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MERCURY 8276; APRIL 1952



Talk about unexpectedly running into old acquaintances… we’ve sure been doing a lot of that lately.

First Joan Shaw, now L.C Williams… not that the two of THEM were likely hanging out in the same circles outside of rock ‘n’ roll these last two years.

She had been on a major label trying to make it as a pop act while he had been out in the sticks of Texas plying his trade as a country blues singer.

Yet in a matter of days both of them wandered back into rock ‘n’ roll circles and this time it’s the blues act shifting back to rock for a major label.

What’s next, Frank Sinatra, John Lee Hooker, Perry Como and Louis Armstrong teaming up to form a rock vocal harmony group?


Save My Dying Soul
For those who’ve forgotten the idiosyncrasies of L.C. Williams since we last heard from him, let’s bring you up to speed as quickly as possible.

By 1952 he was in his early twenties, yet on his blues records he usually sounded as as if he was fifty-two years old and was recording IN the early twenties, as in “1920’s”.

The records were primitive acoustic blues and he sang with a cracked weary voice that had you fearing he might keel over before the song ended. A disciple of Lightnin’ Hopkins (who Mercury also signed, must be a package deal), he seemed at times to be almost single-handedly carrying the mantle of that kind of music into the second half of the Twentieth Century.

Except for when he rocked.

By now term Jekyll & Hyde itself has passed into the common vernacular, but I suggest you go back and read the book by Robert Louis Stevenson, for not only is it a really great story well told, but it may just contain the only plausible explanation for L.C. Williams dual musical persona… bizarre medical experiments gone awry!

On one hand L.C. Williams was an ancient sounding bluesman who seemed decades older than his birth certificate claimed, yet on the occasional side, such as Don’t Want No Woman, he acted his age and embraced the modern sound of rock ‘n’ roll without too much difficulty.

This one might not be quite as rambunctious as his best rockers from the past, but it’s also a long ways off from the parched dusty prairies the majority of his records seemed to blow in from.

Don’t Shine Like Gold
Keep in mind that while most bluesman like Hopkins were guitarists, or maybe blew a harp, L.C. Williams was a drummer, which means that – at least in theory – his records were going to be shaped more by their arrangements and the session musicians placed around him by the label.

Recently he’d been on Gold Star, a small company who specialized in the kind of records that the majors didn’t service, such as down home blues, but somehow Williams has landed at Mercury Records which seems an odd fit stylistically.

While they would cut him doing blues tracks, such as on the flip side Louise, even there they re-imagined his style by simply giving him a more uptown feel with piano and discreet horns rather than acoustic guitar which in turn forced Williams to modify his vocals and shave about twenty years off them to not sound out of place.

But they do that one better with Don’t Want No Woman letting the piano and drums set a more emphatic rhythmic pace to start with and then let the horns fall into a nice slow churning groove allowing Williams to adapt an even more vibrant singing style.

Of course that’s still not anything quite as vital as this needs to really stand out, but since they parted ways with a host of New Orleans rockers who briefly gave them credibility in this field probably the only thing that Mercury Records really cares about is getting their foot back in the door of rock ‘n’ roll before it shuts them out completely.


Don’t Cry When I’m Gone
We hate to break the news to Mercury Records but it’s hard to see how this kind of output does the label – or Williams for that matter – much good.

The latter is who we care more about obviously and if nothing else he proves he can still handle the different requirements of rock, as his voice is supple enough to twist the melody just enough on certain words – like that little hitch he puts into “nobody el-se” to give it some character – but the song itself just isn’t memorable, just a typical aimless treatise about a guy dealing with a recalcitrant woman.

The narrative for Don’t Need No Woman seems to take three different – and opposing – perspectives over the course of its run-time, almost as if they were scenes from different parts of a movie, but without anything to explain the shift in his outlook they remain just random snapshots adding up to very little. There’s no great lines, no real conflict despite the situation being presented and he doesn’t get much chance to really break stride vocally.

The arrangement meanwhile isn’t going to bring in any listeners on its own, even if it’s reasonably well suited to the song. The simple rhythmic melody is moderately catchy without being at all memorable and the sax solo is a missed opportunity to add some much needed fire, as an alto merely tootles around without a destination in mind.

Had they worked up a more emphatic instrumental break that upped the drama as well as the pace, maybe then the final stanza would make more sense as a scorching tenor solo might’ve represented a more heated argument over who is sleeping where tonight, but as it is the only ones sleeping are going to be the listeners as this isn’t lively enough to keep you awake for long.

So in the final account, as nice as it is to see L.C. Williams pay us a visit, he’s got little to tell us about where he’s been, no word on where he’s going and chances are if we go into the kitchen to bring out some drinks four our guest he’ll already be gone before we return.


(Visit the Artist page of L. C. Williams for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)