Wilson Williams

ou may read on the internet that Wilson Williams is related to Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams. This idea has probably arrived thanks to the coincidence of surnames and the fact that the pair have worked together on a few occasions. But the theory is completely untrue. Swamp Dogg himself has confirmed that Wilson was a childhood friend, but that they are in no way related. So we can contemplate Wilson’s interesting and substantial career without any misconceptions.

Wilson Williams was born and raised in Norfolk, VA and leant both to play the guitar and sing as he was growing up. Billing himself as “Mark 4 Wilson” he made his first record in the mid 60s for the tiny local Rose label owned by his then manager Leroy Little. The raucous 2 part “Jump Up And Down” was a simplistic as its name suggests, and was in fact a “Shout” clone having none of the subtlety of Wilson's later work.

Wilson Williams then moved up a league courtesy of local music man Noah Biggs. Biggs used him as a session player on a number of releases on his Shiptown and How Big labels before allowing Williams to front the band on his own. The first 45 that he was credited for featured the hard hitting deep soul of ListenI've Got A Whole Lot To Be Thankful For on which Wilson’s impassioned wailing was complemented by a fine southern soul arrangement with a big horn section and some of his own tasteful licks on his axe.

Williams’ second single was another lovely deep soul piece ListenI Can’t Get Used To Losing You – another southern soul song arranged in the grand manner. It’s quite possible that this was recorded at the same session as his initial offering as the overall feel of the track is quite similar in style. This time Williams’ evocative vocal was augmented by a little group of female background singers. Both of the How Big 45s are now scarce and command quite high prices.

The second 45 was reprised on his next 45 for Huey Meaux’s Trius concern. Listen(Can’t Get Over) Losing You was definitely the same songs as the How Big track but the words are changed and the horn section has been lost. If I were a betting man I’d say that this version was simply a different take of the number as the female chorus sound exactly the same.

There was a short gap before Williams was signed to ABC who released his first album “Up The Downstairs”. This fine set featured some very fine vocals from Wilson over a Detroit rhythm section that featured a few of the Funk Brothers. This real soul set was a lovely rarity to come across in 1978, a year that was full of discofied rubbish. ABC took no less that 3 singles from the set and the title track and “Sho You Rite” were minor hits. The bouncy uptempo “I Like Being In Love With You” has attracted the attention of the dancers (and the bootleggers) but the midpaced melodic offerings like “All That Glitters Ain’t Gold”, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and the excellent ListenTake Me The Way I Am are among the picks I’d make from a strong set.

By the time Wilson Williams joined up with Swamp Dogg on the West Coast for his “Eating Ain’t Cheating” CD he’d been a member of one of the “Platters” groups making a living on the oldies circuit. Sadly the CD didn’t get him back into the soul charts, despite the usual Swamp Dogg presentation and cleverly though out lyrics. And Wilson’s tough, gravel throated vocals were absolutely first class. Some of the cuts like “Hallelujah And Congratulations”, the bluesy “My Woman Got A Case Worker”, and “Real Confession #2” are right up there with the best of Swamp’s later productions – but sadly the CD sold only to obsessives like me. Shame.



And that was it for Wilson Williams recorded output until those nice guys at Soul4Real found a couple of tracks in the Swamp Dogg archives that featured a session the two of them had at Widget Studios, Muscle Shoals around the turn of the 70s, and put them out on a 45. And the quality of both of the fully realised tracks was sky high – right in the pocket of the productions that Swamp was making for so many great artists at this time. The lovely ballad “Ghost Of Myself” was also cut by Doris Duke but the excellence of the unique ListenDon’t Let Foolish Words Keep Us Apart may just be the pick of the pair. We can only hope that Soul4Real find more Wilson Williams tracks in the vaults.



ListenI've got a whole lot to be thankful for / Honey rock ~ HOW BIG 2027/67/8 (1970?)
ListenI can’t get used to losing you / Ain’t that loving you ~ HOW BIG 2029/30 (1971)
Listen(Can’t get over) losing you / He’s a mother ~ TRIUS 911 (1972)
Up the down stairs / Faith will bring it home ~ ABC 12344 (1978)
Sho you rite / All that glitters ain’t gold ~ ABC 12377 (1978)
Groovy feelin’ / ListenTake me the way I am ~ ABC 12398 (1978)
Ghost of myself / ListenDon’t let my foolish words keep us apart ~ SOUL 4 REAL S4R04 (2018)


Up the Downstairs ~ ABC AA1107 (1978)


Eating ain’t cheating ~ SDEG 1945 (2001)


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