Williams was born blind in southern Florida circa 1915 to parents who were migrant farm workers. During his youth, he attended the St. Petersburg School for the Blind (also Ray Charles’ alma mater) and became sufficiently proficient on guitar to begin a career as a street musician in the 1930s. He eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1935 and often traveled to New York City, where he plied his trade in Harlem during his visits. It was there that he met Rev. Gary Davis, whose influence can be heard in Williams’ guitar and singing style. His repertory was an extremely eclectic one. As a street musician, he primarily performed sacred material, although he knew a number of proto-blues folk songs and topical material from the 1930s and 1940s as well. He was also familiar with a few blues compositions, but as the booklet notes point out, he preferred “8- or 16-bar blues to the more widespread 12-bar form.” Welding discovered Williams performing sanctified numbers to accordion accompaniment in a historically black neighborhood of Philadelphia sometime in 1961.
If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, - ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!