an chance to sing with the band of one of the most powerful leaders of the eraCount Basie. After his early gigs with Basie, Williams returned to his nascent solo career, but by 1954 Basie wanted him on contract. Williams would remain with the Basie machine until 1961, garnering some of the best exposure a blues and jazz singer could have. National tours were interspersed with long spells in a number of Americas musical capitals, wherein the band would play at one club for three or four weeks at a time. After 1955, the Basie group stopped every year at the Newport Jazz Festival, one of the biggest events on the jazz calendar. The years 1956, 1957, and 1959 also found the ensemble touring Europe, where the popularity of jazz had skyrocketed.

Cemented Stature With Basie Orchestra

Williams developed his essential repertoire while he was with Basie, including standards such as Every Day (I Have the Blues), Five OClock in the Morning, Roll em Pete, Teach Me Tonight, My Baby Upsets Me, and The Comeback. These recordings and many others cemented his popularity, selling in droves and earning heavy airplay on major radio stations across the country. Williams became an important name in the pages of the vaunted jazz journal Down Beat as early as 1955, when he won their New Star Award. Also that year, he was cited by the magazines international critics poll as best new male singer, as well as by its readers poll in that categoryhonors he would continue to accumulate throughout his career. In 1958, his pop standing was second only to Frank Sinatra, and he maintained second place on the rhythm and blues charts as well, right behind pianist-singer Ray Charles.

Despite his tremendous success with Count Basie and company, Williams eventually began to feel that the position was limiting his potential as an artist. By 1960 he was planning the beginning of a solo career that would allow him to pursue a broader range of material in blues, jazz, and pop. Initially, Basies manager, Willard Alexander, set Williams up with a group of strong musicians and a tour schedule that would take him across the United States for six months. The bookings soon multiplied; Williams was on the road for almost all of 1961. By the late 1960s, he was performing in various locations between 30 and 40 weeks each year. He went on to collaborate with such jazz luminaries as Cannonball Adderly, Benny Carter, George Shearing, and Thad Jones, recording over 45 albums.

Williams continued to produce albums and received overwhelmingly positive reviews for both his recordings and his performances. Even after his 70th birthday, in 1988, Williams maintained a hectic schedule of touring and recording. He has been particularly sought after to sing at tributes to his peers, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. As ever, his performances sparked laudatory reviews in magazines and newspapers; the New Yorker described a 1986 performance thus: Williams has an enormous bass-baritone. It is lilting and flexible. It moves swiftly and lightly from a low C to a pure falsetto. It moves through glottal stops and yodels and delicate growls, through arching blue notes and vibratos that barely stir the air.

Williams was, of course, regularly called back to sing at Count Basie reunions, even after the Counts death, in 1984; just a year earlier, the singer had had his star placed beside Basies in the gallery of stars on Hollywood Boulevard. In 1991 Williams attended his own gala tribute, entitled For the Love of Joe, which celebrated the contribution that he had made and was still making to music. The next year, he won his second Grammy Award, for the release Ballad and Blues MasterI Just Want to Sing having won a Grammy in 1985. As the 1990s rolled along, Williams, his mantle growing ever-cluttered with laurels, persisted in releasing acclaimed records, wowing audiences, tackling the occasional acting role, and conducting workshops for up-and-coming singersafter 50 years, his repertoire and popularity still growing.

Selected discography

Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (includes Every Day [I Have the Blues], The Comeback, Teach Me Tonight, and Roll em Pete), Clef, 1955.

A Man Aint Supposed to Cry, Roulette, 1957.

Memories Ad-lib, Roulette, 1958.

Joe Williams Sings About You, Roulette, 1959.

A Swingin Night at Birdland: Joe Williams Live, Roulette, 1962.

Joe Williams at Newport 63, Victor, 1963.

The Heart and the Soul of Joe Williams, Sheba, 1971.

Joe Williams With Love, Temponic, 1972.

Joe Williams Live, Fantasy, 1973.

Big Man, the Legend of John Henry, Fantasy, 1975.

Prez and Joe, GNP/Crescendo, 1979.

Then and Now, Bosco, 1984.

I Just Want to Sing, 1984.

Every Night: Live at Vine St., Verve/PolyGram, 1987.

The Overwhelming Joe Williams, RCA, 1988.

Ballad and Blues Master, Verve/PolyGram, 1992.

Joe Williams: A Song Is Born, VIEW, 1992.

Jump for Joy, Bluebird/RCA, 1993.

Chains of Love, Natasha Imports/Landmark, 1993.

Every Day: The Best of the Verve Years, Verve, 1993.

Sources

Books

Grouse, Leslie, Everyday: The Story of Joe Williams, Quartet, 1984.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, November 20, 1992.

Jet, September 9, 1985.

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1991.

