Andre Williams in Bessemer, Alabama,
on November 1, 1936) is an American R&B and punk
blues musician who
started his career in the 1950s at Fortune
Records in Detroit.
lived in a housing
project with his mother
until she died when he was six years of age. A sly and smart young boy,
his "aunties" raised him until he was around 16. He then set out on his
own and moved to Detroit,
Michigan. There, he became friends with Jack and Devora Brown,
owners of Fortune
Records which was located
at the back of a barber shop. Williams would become labels mates with
fellow Fortune Records stars Nolan
Strong and Nathaniel
He then became lead singer for The 5 Dollars in 1955, which already had
a contract with Fortune
Records. Though most of the songs were billed as 'Andre Williams and
the Don Juans' (on Epic in 1956 billed as 'Andre Mr Rhythm Williams and
his New Group'), "Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait" were solo efforts. "Bacon
Fat" hit #9 on the Billboard R&B
Charts in 1957. "Bacon Fat" (written by Williams) was such a success
that Fortune Records sold the song to Epic
Records, a much larger distributor (released as Epic 5-9196 "Bacon
Fat/Just because of a Kiss"). Since "Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait" were
such successes, Williams figured that "talking instead of singing" was a
better idea for him, for he didn't have as good a voice as some other
singers from the 1950s. In 1960 Fortune released a complete LP, of all
of his singles with the Don Juans, which was titled Jail
Bait (rereleased in
1986). This was just the start of Williams' nationwide fame.
In 1960 he appeared on Motown's
Miracle Record label releasing "Rosa Lee".
In the early 1960s, Williams co-wrote Stevie
Wonder's first song called "Thank You for Loving Me." Williams' "Shake
a Tail Feather" was also a hit in 1963 for the
Five Du-Tones and then
& Tina Turner. Alvin
Cash & the Crawlers also
made a hit out of the Williams song "Twine Time." As well as making
Williams also supervised the making of two or more albums by The
Contours. Additionally, in the '60s, Williams was the manager and roadie for
soul singer Edwin
Williams released two records on the Avin Record Label, then two records
were released on Detroit's Wingate label: "Loose Juice" and "Do it". Then
on the Ric
Tic label in 1967 he
released; "You Got It and I Want It".
n 1968, Williams was signed to Chess
Records on Checker, Chicago's
major blues label.
He was back... wearing velvet lavender suits and playing
"bucket-of-blood" styled joints. Chess released many hits for Williams —
"Humpin' Bumpin' and Thumpin'" and "Cadillac Jack" in particular. Then,
he began to work with many unknown black labels
and release songs like "Sweet Little Pussy Cat" and "Rib Tips, Pts. 1 &
2." In 1968, Williams collaborated with
the Natural Bridge Bunch to release "Pig Snoots," a novelty
song about a man named
Ricky who would "come all way cross town to get me some snoots". In the
1970s, Williams wrote some songs for Parliament
(band) and Funkadelic,
two popular funk groups. (Comedian Redd
Foxx then dubbed Andre
Williams his most famous nickname, Mr. Rhythm). Once again, Williams
began to produce cuts forIke
Throughout the 1980s, Andre Williams was in poverty because of his drug addictions.
He lived in Chicago,
Illinois; at one point, he was homeless and begging for money on a
In 1996, Andre Williams released Mr.
Rhythm, which featured new renditions of his old tunes from the
"Jail Bait" era. Some included "The Greasy Chicken," "Mean Jean," and
"Pass the Biscuits Please." It was a definite comeback for Williams, but
most of the crowd had already forgotten about him, and wanted
He changed his style with 1998's Silky.
Considered the "world's sleaziest album ever", Silky revolutionized
the punky style, dubbed Sleaze
rock. Mark Deming speaks about Silky:
It's "noise-spattered, stripped-down, roots-punk assault, and the
results are flat-out nuts." Though sleaze rockers idolized Williams,
most critics preferred his original style.
In 1999, he began his relationship with Bloodshot
Records by recording a
country album with The
Sadies, entitled Red
In 2000, Andre Williams released The
Black Godfather. The noisy, electric, fuzzy sound was back, with two
songs backed by The
Dirtbombs. By this time, Andre was already back on stage, performing
at the "bucket-of-blood" clubs again. 'The Black Godfather' became his
new nickname, along with the outdated 'Mr. Rhythm'.
In 2001 he discussed his recent conversion to Judaism and circumcision.
In 2002–2003 he toured with the Dutch sleaze
rock band Green Hornet.
A return to soul-style music came with Aphrodisiac in
2006. "The result is a more laid-back and funky groove that's soulful
but potent at the same time, fusing '70s blaxploitation sounds,
influenced R&B workouts
into one solid package" is the way Mark Deming described the album.
Williams still plays shows in the USA, and toured Europe in 2001 (with
Dutch band Green Hornet as backing band), 2005 and 2006 (with the Marshall
Brothers). From August to November 2006, he had a short European
tour, ending in Switzerland. Then in early 2008 a European tour with The
In 2007, Andre finished recording his latest album with the New Orleans
based band, Morning
40 Federation. The album, titled Can
You Deal With It, was released by Bloodshot
Records in 2008 and is
credited to Andre Williams & the New Orleans Hellhounds (the
pseudonymous Morning 40 Federation).
In 2010 Williams contributed a cover version of "The Way You Dog Me
Around" for the compilation LP Daddy
Rockin Strong: A Tribute to Nolan Strong & The Diablos. The album is
a tribute to the late Nolan
Strong, a Fortune
Records sensation during
the 1950s and early 1960s
Agile Mobile Hostile
The 2007 documentary "Agile Mobile Hostile: A Year with Andre Williams"
tells of Williams' early career at Fortune Records, his hard life on the
streets of Chicago in the 1980s, drug and alcohol abuse, his return to
the stage and recording studio in 1995, and his current life and musical
career - and the struggles that come with it.