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Jody Williams

Jody Williams was born on 03/02/1935 in Mobile, Alabama. His full birth name was Joseph Leon Williams. At the age of five, Williams moved to Chicago. His first instrument was the harmonica. When he heard Bo Diddley play at a talent show he swapped the harmonica for the guitar. Diddley was seven years older and taught Williams how to play the guitar.
By 1951, Williams and Diddley were playing on the street as a trio with Diddley on vocals, Williams providing backing and Roosevelt Jackson on washtub bass. Williams would gig alongside many blues musicians including Memphis Minnie, Elmore James and Otis Spann. After he went on tour with pianist Charles Brown, Williams became established as a session player for Chess Records.
At Chess, Williams met Howlin' Wolf when Wolf arrived in Chicago from Memphis. Williams was hired by Wolf as the first guitarist in his new Chicago band. A year later, Hubert Sumlin joined the band as the second guitarist. Williams and Sumlin can be heard on the singles "Evil Is Going On", "Forty Four", "Who Will Be Next" and "Come To Me Baby."
In 1954, Williams provided backing for the Otis Spann song "It Must Have Been The Devil". It also featured lead guitar provided by B. B. King who was a big early influence on Willams' guitar playing.
In 1955, Williams started his own solo career. He recorded the song "Lookin' For My Baby" and used the name Little Papa Joe on the release. It was released by the Blue Lake label, which closed a few months later. The label closure left Williams' song "Groaning My Blues Away" unreleased.
By the mid-1950s, Willaims was one of the most popular session guitarists in Chicago. He was not well known to the general public though as his name was not often on the discs he recorded on. He would record guitar on such songs as Billy Boy Arnold's "I Ain't Got You" and "I Wish You Would", Jimmy Rogers’ "One Kiss", Jimmy Witherspoon’s "Ain't Nobody's Business" and Otis Rush’s "Three Times A Fool".
In 1956, Williams played the lead guitar on Bo Diddley's song "Who Do You Love" which became a hit for Checker Records.
In 1957, Williams released "You May" on Argo Records with the B-side "Lucky Lou".
Williams became disillusioned with the music business as he was finding his guitar phrases were being copied without credit. The riff he created for Billy Stewart's song "Billy's Blues" was appropriated by Mickey Baker for the Mickey & Sylvia hit "Love is Strange". Chess Records took legal action. In 1961, the case was concluded, Williams was not given credit or compensation.
In the early 1960s, Williams was gigging with his Big 3 Trio (not to be confused with the Willie Dixon group). By the end of the 1960s, Williams had retired from the music industry. He studied electronics and became a technical engineer for Xerox for over 25 years.
After retiring, Williams picked up the guitar again, having left it untouched under his bed.
In March 2000, Williams went to see Robert Lockwood Jr play and he became nostalgic. He was later moved to tears when he watched an old tape of himself playing.
In June 2000, Williams played in public for the first time in years at a club gig during the Chicago Blues Festival.
Record producer Dick Shurman gave him a lot of encouragement during his comeback. Shurman would produce his comeback album.
In 2002, Williams released his comeback album "Return of a Legend".
In 2013, Williams was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Williams continues to perform around the world at large blues festivals. He regularly sits in with blues guitarist Billy Flynn at Chicago clubs.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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