Metro Times (Detroit), September 1, 1993.

New Yorker, October 27, 1986.

New York Times, June 22, 1989; June 27, 1991.

Washington Post, October 16, 1991.

Ondine E. Le Blanc

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams

Singing a mixture of blues, ballads, popular songs, and jazz standards, Joe Williams (1918-1999) was an elegant and sophisticated baritone known for his clear pronunciation and jazz stylings. He became famous as the lead vocalist with the Count Basie Orchestra from 1954 to 1961, recording such popular hits as "Every Day (I Have the Blues)" and "All Right, O.K., You Win."

Joe Williams was born Joseph Goreed in Cordele, Georgia, a small town about 50 miles south of Macon, on December 12, 1918. His grandmother took him to Chicago at the age of three. His mother gone ahead had found work as a cook. He was exposed to music early; both his mother and aunt played piano, which he learned to play a little, and he sang in church. On the radio he would listen to jazz and opera. Jazz singer Ethel Waters was an early favorite.

When he was 14, Joe began singing with a gospel quartet, the Jublee Temple Boys, which he organized. The next year he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to have one of his lungs collapsed for treatment. Fortunately, the treatment left his singing voice undamaged, but Joe would continue to suffer from respiratory ailments throughout his life.

At the age of 16 Joe sang for tips and worked as a janitor in an all-white nightclub in Chicago called Kitty Davis's. Around this time he dropped out of high school and changed his surname to Williams. He began singing in clubs around Chicago with bands led by Erskine Tate and Johnny Long. It was a busy time for the young singer, who found himself featured with three different bands.

Professional Singing Debut

In 1937 the 18-year-old Williams joined a band led by clarinetist Jimmie Noone and toured the South. From 1938 to 1940, Williams and Jimmie Noone's Orchestra were heard nationally over the CBS radio network. He would later credit his early radio experience with lending clarity to his pronunciation, a key element of his trademark style. When not working for Noone's band, Williams toured the Midwest with the Les Hite band.

In 1938, Williams heard blues singer Big Joe Turner for the first time and was immediately drawn to the blues. Fifty years later he reminisced about that first exposure to the blues in a The New York Times interview: "In Chicago in those days, we had what were called breakfast dances. The shows would start at six in the morning and be over by eight. The one where I first heard Big Joe Turner was at a club that seated maybe 500. Joe Turner got on the stage, and even though he had no microphone, I could hear him as clear as day singing, Oh baby, you sure look good to me." Williams noted that Turner had an urban, as opposed to a country, sound and was the first blues singer "who made the words discernible."

Williams joined tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins's band in 1941, but it broke up soon after. In need of a steady job, he worked as the stage doorman at the Regal Theater in Chicago, where he met the leading jazz and rhythm-and-blues musicians who were on tour. When jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton played the Regal with his band, Williams joined in, singing side-by-side with noted jazz vocalist Dinah Washington. He toured with the Hampton band in 1943. It was with Hampton that Williams made his New York City debut, sharing vocals with Dinah Washington. According to Williams, "I was given all the pretty songs like 'Easy to Love' and 'You'll Never Know,' and Dinah sang the blues." Other notable gigs in the 1940s included a six-week stint in a blues show with boogie-woogie pianists Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons and a subsequent job with Andy Kirk's big band.

Williams was married to Wilma Cole from 1943 to 1946 and to Ann Kirksey from 1946 to 1950. It was a troublesome period for the blues singer, who had difficulty finding steady work. In 1947, he suffered a nervous breakdown and spent a year in a state hospital. When he returned to performing, he developed a following at Chicago's Club DeLisa and sang with pianist George Shearing's quintet. Williams married for a third time in 1951, this time to Lemma Reid. Their daughter, JoAnn, was born in 1953. However, this marriage was not a success. After a lengthy separation, the couple divorced in 1964.

Sang with Count Basie Orchestra

Williams first worked with the noted bandleader, Count Basie, in 1950. Basie was fronting a septet at Chicago's Brass Rail, for a ten-week engagement. When Basie formed a new band in 1954, he asked Williams to join. On Christmas Day, Williams flew east to begin performing with them in New York. He consciously avoided duplicating the material or style of Basie's previous vocalist, Jimmy Rushing. Instead, he introduced his own blues-flavored repertoire, including a song he had been singing in clubs, "Every Day (I Have the Blues)." Williams had recorded the song in 1951, and it became a local hit in Chicago. In early 1995 he recorded a new version of the song with the Basie band. It became Basie's first hit in 15 years. According to The Encyclopedia of Jazz, "His success with Basie was so phenomenal that he elevated the entire band to a new plateau of commercial success."

