William Robert Emerson, known during his recording career as
Billy "The Kid" Emerson and more recently as Rev. William R.
Emerson (born December 21, 1929, Tarpon Springs, Florida, United
States), is an African American preacher and former R&B and rock and
roll singer and songwriter, best known for his 1955 song, "Red Hot."
Born in Florida, Emerson learned the piano, playing in various local
bands. In 1943, he joined the United States Navy, and after World War II
he began playing around Tarpon Springs, and following a spell in one
group, dressed as outlaws, he picked up the nickname, "Billy The Kid".
He joined the United States Air Force in 1952, and on his discharge met
up in Memphis with bandleader Ike Turner, who recruited him into his
Kings of Rhythm. In 1954 he released his first record on the Sun label,
"No Teasing Around", following which he left Turner's band and joined a
group led by Phineas Newborn. He stayed with Sun as a songwriter,
writing and recording "When It Rains It Really Pours", later recorded by
Elvis Presley, and "Red Hot", which later became a hit for both
Billy Lee Riley and Bob Luman but
was not a commercial success for Emerson.
In late 1955 he joined Vee-Jay Records in Chicago, making records such
as "Every Woman I Know (Crazy 'Bout Automobiles)", released a year later
but with little commercial success, and soon afterwards moved to Chess
Records. However, he continued to have more success as a songwriter,
writing for Junior Wells,
Wynonie Harris and
Buddy Guy during the early 1960s, often in
conjunction with Willie Dixon.
After recording for several smaller labels, he formed his own Tarpon
Records in 1966, releasing Denise
LaSalle's debut single as well as his own records. He also continued
to play in clubs and on European blues tours. In 2005 he was reported as
having a church in Oak Park, Illinois, as Rev. William R. Emerson.
Emerson was inducted in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
A compilation album, Red Hot: The Sun Years, was released by Bear Family
Records in 2009