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Clarence Williams

Although he was quite spirited playing jug, Clarence Williams was only a decent pianist and a likable but limited vocalist. However, he was also a talented composer, writing or co-writing dozens, of memorable songs like "Royal Garden Blues," "Everybody Loves My Baby," "West End Blues," "Sugar Blues," "Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do," and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," and he was also a masterful organizer, responsible for scores of hot recordings issued under his name in the 1920s and '30s.

A superior businessman and an inventive hustler, Williams worked at all kinds of odd jobs in New Orleans, where he moved in 1906. He played piano in Storyville, always keeping aware of the latest hits from New York; he was a singer, dancer, and emcee with a minstrel show, and ran his own cabaret. He also co-ran a small publishing company with Armand J. Piron and soon realized its potential. Williams moved at first to Chicago, where he ran a music store, and then to New York, where he had great success with his publishing house. He composed songs, put together all-star groups to record them, and was also involved in selling sheet music of his hits; each activity helped the others. Williams managed some artists on the side, including Bessie Smith (whom he helped get started) for a brief time. Starting in 1923, he was also an A&R man for Okeh Records, and frequently accompanied blues singers.

A fascinating figure and one of the most successful black businessmen of the era, Clarence Williams had a real ear for talent. Among the more notable classic jazz musicians who appeared on his records (many of which were issued as being by his Blue Five or Blue Seven) were soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet; trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Joe Smith, Bubber Miley, Tommy Ladnier, Louis Metcalf, King Oliver, Red Allen, and Ed Allen; trombonists Charles Irvis, Tricky Sam Nanton, and Jimmy Harrison; clarinetists Buster Bailey and Cecil Scott; flutist Albert Socarras; tenors Coleman Hawkins and Benny Waters; Cyrus St. Clair on tuba; drummer/washboard player Floyd Casey; pianists James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith; and Eva Taylor (whom he married in 1923) on vocals. Quite remarkably, all of Clarence Williams' recordings as a leader have been made available by the Classics label on 14 CDs.

At the height of his power in the early '30s, Clarence Williams' importance waned as the decade continued and swing took over. After 1937, he only appeared on one final session (two songs in 1941), concentrating on the business side of music. In 1943, he sold his company to Decca and became a shop owner in Harlem. Williams was seriously injured when hit by a taxi in 1956 and passed away in 1965. The 1976 bio-discography Clarence Williams by Tom Lord gives one an idea of his many accomplishments. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Clarence Williams Collection 1921-37

Disc 1

1. If You Don't Believe I Love You, Look What A Fool I've Been

2. Wild Cat Blues

3. Kansas City Man

4. Texas Moaner

5. Mandy Make Up Your Mind

6. Cake Walkin' Babies From Home

7. Livin' High Sometimes

8. Coal Cart Blues

9. You Can't Shush Katie

10. Get It Fixed

11. Spanish Shawl

12. Senorita Mine

13. Candy Lips

14. Cushion Foot Stomp

15. I'm Goin' Back To Bottomland

16. Close Fit Blues

17. Sweet Emmalina

18. Log Cabin Blues

19. Shake It Down

20. Mountain City Blues

21. Wildflower Rag

22. West End Blues

23. Get Up Off Your Knees

24. My Handy Man

25. Organ Grinder Blues

Disc 2

1. I'm Busy And You Can't Come In

2. In The Bottle Blues

3. I'm Through

4. Freeze Out

5. Watchin' The Clock

6. Come On Home

7. A Pane In The Glass

8. You've Got To Be Modernistic

9. How Could I Be Blue

10. I've Found A New Baby

11. Worn Out Blues

12. You Rascal You

13. Papa De Da-Da

14. Mister Will You Serenade

15. Shim Sham Shimmy Dance

16. Chizzlin' Sam

17. Beer Garden Blues

18. Looka There Ain't She Pretty

19. Pretty Baby, Is It Yes Or No

20. I Can't Dance I Got Ants In My Pants

21. Jerry The Junker

22. There's Gonna Be The Devil To Pay

23. Milk Cow Blues

24. Let Every Day Be Mother's Day

25. Top Of The Town

x

Track List: Chizzlin' Sam

1. The Shim Sham Shimmy Dance

2. Organ Grinder Blues

3. Beer Garden Blues

4. Chizzlin' Sam

5. You Ain't Too Old

6. Sweet Emmaline

7. Ooh Looka There, Ain't She Pretty

8. What If We Do

9. Yama Yama Blues

10. He Wouldn't Stop Doin' It

11. High Society

12. Milk Cow Blues

13. You're Bound To Look Like A Monkey

14. He's A Colonel From Kentucky

15. Mister Will You Serenade

16. Walk That Broad

x

Track List: Volume I

1. Mississippi Basin

2. Black-Eyed Susan Brown

3. Mama Stayed Out All Night

4. High Society

5. I Like To Go Back To The Evening

8. The Right Key But The Wrong Keyhole

9. Dispossessin' Me

10. Breeze (Blow My Baby Back To Me)

11. She's Just Got A Little Bit Left

12. After Tonight

13. Bimbo

14. Chocolate Avenue

x

Track List: The Very Best Of

1. I've Found A New Baby

2. High Society

3. A Pane In The Glass

4. I Can See You All Over The Place

5. If I Could Be When You (One Hour Tonight)

6. Nervous Breakdown

7. Crazy Blues

8. More Than That

9. Kansas City Man Blues

10. You Rascal You

11. Wanted

12. A Foolish Little Girl Like You

13. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate

14. High Society Blues

15. Michigan Water Blues

16. (Oh Baby) What Makes Me Love You So?

17. I Saw Stars

18. Sitting On Top Of The World

19. Jerry The Junker

20. I've Got What It Takes

21. Ida Sweet As Apple Cider

22. Where That Ol' Man River Flows

23. There's Gonna Be The Devil To Pay

24. Ain't Gonna Give You None Of My Jelly Roll

25. Rhapsody In Love

26. Whoop It Up [1]

27. Worn Out Blues

28. This Is My Sunday Off

29. Turn Off The Moon

30. What If We Do

31. Savin' Up My Baby

32. Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?

33. My Gal Sal

34. Big Fat Mama

35. Loving

36. Lady Luck Blues

37. How Could I Be Blue?

38. Top Of The Town

39. Shout, Sister, Shout!

40. Somebody Stole My Gal

x

Track List: Shake 'Em Up - Clarence Williams 1927-29

1. Cushion Foot Stomp - 86

2. Cushion Foot Stomp - 87

3. P.D.Q. Blues - 88

4. P.D.Q. Blues - 89

5. Baltimore - 61

6. Baltimore - 62

7. Take Your Black Bottom Outside

8. Slow River - Vocal

9. Slow River - Instrumental

10. Zulu Wail - Instrumental

11. Zulu Wail - Vocal

12. Shooting The Pistol

13. Bottomland

14. Shake 'Em Up

15. Jingles

16. A Pane In The Glass - 1

17. A Pane In The Glass - Test

18. Too Low

19. Close Fit Blues

20. Baby, Won't You Please Come Home

21. I'm Not Worrying

22. Touch-Down

23. In Our Cottage Of Love - Test

24. In Our Cottage Of Love

25. Lazy Mama

26. Lazy Mama - Test

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