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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Andre Williams

"Over the past forty years, Bessamer, Alabama-born Andre Williams has written, recorded and produced some of the most ribald ("Humpin', Bumpin' & Thumpin'"), infectious ("Rib Tips") and downright bizarre ("Please Pass the Biscuits") R&B ever. Andre kicked off his career with a 1956 US top ten hit, the funky "Bacon Fat," but sadly, despite a slew of gloriously salacious follow-ups – including "Jailbait" and "The Greasy Chicken" – failed to capitalize on his initial success. However, in 1961 a timely haircut saw him cross paths with the then-struggling founder of Motown records, Berry Gordy, for whom he produced the likes of the Contours and Mary Wells.
He refused to be married-off into the Gordy clan, then spent the late '60s writing, producing and performing for Chicago's Chess and Houston's Duke/Peacock labels, who released such proto-funk classics as his own "Cadillac Jack" and "The Stroke," plus "Uhuru (African Twist)" by Jomo, Jeanette William's "Hound Dog," Bobby Bland's Spotlighting the Man LP and the Meditation Singers' Change is Gonna Come.
Sadly, in the early '70s, Andre's heady lifestyle took a turn for the worse after he was asked to produce Ike Turner. The upshot of Andre's chemical-fuelled association with 'ole Ike was a heavy coke problem that led to a hand-to-mouth existence for most of the '80s, during which time Andre even spent a spell begging on a bridge in Chicago. ..."

PSF: Was there someone in particular you wanted to sound like?
AW: I didn't wanna sound like no-goddamn-body! I wanted to tell stories! I had seen so much bullshit in my life and I said to myself, "Andre, if you could ever say things that relate to people..." I'll tell you somethin' fellows, the first line of communications was the drums. That was in Africa, the Congos, the Mongos, and all them 'gos. When they was doin' communications, it was with the drums. So if I could get a drum rhythm which captivates people and put a hell of a story on top of it, I can't lose. And that's where I went.
PSF: A lot of your early songs are related to food products. "The Bacon Fat," "The Greasy Chicken," or "Pass the Biscuits Please."
AW: When I came up with "Bacon Fat" I was traveling from Detroit to Memphis. That's when I knew that I had to come up with a gimmick. So I stopped in Memphis and I got an egg and bacon sandwich – on toast! I'm driving and a lot of places where we used to travel, it was only a two lane highway so you'd see the cotton pickers on both sides and I'm driving and [starts tapping a beat on his thigh, humming] "Down in Tennessee...and the name of the dance is..." and I had the sandwich in my hand and there it came, the Bacon Fat!"

Joss Hutton interviews Andre Williams for Perfect Sound Forever.