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Born: March 13, 1908 in Memphis, Tennessee
Died: October 23, 1998 in New York City, New York
American double bass player. He first learned violin, but disliked the instrument and instead took up tuba while in high school. During the early 1930s he played tuba, then double bass, in southern territory bands. In 1936 he moved to New York, where he took part in several recording sessions with Henry "Red" Allen (1936-7), played with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (1937-8), recorded with Buster Bailey (December 1938), and worked briefly with Benny Carter. In 1939 he made the first of several recordings with Billie Holiday (to 1942, under the leadership of Holiday or Teddy Wilson), played with Frankie Newton at the downtown location of Café Society, recorded with Harry James, James P. Johnson, J. C. Higginbotham, the Port of Harlem Jazzmen, the Port of Harlem Seven, Newton, and Sidney Bechet, and joined Coleman Hawkin’s band. After leaving Hawkins the following year Williams played with Louis Armstrong until 1941. In summer 1941 he joined Wilson’s sextet (for illustration see Wilson, Teddy), with which he appeared in the film short "Boogie Woogie Dream" (1941). He recorded with his fellow sideman Edmond Hall in January 1944 and remained at Café Society under Hall’s leadership when Wilson disbanded in May 1944. During these years he was occasionally reunited with Armstrong, most notably at a concert involving Hall’s band at Carnegie Hall in February 1947. When Hall disbanded in mid-June 1947, Williams joined Tab Smith at the Savoy Ballroom (to 1952) and Johnny Hodges (c1952-1955). He then ceased working as a full-time musician, but in 1968 he traveled to France with Buddy Tate, and in the 1970s he worked frequently with Red Richards. He also toured with Bob Greene’s concert troupe, the World of Jelly Roll Morton, from 1978 to 1982, and with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band from 1978 until June 1998, when a stroke ended his career.