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Joe Williams Jazz Singer

Joe Williams
Joe Williams 1997.jpg
Williams in 1997
Background information
Joseph Goreed
Born(1918-12-12)December 12, 1918
Cordele, Georgia, U.S.
DiedMarch 29, 1999(1999-03-29) (aged 80)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
GenresJazz, blues, swing, traditional pop
LabelsRCA Victor, Verve
Lionel Hampton, Count Basie

Joe Williams (born Joseph Goreed; December 12, 1918 - March 29, 1999) was an American jazz singer. He sang with big bands such as the Count Basie Orchestra and the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and also with his own combos. He sang in two films with the Basie orchestra, and sometimes worked as an actor.


Williams was born in Cordele, Georgia, the son of Willie Goreed and Anne Beatrice née Gilbert. When he was about three, his mother and grandmother took him to Chicago.[1] He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where he attended Austin Otis Sexton Elementary School and Englewood High School.[1] In the 1930s, as a teenager, he was a member of a gospel group, the Jubilee Boys, and performed in Chicago churches.


He worked as a singer and bouncer in Chicago in the late 1930s and early 1940s.[] He began singing professionally as a soloist in 1937. He sometimes sang with big bands: from 1937 he performed with Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra, and also toured with Les Hite in the Midwest.[2] In 1941 he toured with Coleman Hawkins to Memphis, Tennessee. In 1943 he performed in Boston with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.[3] He toured with Hampton for several years but never achieved breakthrough success.[] He sang with Red Saunders at the Club DeLisa in Chicago in 1945, and in 1946 was in New York with Andy Kirk.[3]

In the late 1940s Williams was ill and performed little. By October 1950 he was again at the Club DeLisa with Red Saunders, where Count Basie heard him.[3]

Joe Williams at the Palo Alto Jazz Festival in September 1986

From 1954 to 1961 he was the singer for the Count Basie Orchestra.[3] "Every Day I Have the Blues", recorded in 1955, and "Alright, Okay, You Win" were among many successful recordings from this period.[3][4]

After leaving the Basie band, Williams had a successful career as a soloist at festivals, in clubs and on television.[3] He and Basie remained on good terms and he regularly appeared with the Basie orchestra. He toured and made recordings with many other musicians, including Harry "Sweets" Edison in 1961-62, Junior Mance between 1962 and 1964, George Shearing in 1971, and Cannonball Adderley between 1973 and 1975. He went on a long tour from Egypt to India with Clark Terry in 1977, and toured Europe and the United States with Thad Jones and the Basie Orchestra in 1985. He also worked with his own combos, which between 1970 and 1990 usually included the pianist Norman Simmons, and often had Henry Johnson on guitar.[3]

Williams sang with the Basie orchestra in two films, Jamboree in 1957 and Cinderfella in 1960.[1] He sometimes worked as an actor, and in 1985 took the rôle of "Grandpa Al" Hanks in Bill Cosby's popular The Cosby Show.[3] Williams appeared several times on Sesame Street in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In later life Williams often worked in hotels and clubs in Las Vegas, but also sang at festivals and worked on cruise ships. He toured again with the Basie Orchestra, this time under the direction of Frank Foster, who had succeeded Thad Jones as leader of the band. Williams sang with the former Ellington Orchestra drummer Louie Bellson in Duke Ellington's jazz suite Black, Brown and Beige; in about 1993 or 1994 he again toured with George Shearing.[3]

Williams worked regularly until his death in Las Vegas on March 29, 1999, at the age of 80.[2]


Williams won the Best Jazz Vocal Performance Grammy Award for his LP Nothin' but the Blues in 1984;[5] it was also the winning Traditional Blues Album in the Blues Music Awards of the Blues Foundation in the following year.[6] Williams was nominated for seven other Grammy awards: for Prez & Joe (1979); "8 to 5 I Lose" (1982); I Just Want To Sing (1986); Every Night: Live At Vine St. (1987); "I Won't Leave You Again" (with Lena Horne, 1988); "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" (with Marlena Shaw, 1989); and In Good Company (1989).[5]

In 1988, Williams received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the prestigious Berklee College of Music. [7]

In 1992, his 1955 recording of "Every Day I Have the Blues" with Basie was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame for recordings of particular historical or qualitative importance.[2][8] Williams was added to the Jazz Wall of Fame of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2001.[9]

In 1988, with his wife Jillean and friends, Williams set up the not-for-profit Joe Williams Every Day Foundation to offer scholarships to talented young musicians.[10][11][12][13]


