Claude Williams

Few jazz musicians had such a long and successful career and life as Claude Williams. He outlived almost all of his contemporaries, and achieved his greatest success at an advanced age. Williams started playing guitar when he was ten years old. He was inspired to learn how to play the violin by Joe Venuti, who played near his Muskogee home, OK. He was a member of the Oklahoma band that included Oscar Pettiford as a bass player. He was first introduced to professional music in 1927, when he was a member of Terrence Holder’s well-respected territory band in Oklahoma City. After Holder’s sidemen made poor management mistakes, Williams was forced to stay on and was replaced by Andy Kirk as bassist. The group became known as the Clouds of Joy (also called the Dark Clouds of Joy (12 Clouds of Joy), Original 11 Clouds of Joy and so on). The band enjoyed great success due to Mary Lou Williams’s performing and composition talents. Claude Williams was a part of the first recordings of Kirk’s band, but he had to leave in 1930 due to ill health that prevented him from completing a tour. Williams was a member of the Alphonse and George E. Lee bands in 1932 and 1933 respectively, as well as Chick Stevens and Eddie Cole in Chicago. Williams was the first guitarist to record with the group after playing guitar with Count Basie in 1936. He was replaced by Freddie Green the following year. Williams was a member of the Four Shades of Rhythm, which included musicians from Chicago, Cleveland and Flint, MI. He worked with some of the most prominent musicians during the 1950s, including pianist Jay McShann and jazz saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. In 1953, Williams returned to Kansas City. He spent the majority of his 20-year career leading his own bands, but not recording. Williams’ second career began with a gig with McShann during the early 1970s. He toured with McShann in the 1970s and 1980s and was a featured soloist at jazz festival. He was a part of the Paris production of Black and Blue and performed in a New York performance with drummer Grady Tate and pianist Roland Hanna. His star rose in 1990s when he was featured in CBS News Sunday Morning. He also performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Lincoln Center in New York. He was also a performer at the first inauguration by President Bill Clinton. He also performed internationally and recorded many highly acclaimed CDs. He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame as the first. Williams, who was entering his ninth decade, was still very active and is highly respected by jazz musicians as well as fans. From allmusic

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