Detroit R&B legend and 'Black Godfather' Andre Williams has died


  • Doug Coombe

"Mr. Rhythm" and Detroit R&B legend Andre Williams died Sunday, March 17 at the age of 82.

Known for solo radio hits like "Jail Bait," "Greasy Chicken," "Bacon Fat," and "Cadillac Jack," as well as being the co-author of "Shake a Tail Feather," Williams would also go on to pen songs for Stevie Wonder, and produce for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner and Parliament and Funkadelic.

Born in Alabama, after a brief stint in the Navy Williams relocated to Detroit as a teenager, where he signed to Fortune Records. Much of his early work was billed under the 5 Dollars and Don Juans' before sending "Bacon Fat" to No. 9 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart in 1957 — the first and highest charting song of his career.

Williams label-hopped during the late '60s and released several recordings on Avin Records, Wingate, and Chess Records. During the 1980s, however, Williams struggled with addiction and homelessness in Chicago before releasing 1996's Mr. Rhythm, a collection of new takes on his earlier catalog. He would go on to collaborate with Detroit rock bands like Demolition Doll Rods and the Dirtbombs, and released a country record with Toronto band the Sadies on Bloodshot Records in 1999.

Williams' influence defied genre as both an R&B performer, and the cult rock legend and is perhaps best described by Lux Interior of the Cramps: "Andre Williams makes Little Richard sound like Pat Boone." 

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