A Little Love for Joe Williams

Francis Albert Sinatra is not the only great singer born on December 12. Born that same date, three years later (1918) in Crisp County, GA was a boy named Joseph Goreed. Three years after his birth, his mother and grandmother would take him to Chicago, where he would grow up.

By the early 50’s, Goreed was calling himself Joe Williams and struggling to make ends meet singing in Chicago area clubs, when he met Count Basie, who was in the process of putting his band back together. Williams, cool urbane baritone was the opposite of Basie’s prior vocalist, blues shouter Jimmy Rushing but he was perfect for the new Basie sound.

From 1954 to 1961, Williams was known as Basie’s “Number One Son” and recorded hits such as “Alright, Okay (You Win)” and “Every Day I Have The Blues”. Williams officially left Basie in ’61 but their musical partnership continued of and on the rest of the Count’s life.

In the ’80’s Williams gained fame with a new generation, as he played “Grandpa Al”, Claire’s father, on The Cosby Show. But he never stopped singing and recording. Unlike Sinatra, time (and care) had been kind to Williams’ vocal gifts and he continued to make critically acclaimed, relevant jazz albums well into his seventies.

Joe Williams died in Las Vegas in 1999. And of late, time seems to be forgetting one of the great jazz vocalists of all time. Hopefully, three years from now, there will be at least a few Williams centennial celebrations on December 12.

One Response to “A Little Love for Joe Williams”

  1. I’ve been a huge Joe Williams fan for as long as I can remember. He’s got such a great soulful blues sound, whether he’s singing ballads or swinging for Sinatra like in the above clip. Thanks for sharing all these great highlights. Love it!

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