The song appeared on the album, Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings. It brought "overnight" recognition to Williams, who had been singing for 20 years. He was named "New Star of 1956" in the jazz magazine, Down Beat. In addition to his big hit, Williams's repertoire during this period included "All Right, O.K., You Win" and covers of such pop hits as "Too Close for Comfort" and "Teach Me Tonight."

With the Basie band, Williams played his first Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 as well as the first of three annual Birdland tours with pianist George Shearing, vocalist Sarah Vaughan, pianist Erroll Garner, and tenor saxophonist Lester "Prez" Young. Williams also made his first television appearance in 1955, as a guest on the Jackie Gleason-produced Music 55, where he sang "Alright, O.K., You Win." In 1956, he made his first appearance on The Tonight Show, which was then hosted by Steve Allen. He later appeared frequently on The Steve Allen Show.

Williams met his fourth wife, Jilean Hughes-D'Aeth, during a 1957 engagement at the Starlight Room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. They married in 1965.

Pursued Solo Career

During 1960 Williams tired of singing with the Basie band. He played his last engagement with Basie in January 1961 and began a solo career by touring with a quintet led by trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison. They recorded three albums together in 1961 and 1962. From 1963 to 1965 Williams recorded for RCA Victor, including a 1963 live album, Joe Williams at Newport. Williams appeared frequently on television during the 1960s, including several appearances on The Tonight Show, starting in 1962.

In a December 1964 interview in Down Beat, Williams discussed the relationship of politics and music at a time when many black performers were under pressure to take a stand in favor of integration and the civil rights movement. Williams clearly fell on the side of entertainers, like Nat "King" Cole, who felt that an entertainer's major responsibility was to entertain. He stated his belief that music is a personal thing and "the moods change too much in music to make a political thing out of it."

Williams also sang with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band during the latter half of the 1960s, including a 1966 date at New York's Village Vanguard that was captured on a live album. The collaboration produced a studio album that featured a mixture of blues, Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" and "It Don't Mean a Thing," and Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)."

Enjoyed Popularity as a Solo Artist

During the 1970s Williams continued to tour, playing clubs, concerts, and festivals throughout the world. In 1971, he and pianist George Shearing collaborated on a recording, The Heart and Soul of Joe Williams. They had been friends for more than 20 years. In 1973, he recorded Joe Williams Live with saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. He also sang in Adderley's folk musical, Big Man, which was released on record in 1975.

In 1974, Williams sang an a cappella version of Duke Ellington's First Sacred Concert at a memorial concert for Ellington held at the Hollywood Bowl. That year he also reunited with the Count Basie Orchestra for a Newport Jazz Festival concert in New York City. It was so well received that Williams appeared frequently with the band until Basie's death in 1984. Toward the end of the decade he toured Africa with trumpeter Clark Terry under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department. A 1979 recording, Prez and Joe, with Dave Pell's Prez Conference, which played ensemble versions of Lester Young's tenor sax solos, earned Williams a Grammy nomination for best jazz vocal. He earned another Grammy nomination in 1981 for the song, "8 to 5 I Lose," from the movie Sharky's Machine.

Williams toured with Edison and other former members of the Basie band as well as with his own trio during the 1980s. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983, next to Basie's. When Basie died in 1984, Williams sang at his funeral, moving the crowd with a rendition of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday." That year he also won his first Grammy for the album, Nothin' but the Blues. He sang the title cut in the movie All of Me, starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin.

During the 1980s Williams had a role on the popular television series, The Cosby Show, playing Cosby's father-in-law Grandpa A1. He also appeared at the Playboy Jazz Festival ten times. In 1988, his schedule included more than 100 nights of performing, including two trips to Europe, a week aboard the Floating Jazz Cruise, the Monterey Jazz Festival, his annual participation at the Kennedy Center Honors, and more.

When Williams reached the age of 70, a birthday tribute concert was held at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall as part of the JVC Jazz Festival. The two-part concert featured Williams singing with his own trio during the first half, then joining the Count Basie Orchestra led by Frank Foster for the second half.

Williams recorded for Telarc during the 1990s. In 1992 he recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra, led by Frank Foster, for the first time in 30 years. His last album, recorded in 1994, was a set of spirituals entitled Feel the Spirit. Of his interest in gospel music, Williams told Down Beat in 1999, "The church was the beginning of almost all of our lives. That's where we come from, so it is normal that we should go back to it." In 1992, his recording of "Every Day (I Have the Blues)" with the Basie band was named a Grammy Hall of Fame recording by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). The following year, Williams performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Clinton. He continued to attend the Kennedy Center Honors each year. Williams had performed for every American president since Richard Nixon, with the exception of Gerald Ford.

A 1993 video, Joe Williams: A Song is Born, captured the singer in a live performance with pianist George Shearing and his trio. In 1997, he performed to rave reviews in the San Francisco revival of Duke Ellington's 1943 classical and jazz composition, Black, Brown and Beige, which included "Come Sunday" and "The Blues." He subsequently recorded duets with a young singer, Nicole Yarling, for the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild.

