One of the more versatile mid-century performers on record who dabbled in rock but was more aligned publicly with the blues, scoring no national hits but very popular around Texas with his singing, guitar playing and songwriting.

Williams was born in the small Texas town of Groveton in 1920 but grew up in Houston where after serving in the Army during the war he became enamored with local star T-Bone Walker who was redefining the blues with his electric guitar throughout the 1940’s. Deciding upon a music career Williams enrolled in the prestigious New England Conservatory Of Music, ironically to study piano and voice, presumably because guitar was still seen as something of a lower-class instrument. He wound up teaching himself to play that however upon his return to Houston and signed his first contract with the newly established Macy’s Recordings in town. His first record, a plaintive song called “Winter Time Blues” he’d written about missing his family across the country became a local hit.

Possessing a flexible voice with good tone and buttressed by horns as well as his own guitar, Williams’s material cut across genres. At the same time he was cutting pure blues songs he was also delving into rock ‘n’ roll from the start with the flip side of his debut record and some of his most well remembered records to come were firmly in the rock field.

When Macy’s folded he found his way to the much larger companies Specialty, then another Houston indie, Duke, followed by a brief stop at Imperial in the mid-1950’s, but having not achieved any chart success with his singles he now was resigned to being a local act across the south primarily concentrating on the blues.

Though never a star he did get a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1953 and achieved some lasting recognition for a few of his songs, especially when covered by bigger names, including B.B. King who turned in a rendition of Williams’s 1952 classic “I Can’t Lose With The Stuff I Use”. Williams remained a fixture in blues circles for years, touring Europe in the 1980’s and singing until his death in 1990 at the age of seventy.

LESTER WILLIAMS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Macy’s 5000; December, 1949)
A storming ode to the joy of sex, honest and exuberant, each aspect of the arrangement fitting together well without needing to resort to lyrical crudity or musical flamboyance to convey the proper spirit. (7)

(Macy’s 5004; January, 1950)
A really good arrangement with strong solos by the sax and Williams’ guitar in addition to his enthusiastic vocals are hampered by the fact that the song’s plot goes nowhere, just offering just a few perfunctory lines with no resolution which is a definite letdown. (5)

(Macy’s 5006; June, 1950)
A misleading title as this is far too subdued to earn the “hop” designation and though the lyrics give a fair assessment of the action on Houston’s main black thoroughfare Williams comes across as an outsider rather than a participant in the activities. (4)

(Macy’s 5006; June, 1950)
Caught between the blues in its lyrical perspective and rock with its saxophone-led arrangement, the song is really too indistinct to make an impression in either realm with Williams’s subservient outlook further hampering its ability to connect. (3)

(Macy’s 5009; August, 1950)
An effective low-key sales pitch for the charms of Houston as a city delivered by one of its local stars featuring a really nice three pronged opening with guitar, piano and horns before settling in to a subdued arrangement that lets Williams’ voice gently win you over. (6)

(Macy’s 5016; January, 1951)
Despite some technical shortcomings such as Williams’s own oddly pitched voice and the lack of deeper sound horns, the genuine expression of giddy joy shown here and the rousing instrumental framework make this an endearing performance all around. (6)