Blues In Modern Days
Blues In Modern Days
Can't Keep a Good Man Down
"All the things that I've done that people have stolen from me ... I should be a millionaire."
Your ordinary, average guitar player would accumulate a ton of rust due after 30 years of inactivity. But Jody Williams is not your ordinary, average guitar player. After hooking up with a young Ellas McDaniel (aka Bo Diddley) in the early 1950s, Williams' innovative and imaginative guitar riffing helped turn a young novelty known as rock-n-roll into a full-fledged, fire-breathing beast of a music.
Though for three decades he would turn his back on the very form of music he helped birth, Williams was eventually coaxed back into his rightful role as living legend and blues fans couldn't be any happier.
And as we found out when we caught up with one of the founding fathers in November, 2012, he's intent on restoring some sheen, and perhaps adding another chapter or two, to his already impressive legacy.
One evening in 1964, pioneering blues and rock guitar player Jody Williams quietly laid his guitar into its case, snapped the locks shut and slid it underneath his bed.
Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States at the time.
It would be 35 years later - in 1999 - when Bill Clinton was the President of the United States, before Williams' guitar would once again see the light of day.
So why did the Alabama-born, Chicago-raised legend - a performer who had recorded with Sonny Boy Williamson and shared the stage with The Drifters, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Bill Haley and The Comets - turn his back and walk away from a very lucrative career, arguably at the height of its popularity?
According to Williams, it was cut and dry.
It was because his career was anything but lucrative, all thanks to the greed of others.
"It seems like anytime I write a song, it's stolen and over a million records are sold. And then about 10 other people record it. You know I got to feel bad about that," Williams said. "That's the main reason I put my guitar under the bed for 30-something years - to keep from killing somebody. I just said, 'To Hell with it.'"
So the man who laid down the explosive and highly-influential solo on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and also played on classic Howlin' Wolf sides such as "Evil" and "Forty Four" was basically MIA from the music scene for the '70s, '80s and '90s, depraving blues fans of a major creative force for three decades.
"I wouldn't mind eight or 10 other people recording it (his songs) if I had gotten something out of it," he said. "But to have things completely stolen, I don't even get my writer's royalties off a bunch of my stuff."
Not only did Williams not play - or, for that matter, even think about playing - the blues for 30-plus years, he didn't even bother to listen to them, either.
"I listened to some country and western and a little light jazz during those years. That was about it. That's all I listened to for 30 years. No blues; period."
Williams basically just vanished from plain sight overnight, leaving many to wonder if he had either passed away or maybe moved to some deserted island.
The straw that broke the camel's back was when Mickey Baker used Williams' riff for "Billy's Blues" on the Mickey & Sylvia hit "Love is Strange." That song hit number one on the charts in the late '50s, and was later used in the movie Dirty Dancing and even wound up in the Grammy Hall of Fame. And despite all of that - even though courtroom litigation was eventually held on the matter - Williams never received credit for giving birth to the lick used in the song, nor did he ever garner so much as one single penny from the sale of it over the years. Disgusted and left with no real motivation for continuing to play music, Williams simply faded into the background.