The Kid - Billy Emerson ©2003JCMarion


William Robert Emerson was born in December of 1929 in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He was attracted to music at an early age and began to make local contacts in his late teens. Soon he was part of a local blues combo headed by Billy Battle. Before Emerson could make his way in this field, he entered military service in 1952. Upon his discharge in 1954 he was located in the city of Memphis and fell in with the local bands. This led to becoming a part of the great Ike Turner & The Rhythm Kings. He soon got his first chance in the recording studio with the tunes "No Teasing Around" and "If Lovin' Is Believing"for the Memphis Recording Service on Union Avenue which was released on Sun #195 in March of 1954. That May, now known as Billy "The Kid" Emerson, Sun Records released "I'm Not Going Home" and "The Woodchuck" on #203. Neither record sold very well and soon Emerson left the Turner band. He appeared at a number of Memphis area night spots with pickup bands until late in the year when he joined a combo led by well known Memphis musician Phineas Newborn.

In January of 1955 Billy was back in the studio for Sun with his new band mates and the label soon released "Move baby Move" and "When It Rains It Pours" on #214. With this release Billy finally gets some action on the radio waves and among the sales charts. "When It Rains" sells well in Memphis, Jackson, Mississippi, and especially in New Orleans. later in the year Sun #219 produces "Red Hot" a rollicking jump tune that captures the ears of many in the Memphis area. The flip side is "No Greater Love". The jump side sells in the local area and is the subject of a cover version also on Sun Records by Billy Lee Riley that becomes a rockabilly anthem. In the spring of 1956 "Fine Little Healthy Thing" and "Something For Nothing" is released on Sun #233 and sells well in the area and in Texas. This would be the last Sun recording by Emerson who soon moved to the Chicago area and was signed to the Vee-Jay label. By June his first release for Vee-Jay is "You Won't Stay Long" and "Don't Start Me To Lying" on #175. Billy spends weeks in late 1956 in the hospital and is soon back on his feet. He records "Every Woman I Know" and "Tomorrow Never Comes" on Vee-Jay #219. Emerson spends February of 1957 touring Florida and Georgia, many of the dates with The Orioles.

In May Emerson appears with The Spaniels at the Liberty Theater in Philadelphia and introduces his new recording "The Pleasure Is All Mine" and "Somebody Show Me". His back up band includes John Calvin on tenor sax, McKinley Easton on baritone, Hobart Dotson on trumpet, Lefty Bates on guitar, Quinn Wilson on bass, and Alvin Duncan on drums. Billy is on piano and vocals. In August Billy appears on stage in Gary, Indiana, at a birthday bash for Vivian Carter longtime dj on radio and wife of Vee-Jay Records president Jimmy Bracken. In December Vee-Jay Records releases "You Never Miss The Water" and "Do Yourself A Favor" on #261. Billy appears at a big holiday week show at Chicago's Regal Theater held by Al Benson and starring The Five Satins and Jackie Wilson. In 1958 Emerson moves just down the road from Gary to Chicago where he is signed to the Chess label. late in the year Chess releases #1711, a remake of an earlier side Billy had done for Sun "The Woodchuck" and "Give Me A Little Love". Late in the year Billy appears with Chicago dj Sam Evans at a number of record hops with The Dells and The Spaniels. In the spring of 1959 Chess releases #1728 - "Holy Mackerel Baby" and "Believe Me" and the label does away with "the Kid" nickname. The record does not sell and as the new decade arrives performers like Emerson are soon forgotten.

In the sixties Emerson records for a number of small independent labels such as Mad, USA, and M-Pac with his version of "The Whip". He recorded a number of tunes with guitarist Lonnie Brooks such as "Aunt Molly" parts one and two on Constellation #148, and "Greasy Man" and Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby" for Second City #1001. In 1965 Emerson formed his own label named after his home town Tarpon Records. For his own label he recorded "Every Woman I Know (Crazy About Automobiles)" and "I Took It So Hard" on Tarpon #6601 (it also was released on Chirrup #0002). "Dancing Whippersnapper" and a new version of "The Whip" was released on Tarpon #6602. "Dancing Whippersnapper" was also issued on Rooster Records #44 with a different flip side - "Zulu". However the biggest seller for Emerson's Tarpon Records was recorded by Denise LaSalle on the tune "A Love Reputation" which was a big seller in the Midwest.

Billy "The Kid" Emerson was another R & B performer who never reached the star status of a headliner, but was an interesting and innovative performer for more than a decade on piano and vocals. Just a listen to his version of "Red Hot" will bring a smile to your face, and what's so bad about that ?

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