Williams was hospitalized for treatment of breathing problems in Las Vegas. When he left the hospital he was reportedly disoriented from his medication. Williams walked about two miles without his oxygen tank before collapsing on the street. He died on March 29, 1999. His manager, John Levy, told the press that Williams had a history of respiratory difficulties, but had always recovered with the assistance of oxygen and other treatments.

The New York Times described the singer's style in its obituary of him: "Well into the 1990's, Mr. Williams was one of the most dependably moving performers in jazz. Standing nearly still, perhaps with his hands folded in front of him, he would make ballads sound like resonant, intimate conversation, then open up a blues with a voice that was both knowing and heartsick." In a tribute published before his death in 1999, Down Beat offered this portrait of Williams: "The mellow beauty of his voice, the unequalled clarity of his diction, the sureness of his swing and his equal ease with ballads and blues place him in the first rank of all jazz singers and among the leading interpreters of the American popular song."

Further Reading

All Music Guide to Jazz. Second edition, edited by Michael Erlewine et. al. Miller Freeman Books, 1996.

Feather, Leonard. The Encyclopedia of Jazz. Revised edition.

Bonanza Books, 1962. Billboard, December 3, 1988.

Down Beat December 17, 1964; March 1994; June 1994; September 1997; January 1999.

Entertainment Weekly, November 20, 1992.

Jet, April 19, 1999.

Michigan Chronicle, April 7-13, 1999.

New York Times, May 23, 1980; June 22, 1989; June 25, 1989;March 31, 1999.

Time, April 12, 1999. □

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Williams, Joe 1918–

Joe Williams 1918

Singer

At a Glance

Personal Upheaval

Basie and Beyond

Selected discography

Sources

His name is not as well known to the general public as those of jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, or Ella Fitzgerald, but Joe Williams is nevertheless counted among the masters of jazz and blues singing; he has, in fact, earned the title Emperor of the Blues. His singing style, which he developed over a long and consistently successful career, contributed to the success of the Count Basie Orchestra and influenced the style of many younger singers. And he has also dabbled in acting, playing the role of Claire Huxtables father on The Cosby Show.

Joseph Goreed was born in the small farming town of Cordele, deep in the heart of Georgia, on December 12, 1918. His father, Willie Goreed, vanished before Joe could even know him, but his mother, Anne Beatrice Gilbert, who was no older than 18 when she had her only child, provided a strong emotional bond until her death in 1968.

Soon after Joe was born, his mother moved them in with his grandparents, who had enough money to support an extended family. During this time, Anne Gilbert was saving up for a move to Chicago, Illinois. Once she had made the movealoneshe began saving the money that she earned cooking for wealthier white Chicagoans so that her family could join her. By the time Joe was four, he and his grandmother and his aunt were on a train to Chicago, where they would live for many years afterward.

Probably most important to Joes later life was the music scenefueled largely by African American musiciansthat thrived in Chicago in the early 1920s. Years later, he recalled going to the Vendome Theatre with his mother to hear Louis Armstrong play his trumpet. Chicago also offered a host of radio stations that featured the then-rebellious sound of jazz, exposing Joe to the styling of Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Joe Turner, and others. By his early teens, he had already taught himself to play piano and had formed a quartet, known as the Jubilee Boys, that sang at church functions.

In his mid-teens, Joe began singing solo at formal events with local bands. The most that he ever took home was five dollars a night, but that was enough to convince his family that he could make a living at it; at sixteen, he dropped out of school. After a family conference, the name Williams was chosen as a better last name for a singer, and Joe began marketing himself in earnest to Chicago clubs and bands. His first job was a kind of compromisenot unusual for a young singerat a

At a Glance

Born Joseph Goreed, December 12, 1918, in Cordele, GA; raised in Chicago, IL; changed surname to Williams, c. 1934; son of Willie Goreed (believed to be a farm laborer) and Anne Beatrice Gilbert (a cook); married Wilma Cole, 1942 (divorced, 1946); married Anne Kirksey, 1946 (divorced, c. 1950); married Lemma Reid, 1951 (divorced, 1964); married Jillean Milne Hughes-DAeth, 1965; children: (third marriage) JoAnn, Joe, Jr.

