RELEASE NR.: KM-EP105
LABEL: Koko Mojo Records
GENRE: Rhythm and Blues
Zephire “Andre” Williams was born in Bessmer, Alabama on November 1, 1936. He lost his mother when he was 6 and learned how to take care of himself at a very early age. At 14 he enrolled in the US Navy using his older brother’s birth certificate. A year later he was busted and sent home with a dishonorable discharge. As Garth Cartwright wrote “Andre Williams is neither a great singer nor a great musician in the traditional sense, but he is undeniably a great character, an innovator with a smile on his face and a hard-on in his pants. In a career spanning nearly six decades, Williams has worn all kinds of musical hats – songwriter, singer, producer, arranger, talent scout.” After his brief stint in the Navy, he moved to Detroit where he won a talent contest at the Warfield Theater. Williams said “There was a talent show going on there. I went there and I think I won four shows straight. If you won one week, you could come back next week. If you won first prize, it was $25 a week. I didn’t consider myself a singer. It was the $25! I didn’t know what I was really going to do. I’d just gotten out of the Navy and hadn’t made up my mind what I was going to do.” He caught the eye of Fortune Records, who signed him in 1955. Fortune Records was a small family operated, independent label owned by Jack and Devora Brown. Fortune specialized in R&B, blues, soul and doo-wop music, but they also released pop, big band, hillbilly, gospel, rock and roll, and polka. Other artists on Fortune were John Lee Hooker, Doctor Ross, Nolan Strong & The Diablos and Nathaniel Mayer &. Fortune’s studio was very primitive and even by the standards of the mid-1950s, but this only encouraged Williams to think in a more creative way. Williams recalls “We’d go out back of Fortune, smoke some reefer, drink a bottle of wine, and come up with a song. It took a genius to mix what we cut and Mrs. Brown, she did it!” Andre recorded for the label a string of singles both solo and with a vocal group called the 5 Dollars- also billed as ‘The Don Juans’ on some of his singles. His hit Bacon Fat was a solo effort. The song reached # 9 on the R&B chart in 1957. Other personal fave songs are Jail Bait and Pass The Biscuits, Please but to be honest everything Andre recorded for Fortune. This material is largely available, so we decided to focus on four lesser-known songs here. The Latin-flavored Goin Down To Tia Juana (Fortune 824) was released in 1955. The following year he recorded Just Want A Little Lovin’ (Fortune 827) and Don’t Touch (Fortune 839) in 1957. The rockin’ Hey Country Girl ( Fortune 842) was released in 1958. Andre said “I knew I wasn’t a singer but I knew I could put words together It was just coming up with the stories and putting the stories to some music...You’re either a singer or a performer. I’m a performer.“ Williams recorded for Fortune until 1961, before becoming more and more involved with production and started to work with Motown. He worked with a young Stevie Wonder, Ike & Tina Turner and dozens of legendary artists. He kept on recording very cool records himself in the 60’s and the 70’s that are regarded as early rap. Sadly by the end of the 1970s, his alcohol and drug addiction turned him into a homeless beggar. In the 1980s, he kicked his addictions began to tour and on the alternative rock circuit. Idolized by bands as The Cramps, Andre Williams was taken on tour by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and started recording with Spencer, The Dirtbombs, and other alt-rock bands, enjoying a new career.
-Little Victor (a.k.a DJ "Mojo" Man)