Two by The Billy Williams Quartet – MGM Records – Recorded December 1951 –
As an addendum to the Charioteers post I did last night. Lead Singer Billy Williams, the man who supplied the high notes, left The Charioteers in 1949 and struck out for greener pastures; first as part of a new quartet and later as solo. As a solo artist, Williams scored one of the memorable hits of the mid-1950s with “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”, a million seller for Coral, his label at the time. This set of tunes, from two different singles were from his stint at MGM Records from 1951, coming after his split from The Charioteers.
Like so many artists of the day, this period just before the Age of Rock n’Roll was pretty pallid compared to what was on the horizon.
This would seem to be the dilemma many Black artists faced at the time. Because The Charioteers were one of the first “crossover” groups – Black artists who broke into the White dominated mainstream, heading in the direction of Jump Blues and early Rock weren’t considerations for major labels, who played it very safe, and as a result turned out some pretty mediocre recordings – certainly not what Williams (or The Charioteers, for that matter) were capable of – but leave it to the upstart independent labels to break ground and barriers, while the mainstream played it pretty safe, at least until Bill Haley came along, and later Elvis Presley. Williams did score a minor hit with his version of Sh-Boom. But he would still be very much a cornerstone of the mainstream throughout the 1950s.
So to get an idea of what music was like pre-Rock and pre-Doo-Wop, here are two tracks by the Billy Williams Quartet: Callaway Went Thataway and Busy Line – Callaway also features The Ray Charles Singers (no relation) and both sides are produced and arranged by MGM house-producer LeRoy Holmes.
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