Began singing in his early teens with church quartet the Jubilee Boys; solo singer for Chicago bands during the early 1930s; sang and toured with several different bands, including those of Jimmie Noone, 1938-39, Les Hite, 1939-40, Coleman Hawkins, 1941, Lionel Hampton, 1942-43, Andy Kirk, 1946-47, and Red Saunders, 1951-53. Worked briefly as Fuller Cosmetics door-to-door salesman in late 1940s; treated for nervous breakdown at Elgin State Hospital, 1947-1948; sang with the Count Basie Orchestra, 1954-1961, touring Europe in the late 1950s; began solo career, 1961; recording artist and singer on soundtracks for films, including Jamboree, 1957 (with the Count Basie Orchestra), Cinderfella, 1960 (with the Count Basie Orchestra), and The Moonshine War, 1969-

Awards: Down Beat magazines New Star Award, 1955, international critics poll award for best male vocalist, 1955, 1974-78, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, and 1989-91, and readers poll award for best male vocalist, 1955, 1956, 1990, and 1991; Rhythm and Blues magazine plaque for top song for Every Day (I Have the Blues), 1956; Billboard magazines disc jockeys poll award for best male vocalist, 1959; Grammy Award for Ballad and Blues Master, 1992; Ebony Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993.

Addresses: Agent Abby Hoffer Enterprises, 223 East 48th St., New York, NY 10017-1538.

club called Kitty Daviss. Hired to clean the bathrooms, Williams was allowed to sing with the band in the evening and keep the tips, which would sometimes amount to twenty dollars a night.

Williamss first professional break came in 1938 when clarinet and saxophone master Jimmie Noone invited him to sing with his band. Less than a year later, the young singer was earning a reputation at Chicago dance halls and on a national radio station that broadcast his voice from Massachusetts to California. He took a tour of the Midwest in 1939 and 1940 with the Les Hite band, which accompanied the likes of Louis Armstrong and pianist Fats Waller. A year after that he went on a larger tour with the band of saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.

Williams didnt have to wait long before a national name in big bands asked for him: in 1942 jazz great Lionel Hampton hired him both for the bands home performances at the Tic Toc Club in Boston and for their cross-country tours. His work with Hampton ended when the bands regular male singer was able to return, but by that time Williams could return to his burgeoning fame in Chicago.

Personal Upheaval

Williamss first marriageto Wilma Cole in 1942set in motion a pattern of marital difficulties that he wouldnt be able to break until the 1960s. The emotional relationship quickly became painful for both partners, although the union remained legal until 1946. That same year, he married Anne Kirksey, with whom he also had a briefly happy relationship; they separated in 1948 and divorced in the early 1950s. It was during his second marriage that Williams experienced his one serious bout with depression. Following a nervous breakdown in the spring of 1947, he spent a year in Elgin State Hospital, where he received now controversial treatments such as electroshock therapy.

His marriage to Lemma Reid, which survived from 1951 until 1964, produced Williamss two children, JoAnn and Joe, Jr. The union wasnt, however, any more resilient than the first two had been: Lemma returned to her mothers home in Cincinnati soon after JoAnns birth. Williams finally met Jillean Milne Hughes-DAeth, the Englishwoman who could make a relationship last with the hardworking vocalist, in 1957. Their first meeting, which was very brief, wasnt followed by an opportunity for a lengthier meeting until two years later, when the Basie band was touring in England. Before Williams left Europe, he knew that he was in love. In May of 1960, he and Jillean moved into a New York apartment together, but it wasnt until January 7, 1965, that they were able to be married, since Lemma did not divorce Williams until the fall of 1964.

Basie and Beyond

In the early 1950s, Chicago disc jockey Daddy-O Daily secured for Williams an opportunity to sing with the band of one of the most powerful bandleaders of the eraCount Basie. After the gigs, Williams returned to his floating solo career style, but by 1954 Basie wanted him on contract. Williams would stay with the Basie machine until 1961, making New York his home base and securing the best exposure a blues singer could have. National tours were interspersed with long spells in a number of Americas musical capitals, when the band would play at one club for three or four weeks at a time. After 1955, the band stopped every year at the Newport Jazz Festival, one of the biggest events on the jazz calender. The years 1956, 1957, and 1959 also found the Basie band touring Europe, where the popularity of jazz had skyrocketed.

Williams developed his essential repertoire while he was with Basie, including standards such as Every Day (I Have the Blues), Five OClock in the Morning, Roll em Pete, Teach Me Tonight, My Baby Upsets Me, and The Comeback. The recordings that he made with the Basie band cemented his popularity, selling in droves from record shops and earning airplay at major radio stations across the country. Williams became an important name in Down Beat magazine as early as 1955, when he won their New Star Award. In the same year, he won their international critics poll for best new male singer, as well as their readers poll for best male band singercitations he would continue to accumulate throughout his career. In 1958, he lost only to Frank Sinatra, and he held second place on the rhythm and blues charts as well, right behind the multitalented Ray Charles.

