BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

One of a handful of young artists of the late 1940’s who could’ve seemingly chosen either pure blues or rock ‘n’ roll but for a time dabbled in both with success before the lines of demarcation made such fence straddling harder for those seeking a consistent audience.

Williams was born in 1930 in rural Texas with the given name of L.C. which he later claimed stood for Love Crazy. Having moved to Houston at the age of 15 and taken up drums in addition to singing, he became acquainted with legendary blues guitarist Lightnin’ Hopkins and in late 1947 and throughout 1948 was backed by Hopkins on his initial sessions for Gold Star Records and billed as Lightnin’ Jr. on such stellar work as You Can Take It With You Baby.

Unlike Goree Carter who’d initially been steered towards trying to sound like T-Bone Walker by his record company before forcibly taking control of his own musical direction and heading fully into rock, Williams was much more malleable. He was perfectly content to sing in the country blues styles of Hopkins even though he was also more than willing to unleash his rocking side when called upon when moving to Freedom Records, on which he sounded almost like an entirely different artist, one thirty years younger at that.

His ultimate place in music history as a bluesman became all but assured when he scored his only national hit, a cover of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s Ethel Mae on his initial release for Freedom Records, though it was a song that was more uptown blues in style with its moaning horns than the down home variety he’d otherwise sang. But his legacy as a great “What If” in rock was provided by the flip side of that single, the storming “Shout Baby Shout” where he shed all blues inflections and showed he was every bit as cut out to be a rocker.

With the blues giving him greater commercial returns, as well as his friendship with Hopkins influencing his direction, he would only occasionally cross back into rock. Yet his vocal versatility meant that any time he did take another stab at it the results would be worth hearing.

Ironically it was the increasing popularity of urban blues which helped to derail his momentum as the Hopkins brand of country blues was fast becoming archiac in the marketplace, confined to smaller and increasingly older pockets of fans around his home base. But with his youth and his ability to take on virtually any vocal persona and make it sound authentic he might’ve been one of the more exhilarating rock stars of the early 1950’s, or at the very least an intriguing hybrid act like Floyd Dixon, Peppermint Harris or Stick McGhee. Instead L.C. Williams largely slipped through the cracks of all musical idioms leaving behind tantalizing evidence as to his abilities which mostly went unappreciated.

Williams, a heavy drinker, died after recording one belated session with old pal Hopkins in 1961. He was just 31 years old.
 
 
L. C. WILLIAMS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 

I DON’T WANT YOUR BABY
(Freedom 1501; March, 1949)
A surprising change of pace from teenage country blues singer Williams in his first foray into the rock realm on a record credited to Conrad Johnson’s group in which the two entities conspire to deliver an appropriately mournful lament on trying to keep his girl away from another man. (5)

THAT’S ALRIGHT
(Freedom 1510; June, 1949)
A step backwards for Williams, although he doesn’t step so far back that he returns to country blues, but while his vocal attributes are sufficient and his attitude is fitting, both the song itself and the backing by Conrad Johnson and company is all over the place. (4)

SHOUT BABY SHOUT
(Freedom 1517; August, 1949)
A rip-roaring good time on a prototypical uptempo rock song which lay the blueprint for a thousand and one songs over the next decade and which proves Williams was perfectly suited to be a rocker in spite of his simultaneous blues affiliation. (8)