Among the many recordings that Williams made are:

  • 1946 10" shellac (78rpm) single: Decca 23959 (with the Andy Kirk orchestra), Decca.
  • 1950-1951 10" shellac (78rpm) singles: Columbia 30218, OKeh 6801, OKeh 6834, OKeh 6914, OKeh 6953, OKeh 7061 (with Red Saunders & His Orchestra) Columbia/OKeh.
  • 1952-1953 Joe Williams Sings Everyday (with the Red Saunders band) 6 Parrot/Blue Lake masters from 1953, plus (with the King Kolax orchestra) 4 Chess/Checker masters from 1952. Regent/Savoy.
  • 1955 A Night at Count Basie's, (the band: Emmett Berry-trumpet, Vic Dickenson-trombone, Marlowe Morris-organ, Bobby Henderson-piano, Aaron Bell-bass, Bobby Donaldson-drums), Vanguard.
  • 1955 Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (with Count Basie), Clef/Verve .
  • 1956 Basie in London [live] (with Count Basie and His Orchestra), Verve.
  • 1956 Metronome All-Stars 1956 (with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald), Clef/Verve.
  • 1956 The Greatest!! Count Basie Plays, Joe Williams Sings Standards (with Count Basie), Verve.
  • 1957 Count Basie at Newport [live] (with Count Basie and His Orchestra), Verve.
  • 1957 One O'Clock Jump (with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald), Verve.
  • 1958 A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry, Roulette/Label M .
  • 1959 Breakfast Dance and Barbecue [live] (with Count Basie and His Orchestra), Roulette.
  • 1959 Everyday I Have the Blues (with Count Basie and His Orchestra), Roulette.
  • 1959 Memories Ad-Lib (with Count Basie), Roulette.
  • 1959 Sing Along with Basie (with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and the Basie Band), Roulette.
  • 1959 Joe Williams Sings About You!, Roulette.
  • 1960 Joe Williams With Songs About 'That Kind Of Woman', Roulette.
  • 1960 Just The Blues (with Count Basie), Roulette.
  • 1961 Together (with Harry "Sweets" Edison), Roulette.
  • 1961 Have A Good Time With Joe Williams, Roulette.
  • 1961 Sentimental & Melancholy, Roulette.
  • 1962 Joe Williams Live! A Swingin' Night At Birdland, Roulette.
  • 1963 Back To Basie & The Blues (with Count Basie and His Orchestra), compilation, Roulette.
  • 1963 Joe Williams At Newport '63, RCA Victor.
  • 1963 Jump For Joy, RCA Victor.
  • 1963 One Is A Lonesome Number, Roulette.
  • 1964 A New Kind Of Love, Roulette.
  • 1964 Havin' A Good Time! Featuring Ben Webster, Hyena [rel. 2005].
  • 1964 Me And The Blues, RCA Victor.
  • 1965 The Song Is You, RCA Victor.
  • 1966 The Exciting Joe Williams, RCA Victor.
  • 1967 Presenting Joe Williams and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Solid State/Blue Note.
  • 1968 Something Old, New And Blue (with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra), Solid State.
  • 1970 Worth Waiting For..., Blue Note.
  • 1971 The Heart and Soul of Joe Williams and George Shearing (with George Shearing), Sheba/Koch.
  • 1971 Live In Vegas (with the Count Basie Orchestra), Monad [rel. 1995].
  • 1972 With Love, Temponic.
  • 1973 Joe Williams Live (with the Cannonball Adderley Sextet), Fantasy.
  • 1978 Live At The Century Plaza (with the Capp/Pierce Juggernaut Band), Concord.
  • 1979 Prez & Joe: In Celebration Of Lester Young (with Dave Pell's Prez Conference), GNP Crescendo .
  • 1981 The Soundtrack Music From Burt Reynold's 'Sharky's Machine' (includes "8 To 5 I Lose"), Atlantic.
  • 1983 Nothin' but the Blues (with Red Holloway & His Blues All-Stars), Delos .
  • 1984 Then And Now (with the Mike Melvoin Trio + Pete Christlieb), Bosco/Sea Breeze.
  • 1985 I Just Want To Sing (Joe Williams & Friends, June 1985), Delos.
  • 1987 Every Night: Live At Vine St. (with the Norman Simmons Quartet), Verve.
  • 1988 Lena Horne: The Men In My Life (includes "I Won't Leave You Again" with Joe Williams), Three Cherries.
  • 1989 In Good Company (includes "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" with Marlena Shaw), Verve. Billboard Top Jazz Albums #5.[14]
  • 1990 That Holiday Feelin', Verve.
  • 1991 Diane Schuur: Pure Schuur (includes "Deed I Do" with Joe Williams), GRP
  • 1992 Ballad And Blues Master (more material recorded live at "Vine St." in 1987), Verve. Billboard Top Jazz Albums #7.[14]
  • 1993 Live At Orchestra Hall, Detroit (with the Count Basie Orchestra directed by Frank Foster), Telarc.
  • 1994 Here's To Life (with Robert Farnon Orchestra), Telarc.
  • 1994 Milt Jackson: The Prophet Speaks (includes "Five O'Clock In The Morning Blues" with Joe Williams), Qwest/WB.
  • 1995 Feel The Spirit, Telarc.