Despite his tremendous success with Count Basie, Williams eventually began to feel that the position was limiting his potential as an artist. By 1960 he was planning the beginning of a solo career that would allow him to pursue a broader range of material in blues and jazz. Initially, Basies manager, Willard Alexander, set Williams up with a group of strong musicians and a tour schedule that would take him across the United States for six months. The bookings increased; Williams toured for almost all of 1961. By the late 1960s, he was on the road performing between thirty and forty weeks each year.

Williams continued to produce albums and received overwhelmingly positive reviews for both his recordings and his performances. Even after his 70th birthday in 1988, Williams continued touring and recording. He has been particularly sought after to sing at tributes to his peers, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. As ever, his performances spark laudatory reviews in magazines and newspapers; a New Yorker interviewer described a 1986 performance: Williams has an enormous bass-baritone. It is lilting and flexible. It moves swiftly and lightly from a low C to a pure falsetto. It moves through glottal stops and yodels and delicate growls, through arching blue notes and vibratos that barely stir the air.

Williams was, of course, continually called back to sing at Count Basie reunions, even after the Counts death on April 26, 1984; only a year earlier, the singer had his star placed beside Basies in the gallery of stars on the sidewalk in Hollywood. In 1991 Williams finally attended his own gala tribute, entitled For the Love of Joe, to call attention to the contribution that he had and was still making to music. The next year, he won a Grammy Award for his release Ballad and Blues Master, and he was later honored by the Johnson Publishing Company with its prestigious Ebony Lifetime Achievement Award.

Selected discography

Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (includes Every Day [I Have the Blues], The Comeback, Teach Me Tonight, and Roll em Pete), Clef, 1955.

A Man Aint Supposed to Cry, Roulette, 1957.

Memories Ad-lib, Roulette, 1958.

Joe Williams Sings About You, Roulette, 1959.

A Swingin Night at BirdlandJoe Williams Live, Roulette, 1962.

Joe Williams at Newport 63, Victor, 1963.

The Heart and the Soul of Joe Williams, Sheba, 1971.

Joe Williams With Love, Temponic, 1972.

Joe Williams Live, Fantasy, 1973.

Big Man, the Legend of John Henry, Fantasy, 1975.

Prez and Joe, GNPS/Crescendo, 1979.

Then and Now, Bosco, 1984.

every night: Live at Vine St., Verve/PolyGram, 1987.

The Overwhelming Joe Williams, RCA, 1988.

Ballad and Blues Master, Verve/PolyGram, 1992.

Joe Williams: A Song Is Born, VIEW, 1992.

Jump for Joy, Bluebird/RCA, 1993.

Sources

Books

Grouse, Leslie, Everyday: The Story of Joe Williams, Quartet, 1984.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, November 20, 1992.

Jet, September 9, 1985.

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1991.

New Yorker, October 27, 1986.

New York Times, June 22, 1989; June 27, 1991.

Washington Post, October 16, 1991.

Ondine E. Le Blanc

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Williams, Joe 1918–1999

Joe Williams 19181999

Singer

At a Glance

Toured the U.S. With Big Bands

Experienced Personal Upheaval

Basie and Beyond

Received Numerous Accolaides

Selected discography

Sources

His name is not as well known to the general public as those of jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, or Ella Fitzgerald, but Joe Williams is nevertheless counted among the masters of jazz and blues singing; he has, in fact, earned the title Emperor of the Blues. His singing style, which he developed over a long and consistently successful career, contributed to the success of the Count Basie Orchestra and influenced the style of many younger singers.

Joseph Goreed was born in the small farming town of Cordele, Georgia, on December 12, 1918. His father, Willie Goreed, vanished when Williams was very young. His mother, Anne Beatrice Gilbert, who was no older than 18 when she gave birth to her only child, provided a strong emotional bond until her death in 1968.

Soon after Williams was born, his mother moved them in with his grandparents, who had enough money to support an extended family. During this time, Anne Gilbert was saving up for a move to Chicago, Illinois. Once she had made the movealoneshe began saving the money that she earned cooking for wealthier white Chicagoans so that her family could join her. By the time Williams was four, he and his grandmother and his aunt were on a train to Chicago, where they would live for many years.

Probably most important to Williamss later life was the music scenefueled largely by African American musiciansthat thrived in Chicago in the early 1920s. Years later, he recalled going to the Vendome Theatre with his mother to hear Louis Armstrong play his trumpet. Chicago also offered a host of radio stations that featured the then rebellious sound of jazz, exposing Williams to the styling of Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Joe Turner, and others. By his early teens, he had already taught himself to play piano and had formed a quartet, known as the Jubilee Boys, that sang at church functions.

