Bad Boy : Larry Williams©2007JCMarion


Larry Williams was born in New Orleans in 1935. He was always attuned to the musical styles of the day and this was where his interests were. As a teenager he moved with his family to Oakland, California, and he was caught up in the doo-wop era of the early fifties there. At the age of nineteen he returned to his home town and came in contact with Lloyd Price who was noted for his early fifties R & B hit "Lawdy Miss Claudie". Working as a valet to Price, Williams was introduced to Robert Blackwell known as "Bumps" who was a producer for Specialty Records out of Los Angeles, and had been working with Little Richard. On Blackwell's recommendation, Specialty signed Williams as a performer for the label and followed it with a recording contract.

Just as Larry Williams went into the studio for his first session, Little Richard decided to leave the music business and enter the ministry. Larry's first effort for Specialty was a do-over of Lloyd Price's big hit "Just Because" ( b/w "Let Me Tell You Baby") on # 597. . The record had decent sales and airplay and now Rupe and Specialty embarked on an energetic plan to make Williams the label's successor to the recently departed Little Richard. During the summer of 1957 Larry Williams recorded "Short Fat Fannie" ( b/w "High School Dance") on # 608 which was an immediate hit on both the R & B and pop music charts. In addition the lyrics of the song were also interesting for their inclusion of a number of pop and R & B hits of the recent past. In the fall of the year the follow up was released called "Boney Maronie" (with "You Bug Me Baby" another rocker on the flip) on # 615 which was another rocking tune that had big numbers on both the R & B and pop charts.

The next two songs for Specialty were not as big in sales but both were influential in providing a sound of the times. "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" and "Slow Down" on Specialty # 626 both served to make Larry Williams one of the big draws in the world of rock 'n roll in the late fifties. "Hootchy Koo" and "The Dummy" on #634 did not chart. The career for Williams came to an abrupt stop in 1959 when he ran afoul of the law and was convicted of a narcotics offense which resulted in a jail term. During this time Specialty kept at it with "I Was A Fool" and "Peaches And Cream" on # 647, "She Said Yeah" and "Bad Boy" on #658, "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Steal A Little Kiss" on # 665, "Give Me Love" / "Teardrops" on # 677, and "Ting-A-Ling" / "Little Schoolgirl" on # 682.

When released in 1962 he teamed up with another fifties R & B figure Johnny "Guitar" Watson (who had a big hit in the mid fifties with "Those Lonely Lonely Nights") and went on an extensive tour of the U.K. In England a rock quartet from Liverpool was quite familiar with some of the tunes by Williams and The Beatles soon had the world listening to their revisionist takes on "Dizzy Miss Lizzy", "Slow Down" , and "Bad Boy". Larry Williams was signed to Chess Records and had a few failed recordings such as "My Baby's Got Soul" and "Every Day I Wonder" on # 1736, "I Wanna Know" on # 1761, and "I Hear My Baby" and "Oh Baby" on Chess # 1764. During the later part of the decade he had a minor hit with "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Me" and "A Quitter Never Wins" with Watson for Okeh Records on # 47274. During this time Williams recorded for a number of other labels such as Sue - "Strange" / "Call On Me"; Bell - "No Substitute For Love" / "I Could Love You Baby" on # 813; Epic - "He Will Break Your Heart" on # 10845; MG<M - "Shake Your Body Girl" / "Love-I Can't Seem To Find It" on # 1447; and Venture - "Wake Up" on # 627.

He also recorded "Nobody" for Kaleidoscope in 1968 which got some notice, but for the next ten years he was largely absent from the recording scene. Specialty Records released Larry Williams version of Huey Smith's "Rockin Pneumonia And Boogie Woogie Flu" and "Hey Now" on # 744. In the late seventies he released an album for Fantasy called "That Larry Williams" which did not do well. He also recorded a number of singles for Fantasy in the seventies such as "Doin' The Best I Can" on # 806, "One Thing Or Another" on # 810, and "Resurrection Of The Funk" on # 841. Soon after New Year's Day in 1980 Larry Williams was found dead in his home, of a gunshot wound. It was officially termed a suicide, but there have been persistent rumors that have doubted that finding.

The essential music of Larry Williams is preserved on available cds that chronicle his influence and hit making ability. "Bad Boy" from Specialty is a comprehensive look at the hits and near misses recorded for that label. It includes 23 tracks. The more completist package from the Specialty fifties is "At His Finest : Larry Williams - The Specialty Years" featuring close to fifty tracks of his recorded output for the LA label that made him a worthy successor to Little Richard for a time. There are extended versions and alternate takes of some of the most well known songs. And finally for the early sixties there is "The Larry Williams Show with Johnny "Guitar" Watson" on Edsel UK with twelve tracks from 1965. Larry Williams rocks again !

to next page . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

back to title page . . . . . . . . . .