Jody Williams ‘In Session 1954-1962: Diary of a Bluesman’ CD (Jasmine) 4/5

Blues guitar sidekicks are somewhat overlooked in the history of the genre and Jody Williams is most definitely a case in point. Born in 1935 in Alabama, but part of the large-scale migration from south to north, Williams arrived in Chicago aged just six, and by his teens was performing on the Chicago streets where he befriended one Bo Diddley. By 1951 nascent label Chess records had become attracted to the pairs collective talents and while Diddley carved out an illustrious career at the label, Jody Williams slowly but surely became one of the most in-demand session guitarist on the circuit. Howling Wolf spotted Williams and signed to Chess where the latter joined the guitarist Hubert Sumlin in the Wolf band, and the pair of guitarists became a crack duo.

This anthology of Jody Williams work, both as a leader under various pseudonyms, and as a sideman with the greats, covers the period 1954-1962, and showcases some twenty-eight songs, weighing in at just over seventy-five minutes. Needless to say the original 45s are virtually impossible to find, but a few stand out from the crowd. These include an example of the great Billy Stewart on a two-part instrumental, ‘Billy’s blues (Pts. 1 +, 2)’, which has a unique echo chamber sounding recording quality to it, while the catchy Vee-Jay 45, ‘Oop de oop’, was a local hit in Chicago at the time. Needless to say, Williams is featured on the 1954 Howlin’ Wolfs signature tune epic, ‘Evil is going on’, and with Bo Diddley on, ‘Who do you love?’. Compiled by Bob Fisher, the informative and well researched sleeve notes make reference to a seminal book on Chicago rhythm and blues, ‘Chicago soul’, by Robert Pruter. Worthy of a place in any self-respecting blues collectors bookshelf, and this CD is a similarly worthy addition to any blues discography.

Tim Stenhouse