In his mid-teens, Williams began singing solo at formal events with local bands. The most that he ever took home was five dollars a night, but that was enough to convince his family that he could make a living at it. At the age of 16, Williams dropped out of school. After a family conference, the name Williams was chosen as a better last name for a singer, and he began marketing himself in earnest to Chicago clubs and bands. His first job was a kind of compromisenot unusual for a young singerat a club called Kitty Daviss. Hired to

At a Glance

Born Joseph Goreed, December 12, 1918, in Cordele, CA; raised En Chicago, IL; changed surname to Williams, c 1934; died March 29, 1999, in Las Vegas, NV; son of Willie Goreed (believed to be a farm laborer) and Anne Beatrice Gilbert (a cook); married Wilma Cole, 1942 (divorced., 1946); married Anne Kirksey, 1946 (divorced, c. 1950); married Lemma Reid, 1951 (divorced. 1964); married Jillean Miine Hughes-DAeth, 1965; children: (third marriage) JoAnn, Joe, Jr.

Career: Began singing in his early teens with church quartet the Jubilee Boys; solo singer for Chicago bands during the early 1930s; sang and toured with several different bands, including Jimmie Noone, 193839, Les Hite, 193940, Coleman Hawkins, 1941, Lionel Hampton, 194243, Andy Kirk, 194647, and Red Saunders, 195153; sang with the Count Basie Orchestra, 19541961. toured Europe in the late 1950s; began solo career, 1961; recording artistand singer on soundtracks for films, including jamboree, 1957 (with the Count BasieOrchestra), Ginderfella, 1960 (with the Count Baste Orchestra), and The Moonshine War, 1969, Sharkys Machine, 1981, City Heat, 1984, Aft of Me, 1984; played the role of Grandpa Al on The Cosby Show, 1980s.

Selected awards; Grammy Awards for / Just Want to Sing, 1985, and Ballad and Blues Master, 1992; Ebony Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993; performed at the WhiteHouse tor President Bill Clirrton, 1993; Jazz Vocalist Award, Los Angeles Jazz Society, 1997;in-ducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame, 1997.

clean the bathrooms, Williams was allowed to sing with the band in the evening and keep the tips, which would sometimes amount to 20 dollars a night.

Toured the U.S. With Big Bands

Williamss first professional break came in 1938 when clarinet and saxophone master Jimmie Noone invited him to sing with his band. Less than a year later, the young singer was earning a reputation at Chicago dance halls and on a national radio station that broadcast his voice from Massachusetts to California. Williams toured the Midwest in 1939 and 1940 with the Les Hite band, which accompanied the likes of Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. One year later, he went on a larger tour with the band of saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.

Williams quickly attracted the interest of jazz great Lionel Hampton. In 1942, Hampton hired Williams both for the bands home performances at the Tic Toe Club in Boston and for their cross-country tours. His work with Hampton ended when the bands regular male singer was able to return. By that time, Williams was able to resume his burgeoning career in Chicago.

Experienced Personal Upheaval

Williamss first marriageto Wilma Cole in 1942set in motion a pattern of marital difficulties that he wouldnt be able to break until the 1960s. The emotional relationship quickly became painful for both partners, although the union remained legal until 1946. That same year, he married Anne Kirksey, with whom he also had a briefly happy relationship; they separated in 1948 and divorced in the early 1950s. It was during his second marriage that Williams experienced his one serious bout with depression. Following a nervous breakdown in the spring of 1947, he spent a year in Elgin State Hospital, where he received now controversial treatments such as electroshock therapy.

Williamss marriage to Lemma Reid, which survived from 1951 until 1964, produced two children, JoAnn and Joe Jr. The union wasnt, however, any more resilient than the first two had been: Lemma returned to her mothers home in Cincinnati soon after JoAnns birth. Williams met Jillean Milne Hughes-DAeth, an Englishwoman, in 1957. After their first meeting, Williams and Hughes-DAeth did not see each other again until two years later, when the Basie band was touring in England. Before Williams left Europe, he knew that he was in love. In May of 1960, he and Hughes-DAeth rented a New York apartment together. The two were married on January 7, 1965.

Basie and Beyond

In the early 1950s, Chicago disc jockey Daddy-O Daily secured for Williams an opportunity to sing with the band of one of the most powerful band leaders of the eraCount Basie. After the gigs, Williams returned to his floating solo career style, but by 1954 Basie wanted him on contract. Williams would stay with the Basie machine until 1961, making New York his home base and securing the best exposure a blues singer could have. National tours were interspersed with long spells in a number of Americas musical capitals, when the band would play at one club for three or four weeks at a time. After 1955, the band stopped every year at the Newport Jazz Festival, one of the biggest events on the jazz calender The years 1956, 1957, and 1959 also found the Basie band touring Europe, where the popularity of jazz had skyrocketed.