  1. ^ a b c James Ross Moore (2002). Williams, Joe. American National Biography online edition. Accessed April 2015. (subscription required).
  2. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (March 31, 1999). "Joe Williams, Jazz Singer of Soulful Tone and Timing, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bob Weir, Barry Kernfeld. Williams, Joe. In: Barry Kernfeld (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition. Grove Music Online/ Oxford Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed April 2015. (subscription required).
  4. ^ Joe Williams Collection. University of Idaho Library. Archived February 18, 2015.
  5. ^ a b GRAMMY Award Results for Joe Williams. The Recording Academy. Archived September 26, 2017.
  6. ^ The Blues Foundation Database. Accessed September 2017.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Grammy Hall Of Fame Archived January 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Santa Monica, CA: The Recording Academy. Accessed April 2015.
  9. ^ "2001 Inductees". ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ "Joe Williams Every Day Foundation". Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (1995). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Guinness. p. 4494. ISBN 1-56159-176-9.
  12. ^ Gelb, Hank (October 5, 1997). "Joyful Noise". San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. ^ Elwood, Philip (March 30, 1999). "Beautiful voice, elegant man". The San Francisco Examiner.
  14. ^ a b Joe Williams at AllMusic

Further reading

  • R. J. Gleason (1956). Every Day is a Good Day for Joe Williams. Down Beat 23 (11): 11
  • R. Horricks (1956). Joe Williams. Jazz Monthly 2 (7): 7
  • L. Tomkins (1963). Frankly Speaking: Joe Williams. Crescendo 1 (6): 10
  • B. Gardner (1964). Is Joe Williams Really Joe Williams? Down Beat 31 (32): 19
  • A. J. Smith (1976). Joe Williams: the Well Tempered Blaze of Vocal Excellence. Down Beat 43 (9): 11
  • Sheldon Harris (1979) Blues Who's Who: a Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House. ISBN 9780870004254.
  • Stanley Dance (1980). The World of Count Basie. New York; London: C. Scribner's Sons. ISBN 9780684166049.
  • Joe Williams (1980). You and Me. Jazz-Podium 29 (10): 12
  • J. E. Siegel (1980). Talking with Joe Williams. Radio Free Jazz 21 (January): 12
  • Dempsey J. Travis (1983). An Autobiography of Black Jazz. Chicago, IL: Urban Research Institute. ISBN 9780941484039
  • Leslie Gourse (1985). Every Day: the Story of Joe Williams London; New York: Quartet Books. ISBN 9780704324664.
  • Chris Sheridan (1986). Count Basie: a Bio-discography. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313249358.
  • D. Morgenstern (1987). Joe Williams: the Boy Singer. JazzTimes (October): 36
  • Whitney Balliett (1988). American Singers: Twenty-seven Portraits in Song. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195065732.
  • [s.n.] (1988). Joe Williams. Jazz-Podium. 37 (7): 3
  • E. Calloway (April 28, 1990). Defender Newsboy Joe Williams Grew up to be a Great Vocalist. The Chicago Defender
  • R. Mitchell (February 16, 1994). Joe Williams Saves a Few of his High Notes. Houston Chronicle.
  • D. Zych (1994). Joe Williams: Celebrating Ev-e-ry-Day. Jazz Times 24' (2): 43
  • H. Gelb (October 5, 1997). Blues Singer Joe Williams Has Seen Hard Times, but Takes Solace from his Saviour: Joyful Noise. The San Francisco Examiner Magazine.
  • D. Heckman (March 31, 1999). [obituary]. Los Angeles Times
  • B. Crowther (1999). [obituary]. Jazz Journal International 52 (5): 18

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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