Andre Williams / Rhythm and Blues

Andre Williams

ANDRE WILLIAMS (By Dominic Turner)
Born Zephire Andre Williams, 1 November 1936, Bessemer, Alabama.
Died 17 March 2019, Chicago, Illinois.

Look up the word "sleazy" in the dictionary, and it's odds-on you'll find the name Andre Williams. But this minor R&B legend has a pretty impressive CV to go with his disreputable image, having worked in various capacities with the likes of Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Bland, Ike Turner, Amos Milburn, Edwin Starr, Alvin Cash, Mary Wells, George Clinton, the Dramatics, and a host of others. Singer, songwriter, producer and even road manager, he really deserves more credit for his half-century contribution to the world of rhythm and blues. Born in Bessemer, Alabama, Williams moved north with his family to a Chicago housing project when he was but a toddler. Little else is known about his childhood, except that Williams' mother died when he was 6 years old, and he was subsequently raised by his aunts. Andre's first documented singing experience was in Chicago's Cobbs Baptist Church choir in 1952. "That taught me real, technical gospel singing", he later claimed.

After a period of military service (some sources indicate that Williams spent time in a military prison after using fake ID to enlist in the navy), and brief stints with local doo wop groups called the Cavaliers and the Five Thrills, he moved to another great musical city, Detroit. Aware that a singing career was well within his capabilities, Andre quickly befriended Jack and Devora Brown, the owners of Fortune Records.

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