Williams developed his essential repertoire while he was with Basie, including standards such as Every Day (I Have the Blues), Five OClock in the Morning, Roll em Pete, Teach Me Tonight, My Baby Upsets Me, and The Comeback. The recordings that he made with the Basie band cemented his popularity, selling briskly in record shops and earning airplay at major radio stations across the country. In 1955, Williams won Down Beat magazines New Star Award. That same year, he won Down Beats international critics poll for Best New Male Singer, as well as their readers poll for Best Male Band Singercitations he would continue to accumulate throughout his career.

Despite his tremendous success with Count Basie, Williams eventually began to feel that his position with the Basie band was limiting his potential as an artist. By 1960, he was planning the beginnings of a solo career that would allow him to pursue a broader range of material in blues and jazz. Initially, Basies manager, Willard Alexander, set Williams up with a group of strong musicians and a tour schedule that would take him across the United States during a six month period. The bookings increased; Williams toured for almost all of 1961. By the late 1960s, he was on the road performing between 30 and 40 weeks each year.

Williams continued to produce albums and received overwhelmingly positive reviews for both his recordings and his performances. Even after his 70th birthday in 1988, Williams continued touring and recording. He was particularly sought after to sing at tributes to his peers, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. As always, Williamss performances received glowing reviews in magazines and newspapers; a New Yorker interviewer described a 1986 performance: Williams has an enormous bass-baritone. It is lilting and flexible. It moves swiftly and lightly from a low C to a pure falsetto. It moves through glottal stops and yodels and delicate growls, through arching blue notes and vibratos that barely stir the air.

Received Numerous Accolaides

In addition to his music career, Williams acted in several films. At the request of his friend and devoted fan, Bill Cosby, he played the role of Claire Huxtables father on the popular 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show, Williams also lent his velvety baritone voice to film soundtracks, including Jamboree, Cinderfella, The Moonshine WarSharkys Machine, City Heat, and All of Me. He performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton in 1993, and appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C. during the 1990s. He also released the albums Jump for Joy (1993), Heres to Life (1994), and Feel the Spirit (1995).

Williams was the recipient of many accolades and awards. In 1983, he had his star placed beside Count Basies on the Gallery of Stars sidewalk in Hollywood. In 1985, Williams received a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocalist for the album I Just Want to Sing. He earned a second Grammy Award for his release Ballad and Blues Master in 1992, and was honored by the Johnson Publishing Company with its prestigious Ebony Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. In 1997, he was presented with the Jazz Vocalist Award from the Los Angeles Jazz Society. That same year, Williams was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

After complaining of respiratory problems, Williams was admitted to a hospital in Las Vegas in March of 1999. One week later, he called his wife to ask her to pick him up from the hospital. However, Williams had wandered away before she arrived. John Levy, his manager, told Jet that Joe was disoriented. The medication caused him not to have it all together. His conversation was wild and rambling. I knew something was wrong. He wasnt of his right mind. He never would have walked out of that hospital. After walking for nearly two miles, Williams collapsed and died a few blocks from his home.

Although Williams enjoyed a remarkable and varied career, he never achieved the same status as some white vocalists. As he remarked in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Theres a reason for that. You cant put down a people on one hand and treat them as romantic heroes on the other, can you? How can you do that and still keep up with the status quo? A friend of mine once said that hate is too important an emotion to waste on someone you dont like.

Selected discography

A Man Aint Supposed to Cry, Roulette, 1957.

Memories Ad-lib, Roulette, 1958.

Joe Williams Sings About You, Roulette, 1959.

A Swingin Night at Birdland Joe Williams Live, Roulette, 1962.

Joe Williams at Newport 63, Victor, 1963.

The Heart and the Soul of Joe Williams, Sheba, 1971.

Joe Williams With Love, Temponic, 1972.

Joe Williams Live, Fantasy, 1973.

Big Man, the Legend of John Henry, Fantasy, 1975.

Prez and Joe, GNPS\Crescendo, 1979.

Then and Now, Bosco, 1984.

every night: Live at Vine St., Verve/PolyGram, 1987.

The Overwhelming Joe Williams, RCA, 1988.

Ballad and Blues Master, VerveXPolyGram, 1992.

Joe Williams: A Song Is Born, VIEW, 1992.

Jump for Joy, BluebirdXRCA, 1993.

Heres to Life, Telare, 1994.

Feel the Spirit, Telare, 1995.

Sources

Books

Grouse, Leslie, Everyday: The Story of Joe Williams, Quartet, 1984.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, November 20, 1992.

Jet, September 9, 1985; April 19, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 1991.

New Yorker, October 27, 1986.

New York Times, June 22, 1989; June 27, 1991.

Washington Post, October 16, 1991.

Ondine E. Le Blanc and David G. Oblender

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"Williams, Joe 1918–1999." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Williams, Joe 1918–1999." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/williams-joe-1918-1999

"Williams, Joe 1918–1999." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/williams-joe-1918-1999