For his first act in the late '50s and '60s, the 73-year-old Andre Williams recorded, produced and wrote songs for great soul hotbeds including Fortune, Motown and Chess Records. Under his own name he released "Bacon Fat" and "Jail Bait," two absolute classics. Williams also penned the much-covered soul hits "Twine Time" and "Shake a Tail Feather."
The svelte singer always viewed himself as performer first and songwriter second, drawing his killer style sense and madcap performance from Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan. Williams treaded a line between soul, proto rap and adult entertainment (in the '60s!) that was a bit naughty and ahead of its time — at least for mass consumption. And that's an understatement.
For his second act, an older (and dirtier) Andre re-emerged in the mid '90s from a long period of gnarly drug addiction, returning with a force that'd put one half his age to shame. He's worked with Mick Collins and Danny Kroha on sleazy garage rock albums, with the Sadies on a country record, and had a doc about him released in 2007. He also released a few more soul-deep records.
This year, Williams released a collection of his fiction, Sweets and Other Stories, and the Matt Smith-produced album That's All I Need. And just after his Concert of Colors appearance on Saturday, he and Smith will begin recording a folk record. (Yes, a folk album.)
These days, Williams lives with partner Darlene (far left) in an apartment on Chicago's South Shore. He nearly wore out this photographer on a South Side tour of his favorite spots. Darlene did the driving in their Monte Carlo. "Driving gets me in trouble; it gets me places I shouldn't go," Williams says.
Andre Williams appears with Dennis Coffey and Matt Smith at the Concert of Colors on Saturday, July 17. His book of fiction is available at nortonrecords.com. His new record is available at finer local record stores.