Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

William Edward John, better known by the stage name Little Willie John (November 15, 1937 May 26, 1968) was an American R&B singer of the 1950s and early 1960s, best known for his hits "All Around the World" (1955) and the much-covered "Fever" (1956), a tune copied by Peggy Lee and made famous in 1958.

History
He was born William Edward John in Cullendale, Arkansas but his family moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was four. This led to a recording contract with King Records and a string of R&B hits beginning with the soulful "All around the World" (1955) and including "I'm Shakin'" by Rudy Toombs, "Suffering With The Blues", "Need Your Love So Bad", "Sleep" (1960) (Pop #13). His biggest hit "Fever" (1956) (Pop #24) was even more famously covered by Peggy Lee in 1958. Another song, "Talk To Me" recorded in 1958, reached #5 in the R&B chart and #20 in the pop chart. A few years later it was a hit once again by Sunny And The Sunglows. In all, John made the Billboard Top 100 a total of 14 times. A cover version of "I Need Your Love So Bad" by the original Fleetwood Mac group was also a big hit in Europe.

In 1966, John was convicted of manslaughter and sent to Washington State Prison for a fatal knifing incident following a show in Seattle. He appealed against his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album, but due to contractual wrangles, and the failure of his appeal, it was not released until 2008 (as Nineteen Sixty Six). Little Willie John died in 1968 at Washington State Prison in Walla Walla, Washington. The official cause of death is listed as a heart attack, though some report he died of pneumonia or asphyxiation.

Little Willie John was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

He was the brother of singer Mable John, who recorded for Motown (early years of the Tamla label) and Stax, and the father of Keith John, long time background singer with Stevie Wonder, and Kevin John.