Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues have their legions of foot soldiers — men and women who played a role in the recording, writing, producing and/or performing of great old songs but, for whatever reason, never became known outside their tight-knit world.
Yet, as the decades go by and the music retains its staying power, a surprising number attempt to step out of the shadows and create a career — however late it might seem — as a creative artist whose work matters. And they hope that, to paraphrase the title of the first track on Andre Williams’ new Bloodshot Records album That’s All I Need, their time will come.
Williams, 73, has been one of those foot soldiers. His nickname, “Mr. Rhythm,” was given to him by Redd Foxx way back in the early 1950s, when the two performed at the same club in San Diego.
Williams went on to make sometimes-salacious R&B records like “Bacon Fat,” “The Greasy Chicken,” “Jail Bait” and “Loose Juice” for independent labels, especially a classic pre-Motown Detroit company called Fortune. He also helped Motown founder Berry Gordy get his start, produced Ike Turner, did live shows with Little Willie John, managed Soul singer Edwin Starr (“Agent Double-O-Soul”) and wrote a couple of 1960s dance classics for others — “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Twine Time.”
Andre Williams performs at the Southgate House Thursday. Go here to read Steve Rosen's full interview with Williams.