(b nr Georgiana, AL, 17 Sept 1923; d Oak Hill, WV, 1 Jan 1953). American country music singer, guitarist and songwriter. He performed in the honky tonks of southern Alabama before appearing on the ‘Louisiana Hayride’ (1947–9, 1952–3) and ‘Grand Ole Opry’ (1949–52) radio programmes with his band, the Drifting Cowboys. In 1946 he auditioned for Fred Rose, who signed him to a songwriting contract with Acuff-Rose Publications and subsequently managed all aspects of his career. Rose produced all of Williams’s recordings, edited his songs and collaborated with him on several of them (including Mansion on the Hill, 1948, and Kaw-Liga, 1953).
Williams’s strained, mournful singing style, partly a result of addiction to liquor and drugs as well as a troubled marriage, was influenced by Roy Acuff and southern gospel music. He also drew heavily on black music. His recording of Lovesick Blues (1949) was on the country chart for 42 weeks, Cold, Cold Heart (1951) for 46. Such songs as Your Cheatin’ Heart (written 1952), a message to his former wife, reflect his unsettled life. Although his style was thoroughly rural, Williams contributed significantly to bridging the gap between country and popular music; he also recorded ‘recitations’ under the pseudonym Luke the Drifter. His singing found little acceptance among urban listeners, but his compositions were often successfully recorded by such entertainers as Tony Bennett (Cold, Cold Heart) and Frankie Laine (Kaw-Liga). On the formation of the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Fred Rose were the first to be honoured with membership. His son Hank Williams jr (b Shreveport, LA, 26 May 1949) also became a country-music performer, and one of the most commercially successful acts of the 1980s.
R.M.Williams: Sing a Sad Song: the Life of Hank Williams (Garden City, NY, 1970, 2/1974) [2nd edn with discography by B. Pinson]
G.W.Koon: Hank Williams: a Bio-bibliography (Westport, CT, 1983)
C.Escott: Hank Williams: the Biography (Boston, 1994)
BILL C. MALONE/R
(b Woollahra, Sydney, 3 Sept 1893; d Gordon, Sydney, 5 June 1976). Australian baritone. He came to professional singing after showing outstanding proficiency in sport. After war service in France and Belgium he took lessons with Charles Phillips in London and made that city his base for most of his career. Following his Wigmore Hall début in 1919, he established a reputation primarily as a concert singer in works such as Elijah, The Dream of Gerontius, The Kingdom and Coleridge-Taylor’s Scenes from ‘The Song of Hiawatha’, being admired particularly for his even and virile tone, incisive enunciation and exemplary phrasing. He sang the principal baritone roles in Tannhäuser, Otello, Pagliacci and other operas at Covent Garden, and sang two bass roles, Boris Godunov and Gounod’s Méphistophélès, at Covent Garden and elsewhere. He was one of the 16 soloists for whom Vaughan Williams wrote his Serenade to Music in 1938; he appeared in most Prom seasons from 1921 to 1951, performed as a soloist at the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II and was associated with the Edinburgh Festival from its beginning in 1947. Williams toured Australia as a soloist in 1929 and 1940–44, taught at the NSW State Conservatorium in Sydney from 1952 (at Goossens’s invitation) and took part, notably as Escamillo, in the postwar Sydney seasons that led to the establishment of a permanent professional opera company.
Williams, Henry F.
(b Boston, 13 Aug 1813; d Boston, 3 July 1903). American composer. He studied music from the age of seven and was reportedly bound until the age of 21 to the musician von Hagen (possibly Peter Albrecht von Hagen jr). He conducted a music studio in Boston and frequently arranged music for Patrick S. Gilmore’s band. When Frank Johnson died in Philadelphia in 1844 he was invited to arrange for the reconstituted Johnson band by its new leader, Joseph Anderson.
Williams composed numerous marches, overtures, dance music and songs. His best-known compositions include the ballads Lauriett[e] (1840, ed. in Trotter and Boyer), Come love and list awhile (1842), It was by chance we met (1866) and I would I’d never met thee (1876, ed. in Boyer), a set of five waltzes, Parisian Waltzes (1844, ed. in Trotter), and the anthem O give thanks (n.d., ed. in Boyer).
J.M.Trotter: Music and Some Highly Musical People (Boston, 1878/R), 106–13
J.A.Newby: ‘Distinguished Composers: the Musical Writers of the Colored Race’, The Freeman [Indianapolis] (18 May 1889)
E.Southern: The Music of Black Americans: a History (New York, 1971, rev. 3/1997)
H.Boyer: ‘The New England Afro-American School’, BPM, iv (1976), 213–31
Williams, J. Mayo [Ink]
(b Monmouth, IL, 25 July 1894; d Chicago, 2 Jan 1980). American jazz and blues record producer. After attending Brown University and working for a period as a professional football player, he became a producer and talent scout for Paramount’s race series in Chicago around 1924; he also ran the associated publishing company Chicago Music. In March 1927 he left Paramount to establish his own Chicago Record Company, but its Black Patti label survived only until around September of that year. He worked for the Vocalion and Brunswick race series, and again managed a related publishing operation, which remained in existence after he became head of the race department of the newly formed Decca company (1934). As one of the very few African Americans employed in positions of responsibility in the recording business before World War II, he played an important role in recording many of the great jazz and blues musicians of the period. In the mid-1940s he worked as a freelance producer and ran a succession of small labels – Chicago, Southern, Harlem and South Center – whose material was also leased to other companies, such as King and Decca. From the late 1940s until his retirement in the early 1970s his principal label was Ebony, on which he issued both newly recorded material and electronically modified reissues of pre-war material.
S.Dance: ‘Lightly and Politely 938: Back on the Scene’, JJ, xvii/6 (1964), 22–4
R.M.W.Dixon and J.Godrich: Recording the Blues (London and New York, 1970)
J.O’Neal and C.Baker: ‘Chicago Blues Label Guide’, Living Blues, no.12 (1973), 8–12
J.O’Neal: Obituary, Living Blues, nos.45–6 (1980), 94 only