Jody Williams was one of the ground-floor stalwarts of the fifties Chicago blues sound. His guitar work as sideman graced early recordings of Howling Wolf ("Forty Four," "Evil," "Who Will Be Next"), Billy Boy Arnold ("I Wish You Would"), Jimmy Rogers ("One Kiss") and Bo Diddley ("Who Do You Love," "I 'm Looking For A Woman"). His fat and funky tone was a mix of delta rhythm drive and uptown sophistication, with sort of a nasty B B King feel. In 1957 he cut a minor key instrumental single "Lucky Lou" that was to become a classic.
It was also the beginning of Williams exploitation by the music business-Otis Rush took the distinctive riff intact and used it as the intro to his Cobra side "All Your Love." Rush also borrowed from the flip side of Williams single-taking the break from "You May" for his "Sit And Cry." Later, Williams worked with Wolf, then with Memphis Slim. ("You May" is melodically based on Slims "Mother Earth".) He also toured extensively with Bo Diddley, and together they worked up a number called "Love Is Strange,"
built around a riff that Williams had used previously on a Chess session for Billy Stewart, the two-sided "Billy's Blues". While gigging at the Howard Theater in Washington DC, Williams noticed guitarist Mickey Baker watching intently from the wings. In October 1956, Baker went into the studio with his singing partner, Sylvia, and cut the tune. A few months later Mickey and Sylvia had a hit with "Love Is Strange" on the charts. Williams was told by Diddley that he'd made an agreement with the duo-and that he'd see
his share of royalties. Williams didn't-and after a lawsuit was settled years later, ownership of the tune went to Mickey, Sylvia, and Bo Diddley. After a stint in the service Williams did some minor label recording and trio gigging work but finally quit the business altogether and went to work for Xerox as an engineer.
He avoided the scene until mid-2000 when he showed up at a Robert Jr. Lockwood tribute gig. Blues fans recognized him and tried to coax him into playing, but he wouldn't be talked into it. But seeds had been planted and he started listening to old tapes. He eventually did a Chicago club gig, and then some festival work in Denmark-soon he was back with a vengeance, and this return album.
Several of the his old numbers are revisited, kicking off with the funky "Lucky Lou," one of three instrumental showcases. "You May" is here, along with a number first cut in 1962, "Moaning For Molasses." The latter features guest Sean Costello, who took the tune as title track of his recent CD. Other guests include Rusty Zinn (who was on the Euro gigs) and Tinsley Ellis-they add some guitar tradeoffs and some vocal work as well. Old partner Billy Boy Arnold takes vocal lead on "I'm Coming Back In Again" and
adds some blazing harp to "Come On Over To My House". Williams wrote several new tunes, and delivers them in a pleasant singing style, with Charles Brown tinges here and there. A few tunes add a horn section, on the rest Williams is backed by a solid four piece rhythm section.
Williams is a fleet fingered player with a round and deep tone, his approach tasty and fresh. Sometimes when players return to the scene a few years down the road, the best they can do is to muster ghostly echoes of their former abilities. At 67 Williams has chops that can still make youngsters shake their heads in envy. Its good to have him back.
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